City Of Emeryville July 2019 Highlights: Onni Tower Community Concerns, PG&E power shutoffs, City-wide Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Minimum wage set at $16.30/hr 

Published On August 1, 2019 | By Sarah Belle Lin | Local Government, News & Commentary

The City of Emeryville held two City Council meetings during the month of July. Among the highlights that emerged from these meetings were: the Council’s decision’s to set $16.30/hr as the minimum wage for all businesses, major street improvements, an update of the City’s Climate Action Plan and the PG&E power shutoffs that will impact business as usual.

Highlights of July 2019 from City Manager Christine Daniel’s Progress Report:

The City Council approved the conceptual design memorandum for the 40th and San Pablo Bus Hub and the redesign of 40th Street from the Oakland border to the IKEA entry to include bus-only lanes, a two-way protected bikeway, and improvements to intersections and bus stops. 

The Council certified a referendum petition and then voted to rescind the amendments to the Minimum Wage Ordinance that they had previously passed on May 29. As a result, all businesses in Emeryville must now pay a minimum wage of $16.30 per hour. 

A community meeting on a proposed Temporary Family Emergency Shelter at 4300 San Pablo Avenue was held on July 11 at ECCL, and a Planning Commission study session was held July 25. A Planning Commission public hearing and decision is scheduled for Aug. 22. 

The Commission also held a study session on the possible elimination of minimum parking requirements, and provided insightful and thought-provoking comments. 

The second phase final subdivision map for the Sherwin Williams project was recorded on July 18, which helps pave the way for the issuance of building permits for the project. 

On July 25, Community Development staff participated in a “tabletop” exercise at the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which simulated a tsunami event and provided valuable preparation for an actual emergency.

July 9 City Council Meeting

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLGh_s8sSIE

2019 Housing Affordability Table Approved (Consent Item)

The City’s Affordable Housing Program (AHP) currently includes 843 Below Market Rate (BMR) units – 617 rental units and 226 ownership units. According to the July 9 memo, there are 202 new BMR rental units coming down the pipeline or being constructed. 

The Housing Affordable Table is “used for reference purposes and is distributed to developers of projects under the AHP so that they may conduct project financial analyses.”

The income levels of the City’s BMR units are as follows:

Contract With The Labor Compliance Managers (TLCM) For Enforcement And Administration Of City Labor Standards (Consent Item)

This item was pulled from the agenda because the City only received one bid from San Jose-based TLCM, who has been contracted for enforcing local labor standards by the City for the past two years. City Councilmember John Bauters suggested extending the contract by a two-year period (2019-20 and 2020-21) to make room for competitive bidding. 

TLCM was responsible for enforcing local labor standards (Workplace Justice Standards) under Measure C’s Large Hotels Ordinance for employees working in hotels with more than 50 guestrooms. There are five hotels in the City that fall under this category: Hilton, Hyatt House, Hyatt Place, Marriott and Sheraton. 

City Manager Christine Daniels recommended for staff to bring back data on the number of enforcement cases to the Council in either late 2020 or early 2021. Daniels also informed Council that the City ran out of funding for this contract this year. 

The presentation for this item can be viewed above at [22:50].

Amendment To The ‘8 To Go’ Paratransit Shuttle Service Agreement (Consent Item)

Mayor Ally Medina moved this item to the next City Council meeting on July 23. 

The presentation for this item can be viewed above at [25:30].

Contract With The State Department Of Education’s Office Of Child Development For 2019-2020 FY (Consent Item)

The Council unanimously approved the 2019-20 FY contract with the Office of Child Development. The department will provide $179,627 to the City’s Emeryville Child Development (ECDC) program, which provides childcare for low-income families.

The July 9 memo states that ECDC is eligible to receive funding from the California State Department of Education on a yearly basis for its child services program to subsidize the costs. The funds are used to provide specific education and care programs for children in the Pre-K program. The daily reimbursement rate is $51.84 per child. 

