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Thursday, May 3, 2012

From The Archives

The Tattler introduces 'From The Archives', a new feature that brings back Tattler stories from the past that we deem to still be of interest.  From The Archives will appear on an occasional basis.  Sometimes a brief follow-up to the original posting will appear at the bottom of the story as an addendum.
Here then is our From The Archives offering for today:

Sunday June 5, 2011

SUNDAY, JUNE 5, 2011

Scathing Emeryville Housing Report Released

Long Anticipated Goldman Report Released:
Report: Council bungled unprecedented boom, leaving Emeryville and its schools in disarray, downward spiral

Emeryville's leaders have squandered unprecedented opportunities over the last quarter century in their rush to reconstruct a crumbling industrial core into a retail Mecca. Rather than an urban oasis, leaders have delivered a gleaming, yet demographically unstable post-industrial city, according to a new report from UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy.
The May 5th report titled Building a Community: Affordable Family-Friendly Housing in Emeryville (hyperlink is at bottom of story) found that giving housing developers a free hand has resulted in a preponderance of one-bedroom apartments and trendy open-plan lofts, but a dearth of housing suitable for growing families.
The report faults the council for refusing to use its authority to compel developers to produce housing that meets the needs of the real world. Instead, the council's laissez-faire coda has allowed development firms to deliver a plethora of cheaper-to-construct lofts and jam more, smaller units, into a building of the same footprint, maximizing profits.
With only a handful of family appropriate housing units, Emeryville has become increasingly a transient city, a place young people depart once singles begin pairing off and starting families.

New Emeryville housing: One 
bedroom units with parking 
on the ground level.
City Council Neglectful
The Goldman report blasts Emeryville, noting that families with children constitutes only 7 percent of the total population, a number that is "exceedingly low" compared to 33 percent nationally.  What few families do make a home in Emeryville, have a tendency to leave as their children get to be of school age because, "the housing developments do not meet the needs of growing families," according to the report.

Further, the report sees few encouraging signs for improvement in the near term. The city council continues to abdicate its responsibility to attain a more balanced mix of units from developers for at least the next three years. "While the city is expecting to increase its housing stock by 64% over the next 30 years, this will most likely not ameliorate the issue because, of the 1,281 new dwelling units the city has issued building permits to be built by 2014, the vast majority are more single bedroom luxury condos and apartments."

Open plan (no bedrooms) lofts 
turns their backs to the street; 
not conducive for families. 
Schools Pay The Price
The report also links poor student achievement within the Emery Unified School District in part on the lack of family housing.
The report's author, Master of Public Policy candidate Homayra Yusufi, is unequivocal; "Without adequate housing that accommodates the needs of families and encourages a strong sense of community, it will be difficult for the [school] district to increase enrollment and improve academic outcomes".
Ms. Yusufi notes that research demonstrates a "strong link" between housing and education. "The negative impacts of the lack of adequate housing can be seen in Emery Unified School District in that the district has considerably high attrition rates, which are constantly substituted by incoming inter-district transfers.  Due to the small size of the district, this greatly affects the district's overall academic performance".

One bedroom condos above,
empty retail below.
The lack of adequate family housing contributes to a high level of school "mobility"--- families that frequently move, enroll their children in different schools.  The report notes that high levels of mobility reduces academic performance by degrading the cohesive school environment and "greatly hinders the ability of teachers to teach effectively within the classroom".  Teachers are constantly being forced to assist new students and must backtrack and reteach information to the new students who are lagging behind, the report noted.

No Family Housing, No Accident
Emeryville's Redevelopment Agency, with its state mandated requirement that no less than 20 percent of all new housing be affordable, hasn't been any help in delivering family friendly housing.  The report notes that, left to their own devices, developers will not build family friendly housing since there is more profit in building single bedroom condos or lofts.  Since the Emeryville city council hasn't pushed developers to build family housing, the affordable housing that has been produced has been almost uniformly one bedroom units.  The report goes on to say the Emeryville's affordable housing  "has mainly attracted senior citizens and disabled persons without children".

Even as the population has surged over the past two decades, Emeryville has actually lost families.  The housing breakdown in terms of newly constructed units since 2008 is illustrative of the city's lack of will to build family housing.  The report shows just 4 percent of the newly built housing are single family units, a number the report calls an "extremely low percentage, even for the Bay Area."
More one bedroom units but with
a twist; below is parking and a
shopping mall.

Emeryville's Housing Committee, hand selected by the city council, has placed concern over this issue on the back burner.  The issue was not seen fit to be included in the committee's list of seven goals for housing city-wide included in the "Housing Element" the committee contributed to the city's general plan.

In a bright spot, the report noted that residents nevertheless appear willing to support their schools as evidenced by the recent approval of Measure J, aimed at rebuilding Emeryville's school facilities. The report suggests that this may spill over to residents asking or even demanding that the city build new family friendly housing to support the school investment.

Here's the report:

UPDATE: This Goldman housing report from last year turned out to be quite prescient.  Emeryville is losing families in 2012 at a fast clip.  The School District reports more than 60 families, with children formerly in Emery's schools, have left the district owing to rising housing prices and a lack of suitable housing.  No new families have moved in to replace the lost students.  The result is a budget crisis for the schools and teacher lay-offs.  The District's fiscal position is now so bleak, Emery schools may face another State takeover.  
The lack of any housing policy over many years, promulgated by the pro-developer forces on the city council, and highlighted by this Goldman report is why the schools are now facing a real existential threat.
There have been no mea culpas from any council members for any mistakes made.


  1. Before Emeryville starts building to attract families, the deteriorating school system here will have to be addressed, and I don't mean the building structures. I believe the writer of the Goldman paper is not seeing that parents only want the best for their children and that this school district is not proviiding a proper educational environment that we can trust. There are many, many families that still live in emeryville, but choose to send their kids elsewhere. This can be seen through the census and the records of inter district transfers. Nora Davis correctly said recently, good schools will bring the families, but will be fatally wrong if she is only referring to the building structures.

    1. Council member Davis, almost singularly responsible for the lack of family friendly housing in Emeryville, has now jumped on the pro-school bandwagon. It's understandable that Ms Davis is telling constituents that the only way to bring families to Emeryville is to improve the schools. It's understandable because she has slammed the door on the other necessary ingredient to the problem of attracting families, and that is providing decent places for them to live.
      Ms Davis, and by extension the School Board, says we decidedly do not need to build any housing for families. Lofts are good enough they say. They say our schools will be so good after they're finished fixing them that families will flock to Emeryville to send their kids to school here, they'll live in hovels just to be in the Emery School District is the thinking.
      But what if we fall a little short of our mark? What if it turns out that families demand decent places to live? What if Ms Davis is wrong in her gamble?
      A more reasonable person would say we should improve the schools AND provide decent places for them to live simultaneously, but unfortunately reasonable people don't make the decisions in ideologues do.
      And so we're stuck...not enough land available to build enough family friendly housing and a crashed economy to make it near impossible to build family housing even if there were enough land. We could throw up our hands and decide to give up but Measure J, the $95 million school bond passed and now we're all in, like it or not. We're now forced to do it Ms Davis' way. Let's hope it works out. If it doesn't, well Ms Davis won't likely be around to witness the fallout.