State Of City: Propelled By Fiber, Hamstrung By Faith

Mayor Stephen Cassidy, set to deliver his first State of the City address at Monday night's city council meeting, can tout fiber optic loop but still faces Faith Fellowship lawsuit.


Mayor Stephen Cassidy will summarize the state of San Leandro at a City Council meeting tonight. Looking back on his first year in office, he'll be able to tout several accomplishments:

  • a balanced budget;
  • a new city manager;
  • and, most notably perhaps, the new fiber optic loop being installed by .

This 11-mile-network of fiber optic cables will be pulled through existing city-owned pipes. , it could be the magnet for high-tech, biotech and clean tech firms, are already here.

The fiber optic loop was featured in a Wall Street Journal article last week. It put the city's high-tech ambitions before a national business audience while cautioning that "San Leandro might be a hard sell for some tech companies that want easy access to Silicon Valley's labor force."

But the project moved at the government equivalent of light speed and Cassidy can take some credit for that.

As Kennedy, the entrepreneur, told The Atlantic in yet another national article published last week:

"I talked to the mayor a year ago. We've just got the first segment (of fiber) pulled, we're buying the fiber for the second segment and we'll have the rest of it pulled by June."

Faith Fellowship lawsuit remains an issue

In addition to assessing the state of the city Monday night, the council will be forced to deal with unpleasant detail arising from San Leandro's lengthy lawsuit with the Faith Fellowship Worship Center.

To compress the tale: several years ago the fast-growing church tried to move into an industrial building; it was rebuffed by the city; it lost money money along the way and filed a lawsuit that has gone all the way to the Supreme Court and back -- in Wall Street Journal last year suggesting that San Leandro might be on the hook for $4 million in damages.

Monday night the council must make a decision on an issue pertaining to the dispute.

The issue concerns the zoning -- what businesses and groups can or can't do -- in the industrial areas that cover about a quarter of the city (see attached map).

The four types of zoning at issue are:

  • assembly uses; the church fits into this category
  • recreation, for instance a gym
  • entertainment, like a theater
  • adult entertainment, a strip club being one example

The city's zoning code bans assembly uses from the industrial area, but allows the other three.

The whole thrust of the Faith Fellowship case is that San Leandro should not treat assembly uses differently than recreation or entertainment uses.

So the city staff is asking the council to change the industrial zoning to exclude recreation and entertainment.

Staff says this would strengthen the city's hand in the lawsuit with the church.

The Chamber of Commerce has opposed the change. So has the city’s planning commission.

City critic and blogger Marga Lacabe Lacabe has lampooned the proposed zoning changes.

She notes that if the council approves these changes, adult entertainment will continue to be allowed in the industrial area. Peep shows, ok. Preaching, not so much.

City Attorney Jayne Williams says past court decisions have required cities to create free speech zones where adult entertainment is allowed. The industrial area would appear to be the least offensive to the rest of the community for this purpose.

Lacabe thinks the city should permit all four uses in the industrial zone, thus putting religious assemblies on an equal footing with the other uses.

Meanwhile, Lacabe notes that if the changes get made, “Shakespeare would be OK, but only if all the actors were nude and got frisky with one another.”

We’ll see what the council decides Monday night.