Contract With Ghilotti Bros. For The Construction Of ATP Greenway Crossing Improvements At 65th Street, 66th Street And 67th Street (Consent Item)

The Council unanimously approved a contract with Ghilotti Bros to construct safety improvements at the Emeryville Greenway. The pathway is used by roughly 1,000 bicyclists and pedestrians each day.

The project will include improvements for each intersection at 65th, 66th and 67th Streets: raised crosswalks, improved/enhanced signage and rectangular rapid flash beacons (RRFBs) triggered by sensors for cyclists and pedestrians. 

The project is projected to cost $612,000.

$74,000 City Grant For Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program (ECAP) for 2019-20 FY (Consent Item)

The Council unanimously approved the grant request of $74,000 for the Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program (ECAP), a volunteer-run group that organizes food and clothing donations for low-income individuals and deliveries to local houseless encampments. 

The grant is a 5 percent increase from the 2018-19 FY due to rising rents and utility costs. $60,070 will go towards rent, property taxes and insurance. $13,930 will go towards utility costs, including a 3 percent contingency for estimated increases in costs and unexpected expenses.

First Reading Of An Amendment The Planning Regulations To Modify The Tower Separation Requirements (Public Hearing)

City Councilmember Dianne Martinez read out loud an email sent to her by resident Ron Freund: 

“A number of residents from both Watergate and Pacific Park Plaza are concerned that the Council will move forward on the building separation ordinance prematurely. There is so much information that is still out there about the impact of high-rises that needs to be fleshed out. No other developer has proposed such a massive structure which will have enormous impact on both our surrounding communities. This is precedent setting and may lead to a wave of such towers.”

During Council discussion, City Councilmember John Bauters addressed the links being made by the public between the 50-story Onni Tower project and the amendment by referencing other high-rise studies the City is looking at.

“If there’s a misunderstanding from the public about this process, all of those things are reviewed in the scope of the EIR,” said Bauters. “I’m not interested in developing a policy around a singular proposal or building. I’m looking at systemic policies here. When you think about development, what we don’t want to do is do it in a manner that actually creates expansion or sprawl.”

Councilmember Martinez responded to public concern around Onni Tower by saying that the proposed amendment is to merely clean regulation language regarding any high-rises.

Currently, there are ten high-rise buildings in the City.

The presentation for this item can be viewed above at [51:00].

PG&E Public Safety Power Shut Off (PSPS) Program (Action Item)

Tom Guarino, who manages PG&E in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, presented information about a controversial program introduced by PG&E to respond to the risk of wildfires. Guarino stated that PG&E doesn’t consider Emeryville a high-risk fire area. However, the City could still be affected by power shutoffs, resulting in the need for crisis preparation and management. 

PG&E will be monitoring wildfire risks at all hours of the day from its San Francisco-based Wildfire Safety Operations Center, installing 1,300 new weather stations by 2022 and installing 600 HD cameras by 2022. 

Alameda and Contra Costa counties will receive 150 weather stations and 50 HD cameras. 

PG&E will also be inspecting transmission and distribution poles and towers by way of ground and aerial (drones and helicopters) methods. PG&E plans to install stronger and more resilient poles and covered power lines across 7,100 miles in the highest fire-risk areas, replacing equipment and piloting new resilience zones. During wildfire season and outages in high fire-risk areas, PG&E will disable reconnection of circuits. 

“If we do find a problem, we stop what we’re doing and repair it immediately,” said Guarino.

PG&E plans to meet state standards for cleared space around power lines by clearing overhanging limbs and branches above and around power lines and removing dead and dying trees and specific tree species that could fall on power lines.

The PSPS program will be influenced by red flag warnings, low humidity levels, forecasted sustained winds above 25 mph and wind gusts above 45 mph, dry fuel conditions and on-the-ground, real-time observations. 

He stated that Emeryville had around 60 red flag warnings in 2018, but is not as susceptible to the PSPS due to the lack of vegetation in the City. The closest fire-risk areas are the Oakland hills, which fall in the Tier 2 (elevated) and 3 (extreme) risk categories. 

