OP-ED: Sudden July 4th venue change a missed opportunity for our city

Published On July 12, 2013 | By Rob Arias | Commentary, Community, In the Neighborhood, News & Commentary

Our Nations birthday, the America’s Cup opening ceremony, live music and delicious food set to the backdrop of the picturesque Emeryville Marina. The stage was set for a fabulous day for Emeryville residents and neighbors and to demonstrate what good hosts we can be (and perhaps make a dent in that “Non Family Friendly” image problem that the city seems to have). It’s not a secret that the Bayside part of our town is a great vantage point to observe the Berkeley Marina fireworks as well as shows as far as SF & Sausalito … and maybe even the “non-sanctioned” shows of West Oakland 😉

The opening act for Emeryville’s fledgling Summer Concert series was slated for Marina park but only days before the event, it was mysteriously shifted to the less-panoramic Doyle-Hollis Park. The Emeryville Community Services department scrambled to spread the word about this sudden venue change. It was also announced at the July 2nd City Council Meeting for those in attendance or watching on TV/Webcast … apparently too late for some. “We planned our 4th of July celebration at the Marina where it was originally scheduled and then upon sitting there, waiting for music and food and googling more info…we found out it had moved” said resident Sarah Sheaffer. I’m confident that Ms. Sheaffer wasn’t the only one whom had their plans altered.

I reached out to various contacts for more specifics as to why this venue change was initiated but the answers were vague. I even reached out to the performing band “Juke Box Heroes” whom I felt the most sorry for. “It certainly put a damper on the crowd turn out” they replied “but the organizer Roselle was wonderful and did a great job in spite of her challenges with the move”. They got paid the same I’m sure but playing to crowd of less than a dozen had to be a bit dejecting (slightly less than last nights turn out for “Three of us”). Ultimately, the sudden venue change was blamed on a lack of coordination between the various departments (police, public works & community services), and for “safety & logistical reasons”. The dejected faces of the Emeryville Community Services department said it all. No Food Trucks (unless you count the gentlemen selling snow-cones from his push-cart), No Alcohol, No fireworks = No attendance.

It’s not clear who/how the decision was initiated (Residents, The Police or City Council) but new City Manager Sabrina Landreth took a “The buck stops here” stance: “The decision to move was ultimately mine, after receiving input from staff” she replied in response to an email “I think the process can (and will!) be improved to prevent this change from happening at the last-minute again.”

Still, the impetus of the decision remains unanswered. Did the EPD get skittish on its crowd-control capabilities? There was some speculation from neighbors I spoke with that some Marina area residents collectively yelled “Get off my lawn!” to the rest of the city and neighbors. Council Member and Watergate resident Nora Davis adamantly denied that there was any pressure on her from any Marina/Peninsula area residents to move the event. It is unknown if the city will attempt another event of this kind at this venue but in my opinion, If Emeryville wants to achieve the distinction of being “family friendly” than they need to put the needs of all of us ahead of that of a few.

Were you disappointed by this sudden venue change or did the city make “the right call” by addressing legitimate safety concerns? Perhaps the E’ville Eye just fishing for a story here. I’d love to hear thoughts here as community dialogue is the objective of this News blog.

Photo Credit: emeryphoto.blogspot.com

About The Author

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who moved to Emeryville in 2003. A new parent in the community, he can often be seen walking his French Bulldog rescue "Fiona" around his Park Avenue District neighborhood, traversing the greenway on his bike or enjoying his favorite Emeryville small businesses. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

2 Responses to OP-ED: Sudden July 4th venue change a missed opportunity for our city

  1. Kimber says:

    I was immensely disappointed about the decision. That and it was so unclear about the change I had to call City Hall in fear of spoiling my 4th plans.

    • Rob says:

      Thanks Kimber. I still feel like we’re owed an explanation for this. It’s hard to get a straight answer sometimes unfortunately.

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