In an eventful Council meeting and a packed Council chambers, action items including the appointing of a new Mayor, discussion of the hotly contested Cabaret Ordinance Amendment, the Significant structures ordinance & AC Transit’s Service Expansion Plans that include altering the popular F-line were discussed. Included in the feature area above is the Council meeting video which is made generally made available the next day on the City YouTube Channel.
Photo: @ChiefTejada via Twitter
First order of business was appointing a new Mayor to replace Ruth Atkin who had fulfilled her one year term. The city does not have a directly “citizen” elected Mayor but chooses a Mayor and Vice-Mayor from amongst the five elected Councilmembers. Every year, the five City Councilmembers select a Mayor and Vice-Mayor from among themselves in a rotation and often the appointed Vice-Mayor will assume the role the following year.
Current Vice Mayor Nora Davis, who will reportedly enter her final year with council, did not assume the Mayorship in this case and the process is a bit informal. Dianne Martinez was nominated, appointed, sworn-in and immediately took the helm. A moment of hilarity ensued when Atkin inadvertently nominated Tattler Editor “Brian” Donahue (brother of Councilmember Scott Donahue) as Vice Mayor.
Assistant City Attorney Visveshwara Hired
City Attorney Michael Guina announced the hiring of Assistant City Attorney Andrea Visveshwara. Visveshwara previously served as the Assistant City Attorney of Petaluma and San Luis Obispo prior to that and worked for the private firm McDonough Holland & Allen where she worked on Emeryville related projects. Visveshwara will serve as primary advisor to the Planning Commission amongst her roles.
Amending Cabarets & Dances Ordinance
The “Main Event” of the evening got deflated a bit when Councilmember Atkin made a motion to defer taking action on the item and give the city staff more time to work on the language of the ordinance. Some passionate speakers on both sides of the argument came forth. “This is a destination restaurant. I have friends that come all the way from New York to go to Trader Vic’s” noted one speaker who identified herself as from Oakland.
Vic’s supporters turned out in droves and seemed to shift the tide of public opinion. The letter of support Trader Vic’s circulated reportedly got over 600 signatures provoking Council to rethink their heavy-handed approach. In what might be considered a political miscalculation by Watergate residents, some relied on attacking the restaurant personally by insulting their food, music taste & atmosphere and the bitter tone may have backfired. The kitschy environment is really part of the appeal of the establishment.
The Broken Rack owner Marylin Boucher, speaking on behalf of the newly formed Little City Emeryville small business & resident group, called the city out for thinking Trader Vic’s might be bluffing. “I find it totally credible that Trader Vic’s might close because of this” she noted referencing their recent abrupt wage hike and the generally thin margins that restaurants operate under.
Clearly this City Council’s responsibility in the closing of an 80-year old establishment after a contentious battle over the MWO is not a headline that they want to read in the mainstream media and would be damaging to the national movement toward a higher wage. The issue will be revisited in tandem with the noise ordinance in February. Council also designated a task force to bring the two sides together to find a compromise.
Preservation of Significant Structures Ordinance
The room was well cleared out for this agenda item that covered the expanded list of significant structures that we previously covered. The only person that spoke in opposition of the ordinance was Ken Schmear who identified himself as an owner of one of the buildings on the list “This criteria of which these buildings have been selected could apply to 99.999% of buildings East of the Mississippi River!”. It’s important to note that the ordinance does not specifically prohibit any of the buildings from demolition as would being added to a historic registry but puts the decision in the hands of the council and the burden on the owner of the parcel to replace it with a better structure (presumable not a tri-colored stucco monstrosity). The motion passed 5-0.
AC Transit Service Expansion Plan
The presentation by Associate Planner Diana Keena noted the contentious decision to reroute the F-Line that has Golden Gate and some neighborhoods of Emeryville up in arms. She reviewed the proposed changes and noted that part of the reason for the adjustments to F stem from the fact that it’s generally full by the time it reaches Emeryville. The “South” end (40th street stops) of the route would be serviced by the J line during peak hours. Keena noted that an AC Transit community meeting would be held in Oakland on January 7th and another meeting in Emeryville on a yet to be determined date. A Decision will be made on the F & J in March and the implementation would occur in June.