The PSPS event notification begins 48 hours before electricity is turned off, 24 hours before shutoffs and “just before” shutoffs. Notifications will be sent out during the shutoffs, and once power is restored. PG&E will attempt to reach customers through text, call and email. Councilmember Dianne Martinez expressed concern about cell towers, to which Guarino replied that most cell towers have battery backup that last from a few hours to two days. However, the shutoffs could last anywhere from one to five days.

Councilmember John Bauters called the plan “terrible,” “inadequate” and “a disaster waiting to happen.”

“This is going to dramatically impact the Emeryville economy,” said Bauters. “This is a service-sector economy and 24 percent of our revenues are from sales tax and a lot of the rest is from hotel occupancy and business license revenue.”

Guarino stated that current weather conditions will result in at least one to two power shutoffs per year, but already there are predictions of more power shutoffs in the future. 

“With the effect climate change is having, absolutely,” said Guarino. “We can only see weather getting more unpredictable.” 

Emeryville Fire Department plans to meet with PG&E and other stakeholders at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on July 17.

Those with questions can contact Guarino at (510) 874-2245 or tom.guarino@pge.com 

The presentation for this item can be viewed above at [1:29:33].

Approval Of The 40th And San Pablo Bus Hub Project Conceptual Design (Action Item)

The 40th and San Pablo Bus Hub Project will redesign 40th street between IKEA and the Oakland border. According to the July 9 memo, the project specifically aims to eliminate parking on 40th Street, add an eastbound bus-only lane west of San Pablo Avenue, convert a westbound travel lane to a bus-only lane west of San Pablo Avenue, create a two-way bikeway on the north side of the 40th Street from IKEA to Adeline Street with a solid vertical buffer and  eliminate the bus stops on 40th Street at Harlan Street. 

The project touts faster bus trips, cyclist safety and less vehicle-dominated streets. Input from community members included better bike detection, signage and enforcement; wayfinding and interpretive signs; concern over loss of parking and traffic buildup during the holidays and from the loss of the left turn into Target on San Pablo Avenue. 

Deepak Sohane of Community Design + Architecture, the company behind the conceptual design, elaborated on the corridor-wide improvements such as two-way separate bikeways (similar to the Shellmound and Christie intersection), eastbound and westbound bus-only lanes, protected intersections, bus stop islands next to the bikeway and green infrastructure.

The total cost of the project is roughly $15.6 million with a projected upwards cost of $18 million, if implemented during the 2023-24 FY. 

Ryan Lau, the external affairs representative for AC Transit, praised the City for supporting a project that “will serve 3,000 riders daily and the new amenities along 40th street will improve the commutes of 5,000 riders daily.”

The presentation for this item can be viewed above at [2:04:01].

Approval And Adoption of the Green Infrastructure Plan (Action Item)

According to the July 9 memo, stormwater runoff from highly urbanized areas, such as Emeryville, delivers pollutants— including pathogens, nutrients, sediment, and heavy metals—to the San Francisco Bay. 

The City of Emeryville is required to prepare a Green Infrastructure Plan to comply with its stormwater permit. The City unanimously approved and adopted the Green Infrastructure Plan, which will include opportunities for private and public green infrastructure projects, targets to reduce pollutant load, updating relevant Emeryville plans, policies, codes and ordinances to incorporate green infrastructure for stormwater management, and considers long-term funding options.

The memo states that the Green Infrastructure Plan addresses the requirement to plan for and construct compliant vegetated stormwater treatment measures on both public and private lands. The primary purpose of these treatment measures is to remove pollutants from stormwater before they reach the storm drain system and natural waterways. 

According to The Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality’s 2019 Pulse Report, billions of dollars are spent every year to remove pollutants from pathways (municipal, industrial and urban) and protect Bay water quality. Mercury, PCBs, selenium, and nitrogen have been a focus of regulatory attention due to pathways to the Bay. Recent data also indicates that nitrogen loads to the Bay have increased over the last six years. Other pollutants of concern in the Bay include dioxins, PAHs, many trace metals and pesticides, microplastics and other types of emerging contaminants.

