April 15, 2011

Emeryville, Food Trucks, and Redevelopment

Had my first trip to Emeryville in several years today to visit my friends' new food truck: Doc's of the Bay and found several observations worth noting. The most important of which is that Doc's makes excellent food, and just got a new paint job.

1) The boundary between Emeryville and Oakland is crystal clear. Adeline St is the proverbial line in the sand as one walks east/west along 40th St. On the eastern, Oakland side, the streetscape was mostly residential, with one respectable-looking housing project amid single dwelling homes in various stages of vibrancy and disrepair. It felt low-key--cracked sidewalks, green mossy bits around the edges, a bit of that gritty Oakland feel. As I waited to cross Adeline I thought, huh, look at that big new apartment building! And my, it looks like they are restoring that home over there! What's that banner say? "Paid for by the Emeryville Redevelopment District" ... bing.

Which one's which?

 I don't know a whole lot about Emeryville, but I know enough to know that it has a relatively small population base, and a very high tax base: Ikea has a store there, but more importantly Novartis and Pixar have large, multi-block campuses. Pixar's is expanding--looked like contruction was almost finished. Given what I know about Redevelopment Districts, my guess at the history of Emeryville is that some enterprising city officials found a way to declare the highway and railyard and warehouse-heavy town as blighted, established a Redevelopment Zone, passed some tax breaks for office developments, and are just feasting off of the additional tax revenue. For example: a free shuttle runs every 15 minutes M-F from Macarthur BART east along 40th and then north into Emeryville for a rather extensive loop. Walnut Creek has a similar service, but that one runs maybe 1/8th the distance with the same frequency, with corresponding savings in drivers and buses.

All this historical-politico speculation is just deductive guessing, maybe I should do some research, huh?

2) Pixar has a like two-story tall statue of its trademark hopping lamp logo.

Thanks, interwebs!
3) As the EmeryGoRound (AKA Free shuttle ... cute) turned left onto 40th from Watts, one of the brick buildings on the left hand side had a garage door open enough to reveal a room full of beautiful foreign cars. Lambos, Ferraris, MB, etc. Google maps tells me there's a MB dealer there, but for sure there were swoopier cars than that. It was eye-popping.

1 comment:

  1. No comment on most of your Redevelopment Zone observations... you're probably right. Though in the next few days Redevelopment money could be totally gone in California.
    That shuttle, though, is not funded by RDA money:
    At the Berkeley Urban Infill lecture #2 last week (yay see you tomorrow), one speaker was from TMG Enterprises. They developed (and still own) a large swath of Emeryville right by 80. She had me convinced they're pretty socially and environmentally conscious, as well as being a hopefully profitable developer.
    As I understand it, TMG & other Emeryville businesses pay for the EmeryGoRound in its entirety. They have a non-profit set up to run it, check the website - emerygoround.com. If they didn't have it, (1) they'd have a hard time getting businesses/people there in the first place because there's no BART and limited AC Transit, (2) TMG wouldn't be able to convince their leasers to gradually give up parking spaces (as they're trying to do now, to add density by doing some infill - though 20 years ago it was apparently unbelievably dense for Emeryville), and (3) - don't quote me on this one I'm stretching to remember things now - they might not be eligible for some types of zoning that require the location to be "transit rich." The TMG partner is convinced that business-sponsored transportation is the only way to solve the last mile problem in places like Emeryville. Because as AC Transit is cutting service, the EmeryGoRound keeps, well, going round.