Wednesday, May 5, 2010
City Council Can't Make a Decision on Nic Nak
Nevertheless, as Oakland politics go, this was not enough for some City Council Members to support the appeal. Both Council President, Jane Brunner, and Pat Kernighan provided thoughtful and well-reasoned rationales for supporting the appeal and the City Attorney's legal opinion. Given that this liquor store is located in Jane Brunner's district, it was anticipated the Council would likely go with Brunner. However, Desley Brooks called for a motion to deny the appeal after an emotional and pointed, although misled, support for Nic Nak. That motion was supported by Desley Brooks, Larry Reid, and Rebecca Kaplan. Jane Brunner, Pat Kernighan, Jean Quan and Nancy Nadel all voted against the motion to deny. There were no abstentions.
Pat Kernighan then moved to support the motion to approve the appeal and deny the liquor sales. That motion was supported by Pat Kernighan, Nancy Nadel, Jean Quan and Jane Brunner. Desley Brooks, Larry Reid and Rebecca Kaplan opposed the motion. There were no abstentions.
In effect, the City Council was unable to make a decision. Apparently a simple majority does not win the day for a motion. A plurality is required. Consequently, the Nic Nak is in limbo. They are unable to sell alcohol as they have no approval for a major variance. For those supporting the appeal, this is not an altogether bad outcome. The City will have to figure out the next procedural step which could include bringing Nic Nak back for a full vote before the Council. Since Ignacio DeLaFuente was absent, his vote could be the determining factor in this case. When this comes back to City Council is anyone's guess. Apparently, this circumstance is quite unusual.
Other unusual or bizarre moments in the hearing included the fact the Pannell's and their supporters did not seem to understand the critical legal issues at hand. The Nic Nak representatives provided rambling and sometimes incoherent and disjointed presentations that failed to address how they satisfied the legal findings for a variance. At one point, President Brunner asked Mr. Pannell's daughter if they had an attorney who could step in and speak before their time was up. The Nic Nak's attorney, Mr. Hiawatha, stepped in and was even more off-point and incoherent, despite the fact that they were given additional time not afforded the appellants.
If you recall, the Pannell's previously had Clinton Killian (perennial Council hopeful, and current candidate for Jean Quan's seat) as their legal representative, but dismissed him in favor of family friend and attorney, Mr. Hiawatha. Most supporters for the Nic Nak were emotional, but failed to speak to the relevant legal or policy issues. Many were timed out and unable to finish their presentations. This seemed to be emblematic of the changes that are occurring in North Oakland.
During the course of the hearing one supporter of the appeal made a reference to approval of the Nic Nak opening the door to allowing other non-conforming uses under the "historical relevance" rationale. They used a massage parlor in Piedmont as an example. This elicited widespread laughter frrom the audience. Yet, one supporter of the Nic Nak took umbrage to this and made intimidating verbal and physical gestures to residents supporting the appeal. An Oakland police officer had to step in and address this individual. At the conclusion of the hearing, some supporters of the appeal were concerned enough to ask the City Council President, Jane Brunner, for a police escort upon leaving the chambers.
If the City ultimately approves the liquor sales at Nic Nak, the matter will most certainly end up in court. The City will spend limited tax dollars and staff resources defending a liquor store, resources that could and should be used for public safety and other core public services. Yes, that is Oakland for you. We will take away resources from public safety to defend a liquor store.... a liquor store the Planning Staff, the City Attorney and scores of residents all agree should not be approved. Core priorities?