Acceptance Of Certification Of A Minimum Wage Referendum Petition (Action Item)

On May 29, 2019, the Council adopted an amendment to the City’s Minimum Wage Ordinance to add a definition of “Small Independent Restaurants” and establish a different minimum wage of $15/hour for the 2019-20 FY for those Small Independent Restaurants. The amendment provided that the minimum wage for Small Independent Restaurants would gradually increase over the next eight years, until 2027 when the minimum wage for all businesses would be the same.

The Council was then informed that a referendum may be filed in an attempt to overturn the decision that approved the amendment. On June 25, 2019, a referendum petition was submitted to the City.

871 signatures were confirmed as qualified voters in the city of Emeryville. 

The amendment could be rescinded entirely, voted on during the November 2020 municipal election or placed on a special election ballot. 

The public comment session brought out spokespeople from the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, academia and local Emeryville businesses.

Saabir Lockett, the special projects coordinator for the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, expressed support for restaurant workers’ rights. 

“We urge the City Council to reverse the loophole so that restaurant workers can join the rest of Emeryville’s minimum wage workers at a more sustainable wage,” said Locket. “It is not moral or equitable to have different standards of wage living for different workers.” 

Divya Sundar, a lead strategic researcher at the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, reminded Council that Emeryville has been a leader nationally in improving the quality of low-wage jobs. 

“The decision to deny restaurant workers their long-anticipated wage increase based only on the subjective input of a few business owners is deeply biased and misinformed,” Sundar said. 

Marilyn Boucher, co-owner of local business The Broken Rack, asked Council to put the matter to the voters. 

In the pursuing Council discussion, Mayor Ally Medina stated that the minimum wage will increase to $16.30 for all workers in the City. Medina motioned to continue the discussion at the next Council meeting on July 23. Vice Mayor Christian Patz abstained from the vote. 

The presentation for this item can be viewed above at [1:02:49].

July 23 City Council Meeting

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oimrXxKsPA

Emeryville Police Department Receives Body Worn Cameras (BWC) With Cloud Storage Of Footage (Consent Item)

The Council unanimously approved Emeryville Police Department’s replacement of the body worn camera (BWC) video system, in use since 2015. The new platform is offered by Arizona-based company Axon, which develops technology and weapons for law enforcement agencies. 

The system, Evidence.com, offers a cloud-based digital media storage platform that meets all Department of Justice mandated security requirements. Evidence.com is not accessible to the general public. 

EPD anticipates the purchase of at least 46 BWCs from Axon. According to Emeryville Police Capt. Oliver Collins, BWC video footage is kept for 366 days, unless it becomes part of an investigation.  This is in alignment with the City’s records retention process.

The purchase is further motivated due to the passage of new CA laws, such as AB 748, regarding peace officers’ video and audio recordings disclosure. Beginning July 1, 2019, AB 748 required the release of all BWC video that captured law enforcement critical incidents. 

Amendment To The ‘8 To Go’ Paratransit Shuttle Service Agreement (Consent Item)

The Council unanimously approved to extend the 8 To Go Paratransit Shuttle Service through June 30, 2021. The shuttle is for Emeryville and Oakland (living in the 94608 zip code) residents who are 70 years old or older or 18 or older and eligible for its services. 8 To Go is managed by the Emeryville Transportation Management Association.

Community Development Block Grant Program Agreement By and Between The County Of Alameda And The City Of Emeryville For 2019-20 FY (Consent Item)

The Council unanimously approved funding in the amount of $77,288 provided by Alameda County’s Housing and Community Development Department (HCD). 

According to the July 23 memo, the agreement includes $32,888 in unallocated funds, which could be used for multi-family rehabilitation projects, low income serving non-profit facility rehabilitation, accessibility improvements or to augment the Minor Home Repair Program if necessary.

Council Accepts Phase 1 Of The 2017/2018 Street Rehabilitation and Preventive Maintenance Project (Consent Item)

The Council unanimously approved the completion of phase one of the Street Rehabilitation and Maintenance Project. 

