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Friday, March 21, 2014

City Hall Releases Charter City Revenue Numbers

Emeryville Left $21 Million on the Table

News Analysis
A  debate has begun at City Hall about an Emeryville 'charter city' ballot initiative that would enable the City to capture real estate transfer fees, a "leaking" of revenue says Mayor Jac Asher.  If it were a charter city and charged what the City of Alameda charges, Emeryville would have net some $21 million more than it did between 2009 and February 2014 according to the City.

The idea, first floated by Mayor Asher in her State of the City address last January proposes to change the governing system of Emeryville from what it is now, a 'general law city'; a form of governance dictated by laws ensconced at Sacramento, to a charter city; more of a local control governance system.  The main reason Ms Asher sees value in becoming a charter city is that legal designation allows for the people of Emeryville to decide by a ballot initiative, about imposing a real estate transfer tax, like neighboring cities do.  The tax, would impose a percentage fee for real estate transfers based on the selling price per $1000 dollars of value.

At a March 18th City Council meeting power point presentation prepared by the City Clerk's office, the Council heard about how Emeryville neighbor cities have been receiving millions of dollars, mostly paid by businesses, because they are charter cities and they impose transfer fees.   Emeryville does receive a small pittance for transfers (the most it can charge as a general law city); now pegged at $.55 per $1000 of value.  Neighbor Alameda, a charter city, charges $12 per $1000.  Other neighbors, all charter cities, charge similar amounts; Berkeley and Oakland both charge $15 per $1000 on the high side while Hayward charges $4.50, the lowest of neighboring cities.  The fees draw money these cities use to make up for the loss of revenue provided by their respective redevelopment agencies after Sacramento shut the agencies down state wide two years ago.

The numbers for comparison, Emeryville vs neighboring cities:
Property transfer revenue 2009-Feb 2014

  • Alameda     $29,219,563
  • Berkeley & Oakland   $36,555,112
  • Hayward   $10,849,190
  • Emeryville  1,178,867
Here's a breakdown of recent major property sales in Emeryville. The first number is what the City received at $.55 and what we would have received if we charged $12 per $1000 value (the same as Alameda and less than Berkeley or Oakland).
Recent major property sales, what was paid to City Hall vs what would be paid:
  • 1900-2200 Powell:  at $.55 is $75, $12 would be $1.638 million
  • East Bay Bridge Center:    $69,000... would be  $833,000
  • Bay Street Mall:   $35,000...would be $771,000
  • 6529 Hollis (Clif Bar):   $34,000....would be $749,000 
  • 1800 Powell:   $18,000.... would be $394,000
  • Woodfin Suites:   $18,000... would be $394,000
  • Novartis:   $61,000...would be $1.352 million
Between 2009 and February 2014, Emeryville had $1.838 billion in property sales which net $1.1 million in revenue.  If Emeryville charged in transfer fees what Alameda charges, that same $1.838 billion in sales would have net more than $22 million.... a loss of almost $21 million for the people of Emeryville.


  1. I stand opposed !

  2. "It's not fair that renters don't have to pay this fee." Well, here's an idea: 1) Find a way to tax the absentee landlords. That shouldn't be difficult. 2) Exempt homes below a certain price from the transfer tax, but no need to exempt high-priced properties. 3) Elect city officials who do make good use of the additional funds. 4) Promote home ownership so more residents have a financial stake in the future of the city. How about this as an interim goal: that it take more than 600 votes to be elected to the City Council !!