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David March 19, 2012 at 01:12 PM
With Lit SL up and running, why doesn't the city's biz dev. office look into something similar to what New Orleans is doing: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304692804577283262683924128.html ...the nonprofit Idea Village has grown into an engine for the New Orleans economy. To date it's helped raise about $2.7 million in seed capital for more than 1,100 local entrepreneurs, creating more than 1,000 jobs and $83 million in annual revenue... On Friday the group concluded its fourth annual Entrepreneur Week, which featured 525 start-up companies competing for more than $1 million in capital and consulting services... Similar to my previously proposed incubator spaces, this would get VCs, techies, businessmen etc together to "donate" (trade time for equity etc) to get promising startups funded with little input from the city except encouraging it & advertising (the cheaper rents in SL, the convenience to most spots in the Bay). There's no reason why a few investors and entrepreneurs can't hop on BART or cross the San Mateo bridge to see what SL and the Lit project can offer.
Tom Abate (Editor) March 19, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Great idea, David. I'm not aware of any such thing in the works locally but that doesn't mean it's not being planned. But if this or something similar is in the works I'd be happy to give it some visibility on Patch.
Alton Jefferson March 19, 2012 at 03:43 PM
David, I agree with your idea of an incubator program in San Leandro! I think it is obvious that there are not many professional services business in our city. Those businesses that are located here, are not getting the assistance it needs to grow. Local and small local business enterprise program is needed. Many of the Cities and School Districts) in the Bay Area (San Francisco, Oakland, Oakland Unified School District, Hayward Unified School District) have local hire programs which are quite successful. An incubator program in conjunction with a local hire program would be valuable in developing San Leandro Business to compete for San Leandro, projects especially those projects generated through local taxes on residents; not to mention the influence it could have on encouraging area colleges to locate branches in our city.
Marga Lacabe March 19, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Well, given that you are quoting me, then I guess I should comment. My point wasn't so much that it's ridiculous that it's OK to have nude dancing but not ballet in the industrial area - but that it's also /illegal/. Now 1st amendment law can be a bit tricky (clearly too hard for the City Attorney to understand), so please bear with me with me and do ask for clarification if I haven't explained myself well. Entertainment is considered "speech" under the 1st amendment. The Supreme Court has ruled (Mosley) that any regulation of speech has to be "content neutral". The government can only discriminate between types of speech when it has a "compelling" government interest" to do so, it "narrowly tailors" the law to achieve that interest and the law is the "least restrictive means" for achieving that interest. Here we don't have to get beyond the first element. Deborah Fox, the City's attorney, is on record saying that the reason why this code change was needed was as an advantage to litigation on the Faith Fellowship case. That's not even a legitimate interest, much less a compelling one. The City is able to regulate adult entertainment because the SC has found (Renton) that when it does so, it's not the content of the speech that it restricts, but the "secondary effects", such as crime, loitering, etc...., apparently not associated with non-adult entertainment venues (TBC)
Marga Lacabe March 19, 2012 at 06:23 PM
So basically, an ordinance that allows adult entertainment in a part of town, but bans non-adult entertainment is unconstitutional. It's also pretty likely that a ban on /all/ eterntainment would be unconstitutional. In that case, the City would only need to show a "substantial government interest", but again, gaining some advantage at litigation is not one. Of course, passing an unconstitutional code won't hurt the City until the code is challenged in court. And the City Council may gamble that it won't for a while. But I wouldn't be too sure. This "reverse" discrimination against non-adult speech may prove just too tempting for the adult industry to leave alone, and they may be able to use it as a launching pad to attack the Renton decision. I have to say that I can't decide whether the City Attorney just doesn't realize this - the potential for very costly litigation to go on - or understands it full well, but prefers to minimize this issues knowing that her firm (and therefore her) will amass hundreds of thousands of dollars on fees when this litigation starts.
David March 19, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Thanks. Obviously I think something like that should be in the works, and there are several ways to do it. The main thing is to get the support networks here like Alton says. Each start-up not only requires an entrepreneur, but also the entire ecosystem (venture capitalists, lawyers, accountants--it's only after the grunt work of actually founding&funding can a start-up get to the all-important task of "doing stuff" and then hiring folks), and simply getting the parties together goes a long way. The city contributes by promoting SL as a spot to do business with good physical infrastructure (the LIT fiber, office space, industrial space, distribution--880, BART, low rents etc) and hopefully something good happens.
Tom Abate (Editor) March 19, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Marga, thanks for jumping in. I tried to link to your blog last night but got a message "internal server error" and so left it out. You have written about this more extensively than anyone and deserve that credit.
Janell Hampton March 19, 2012 at 08:08 PM
I support including recreation and entertainment; it does no harm to the city to add these two exclusions and it strengthens the city's case. The following is an important observation:as a Christian, I can attest to the statistical and anecdotal frequency that draws congregants to the church several times a week. This level of traffic is not sustainable for the industrial area in question. When people ask, "Why adult entertainment is allowed and not the word/work of God" the logical response is that the issue has nothing to do with the content of either venue, but the frequency of congregants (or clients) attending. One single churchgoer could attend church functions several times a week- families even more so, for active, outreaching churches can include (but are not limited to including) the following activities: Sunday services (usually multiple),Week night activities(youth groups (middle school, high school, college and young adult programs)) prayer groups, deacons meetings, Choirs Practices, any number of Board meetings (missions etc.) and the list can go on. This is the nature of a growing church. A mega church. I encourage you in your fortitude to stand against the call of one church's attempt to over run what the citizens of San Leandro have found to be good policy for some time now. If you think it would help, I am happy to come speak on this issue tonight at the City Council Meeting. Please let me know. Janell Hampton
Chris Crow March 19, 2012 at 08:30 PM
San Leandro also thought it was good policy to try and exclude blacks, jews, and other groups from buying homes in San Leandro for a considerable amount of time. Should we have stuck with that too? The comparison is very applicable to this sitation as well. These changes will not assist the city in its litigation which is what Miss Lacabe's blog talks about. Letting a Strip Club be the only Free Speech Persona to drink from one fountain of Economic Grotth and telling other personas they must go to another fountain to drink is pretty discriminatory if you ask me. Regardless of our own personal views, the city is bound by the law, and the law says Free Speech must be given equal opportunity - this is backed up by RLUIPA, and the legal cases Miss Lacabe mentions above. Now, RLUIPA is fairly recent so updating the zoning code to allow for equal opportunity in the Industrial Zone is an appropriate line of thought, but not dealing with free speech, freedom of religion, and assembly uses in their entirety still leaves a discriminatory policy in place. Honestly, I think the church's lawyers are hoping the city goes through with the ban, if only to prove that when the church first applied they were indeed discriminated against. I believe the city has a stronger argument in court if it had Conditionally Permitted Assembly Uses and then denied the church's application. At least then you could tell judge their was equal opportunity.
Marga Lacabe March 19, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Jannell, you bring up an important issue. If a mega church would bring significant impacts to the community, vis a vis traffic, parking, etc. etc., the City may be justified in not giving it a permit. But this was not the situation here. At no point has the City of San Leandro argued that the problem with the facility had anything to do with how often the facility would be used and how much traffic it would generate. I don't know why it hasn't. I suspect that it's because they did some preliminary traffic studies and found that traffic wouldn't be that much of an issue. And, of course, the ban affects all types of churches and non-adult entertainment venues, from small to giant. So the traffic issue is not really at play.
David March 19, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Given that SL is the location for one of the oldest, if not the oldest synagogues in the East Bay, I don't think the city ever excluded Jews. Just saying.
Chris Crow March 19, 2012 at 08:59 PM
I'm not sure that mattered to the archtictects of the ban. The original owner of the BAL Theatre Rene LaMarre was using the theatre to showcase black music, comedy, and magic acts during the same time blacks were being told not to buy property in town.
Marga Lacabe March 19, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Also on tonight's agenda: $450K in incentive separation pay for 4 employees and filing an amicus brief on the Arizona immigration law (http://sanleandrotalk.voxpublica.org/2012/03/19/mayor-stephen-cassidy-from-lawyer-to-law-breaker-in-just-one-day/). It'll be along day! Tom, I hope you'll be there.


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