The work included pothole/base repairs and crack sealing on the following streets: Shellmound Street (40th Street Bridge to Shellmound Way), Christie Avenue (Powell Street to 100’ N/O Shellmound Way), Powell Street (I-80 EB Ramps to Powell Street Bridge), the Christie Avenue Class I Bike Path (Powell Street to Shellmound Street) and the Horton Street Class IV Bikeway (53rd Street to 59th Street).

DeSilva Gates Construction was contracted for the project, which cost $1.6 million.

Approval Of Construction Of The Annual Street Rehabilitation And Preventive Maintenance Project For The 2019-20 FY; Street Closure Of Doyle Street From 61st Street To 62nd Street (Consent Item)

The Council unanimously approved pothole/base repairs, crack sealing, slurry seals, and pavement overlays on these streets:

37th Street (San Pablo Avenue – City Limits), 47th Street (Doyle Street – San Pablo Avenue),  53rd Street (Hollis Street – San Pablo Avenue), 59th Street (Horton Street – Peladeau Street),  62nd Street (Overland Avenue – Vallejo Street), 63rd Street (Overland Avenue – Vallejo Street), Doyle Street (Ocean Avenue – Powell Street), Halleck Street (Sherwin Avenue – City Limits),  Horton Street (59th Street – 62nd Street), Overland Avenue (62nd Street – 65th Street), Peladeau Street (59th Street – Powell Street), Vallejo Street (Peabody Lane – Ocean Avenue) and Yerba Buena Avenue (Adeline Street – City Limits).

City Establishes Green Mondays Regarding Plant-Based Menus To Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Consent Item)

The Council unanimously adopting Green Mondays, a program that will serve plant-based meals for several centers in the City. The City of Berkeley was the first city in the U.S. to adopt Green Monday in September 2018.

Green Mondays will the new normal at the Emeryville Child Development Center, the Senior Center, the Recreation Center at the Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL) and Council dinners on meeting days. 

UC Berkeley and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District published data showing the City’s carbon footprint and the sectors that contribute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

The July 23 memo also cited an Oxford University study published in March 2016 in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. The study found that switching to a plant-based diet can reduce an individual’s food-related GHG emissions by up to 70 percent, while improving health and providing substantial savings in health care costs and avoided costs of climate change impacts. 

Noise Waiver Granted For Estrella Vista Housing Construction (Public Hearing)

Estrella Vista is an 87-unit affordable housing development with roughly 6,900 square feet of commercial space. The waiver is granted to EAH Housing And J.H. Fitzmaurice, Inc. on Saturdays and Sundays from Aug. 14, 2019 through Oct. 30, 2019 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Work will not be taking place every weekend, but rather two to three Saturdays per month and on some Sundays. There is no work planned on Labor Day weekend.

As required by the Noise Ordinance, staff mailed notices to property owners and site addresses within 300 feet of 3706 San Pablo Avenue and published a legal advertisement in the East Bay Times.

The presentation for this item can be viewed above at [16:48].

PBID Assessment Levy And ETMA Budget: (Susan Hsieh) (Public Hearing)

Mayor Ally Media and Councilmember John Bauters showed strong support for the 5 percent ETMA budget increase. There is a 5 percent increase for the PBID levy due to higher construction costs on the Mandela Bus Yard (projected completion in June 2020). The yard is anticipated to cost $3.3 million. This is over $1 million more than what was originally budgeted. 

The presentation for this item can be viewed above at [22:26].

Option To Repeal Minimum Wage Amendment Ordinance Or Place A Measure On The Ballot For The November 2020 Election (Action Item)

The Council unanimously approved repealing amendments to the “Minimum wage, paid sick leave and other employment standards” ordinance (Chapter 37 of Title 5). The ordinance would make amendments to the definitions and minimum wage sections within Chapter 37.

If the Referendum is placed on the ballot and passes, the MWO amendment will not go into effect and all businesses will be required to pay $16.30 per hour whether the business is a small (55 or less employees) or large (56 or more employees) employer. If the measure is placed on the ballot and does not pass, the MWO Amendment will go into effect, with its provisions defining Small Independent Restaurants and establishing a different wage rate for Small Independent Restaurants.

