HAYWARD -- A proposal to build a 9/11 memorial next to old City Hall has stalled over a contract dispute between the city and the project's creator.
The memorial, consisting of four 10-foot-tall black granite monoliths, comes from Michael L. Emerson, a semiretired former Marine who already has spearheaded the building of a memorial in Union City honoring Flight 93, which went down during the 9/11 hijackings, and a veterans memorial in Castro Valley. Each of the memorials have been constructed using donated labor, materials and money, as would the one in Hayward.
The City Council approved the 9/11 memorial plans Tuesday night, but Emerson is disputing the terms of the contract.
In an email sent to the council on Monday, Emerson called the proposal "dead" if the council did not consider changing the contract terms. "The door is closed but not locked yet," he wrote.
Emerson is insisting that if he submits a plan modification after work on the memorial begins, he'll consider it approved if he doesn't hear back from the city within 20 business days.
"If it's not approved automatically, then it could be years before they give me an answer," he said Wednesday. "They don't seem to understand that this is a gift. I'm not getting paid for this."
City Attorney Michael Lawson said the city cannot give automatic approval for a project on Hayward property.
"No public agency would agree to such a provision," Lawson told the council Tuesday.
Despite that, the council approved the proposal and a memorandum of understanding that spells out the city's terms for the project.
"The council's action will allow the project to stay viable for a three-year period if Mr. Emerson changes his mind and wants to agree with the memorandum of understanding," Lawson said Wednesday. The city appreciates the generous offer, but must sign off on any changes for liability and safety reasons, he said.
Emerson, who first approached the city earlier this year about his memorial proposal, said he is frustrated by how long it has taken for the project to get off the ground, accusing Hayward of throwing up roadblocks. He wants a guarantee that once work begins, it won't be stopped awaiting city approval for minor modifications.
If any modification is required, it would be minor, he said.
"They've already approved the design and location. If we had to modify something, it would be cosmetic," he said. "I don't understand why they need more than a couple of days."
The city would not drag its feet on any review of plans, Lawson said. "The memorandum of understanding says quite clearly that review would be expedited, but the plans would not be automatically approved. The goal is to make sure that the project can get underway quickly," he said.
The memorandum actually gives the city 10 business days to approve or deny any changes, not 20, according to the staff report.
If it ever gets built, the memorial's four monoliths would be dedicated to those who died on Sept. 11, 2001. The 40-foot-wide and 34-feet-deep memorial, featuring a flagpole in the center, also would honor veterans, and Hayward police and firefighters who died in the line of duty. The memorial, costing an estimated $100,000 in donated labor and materials, would sit at Mission Boulevard and D Street, across from the main library, on property that contains the former City Hall and Giuliani Children's Park. The Hayward Fault traverses the site.
Emerson, a veteran of the first Gulf War who lives in Fairview, said he wanted to build a structure that would beautify the city and provide a place where people could go to remember 9/11.
In addition to the Union City and Castro Valley monuments, Emerson also has consulted with builders of the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania and said he is working on a Cold War memorial in Las Vegas and another memorial to disabled veterans in Washington, D.C.
"Some people go fishing, some people golf. I build memorials," he said. "This would all be done at no charge. It's clear that I'm going to do a great job. But it seems it's not meant to be in the city of Hayward."