Doug Smith, co-owner of local business Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe, urged the need for future group discussions around coping with future minimum wage increases. 

Marilyn Boucher, co-owner of local business The Broken Rack, shared how the business didn’t make a profit in 2018 and how “dire the situation is becoming for some of us.” 

There were mixed opinions during the public comment where several individuals expressed more support for small businesses. 

Vice Mayor Patz responded to the idea that the City is bending to labor union demands: “I don’t like this idea that we divide people in any way. I don’t care if you’re a resident or business owner or visitor. I don’t know that the expense of going to the voters to change that is worthwhile.

Councilmember Scott Donahue is in support of repealing.

“At the heart of it, we all very much want the same thing which is for people to be able to live in the Bay Area on one full-time job,” said Councilmember Dianne Martinez. 

Councilmember John Bauters, who supported repealing, addressed the nuances in simultaneously supporting businesses and workers: Workers are the most important thing. No good business will roll wages back on those workers, nor should they. He proposed that the City form a group in partnership with stakeholders to discuss ways to support small businesses. 

Mayor Ally Medina addressed businesses who lost faith in Medina due to her strong advocacy of high minimum wage. 

“I’ll continue to meet with and work with our small business community and find solutions in the upcoming year to make sure our small businesses can stay here and thrive and keep good jobs in Emeryville,” said Medina. 

The presentation for this item can be viewed above at [38:09].

 Climate Action Plan Update (Action Item)

Nancy Humphrey, the environmental programs supervisor in the Public Works Department, updated the council on the city’s progress on its climate goals.

“Climate change is bringing a lot of new risks to communities. For us, one of the big ones to fire, heat, and food scarcity, is flooding.”

Humphrey showed a map of predicted flooded areas in Emeryville in 50 years after 12 inches of sea level rise and storm surge. The Emeryville Marina and shoreline would be most impacted with as much as five feet of flooding in some parts. In a best case scenario, residences and businesses will not be impacted by flooding.

However, Emeryville looks different in 25 years with 36 inches of sea level rise with as much as three feet of flooding around Bay Street, particularly near IKEA. These are graphics don’t factor in king tides — the highest tides of the year —which are exacerbated by sea level rise and are currently as high as eight feet in the Bay. King tides can be observed in Northern California from December to February every year.

Since 2004, there has been a 15 percent reduction in residential greenhouse gas emissions. There has been a 45 percent reduction of GHG emissions per capita in local traffic. Humphrey credited improved energy efficiency and efforts, increasing cleanliness of PG&E’s electric grid, more electric and hybrid vehicles, less solid waste stream and methane capture at the landfill. The City currently has the highest waste diversion rate in Alameda County. 

From the commercial sector, there has been a 41 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The main reasons behind this reduction comes from changes in buildings and facilities, vehicle fleet and street lights and traffic signals. However, there has been an increase in emissions from employee commutes and water and wastewater. 

City Hall itself contributes 129 metric tons of natural gas emissions annually. CivicSpark fellow Edgar Barazza presented a five-step roadmap to decarbonize municipal buildings including City Hall, two Emeryville Fire Department stations and the Emeryville Police Department. The City of Berkeley recently took major strides towards its climate initiatives when it became the first city in the U.S. to ban natural gas in new construction. 

The plan called for a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions at both the community and municipal levels by 2020. In 2016, the City developed its Climate Action Plan 2.0, which stated targets using 2004 as the baseline year a 40 percent reduction by 2030 and a reduction of 80 percent by 2050. Emeryville developed its first Climate Action Plan in 2008. 

Currently, the City is working on major public transit improvements, community installation of renewable energy and electrification of building energy systems. 

We can’t do business as usual,” said Humphrey. “We’re getting the lowest hanging fruit first; it’s going to get increasingly more difficult to make those strides.”

The presentation for this item can be viewed above at [1:10:36].

About The Author

is an independent journalist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Sarah Belle aims to highlight diverse narratives and is excited to contribute a fresh perspective to The E'ville Eye.

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