The Primary Reason We Want Families is Being IgnoredNews Analysis/Opinion
The Emeryville Tattler has long chronicled the radical dysfunction surrounding family friendly housing in our town. We've noted how everyone says they love family friendly housing and they want family friendly housing and how it's past due to get family friendly housing. Developers too say they want family friendly housing and each residential project they build they assure us is family friendly (even though families aren't moving into them). The City Hall staff says they're all about family friendly housing. The internal planning guidelines at City Hall, the General Plan and the Housing Element, direct the decision makers how to get family friendly housing. The City Council says it's imperative we build family friendly housing. They put it in their campaign literature; 'vote for me and I'll deliver family friendly housing' they say at election time. And so we elect them and yet we still can't seem to get family friendly housing built in Emeryville. When it comes to family friendly housing, Emeryville is so pathologically dysfunctional, it's the little city that can't.
Either that or there's an anti-family friendly hidden agenda lurking at City Hall. The Tattler certainly has hinted as much over the years.
But let's take everybody at their word for sake of argument. Let's say the oft repeated sentiments are real and everybody wants family friendly housing built in Emeryville (but City Hall is presumably just too inept and incompetent).
Aside from a few WC Fields style naysayers, people would want families in Emeryville for two primary reasons; one is for diversity, because it's stultifying to have too many adults. Children can be uplifting and life affirming. But the primary reason we want families is to support our public schools. We want to support the schools because of the general belief in continuing on and helping the next generation like we were helped, surely. But in Emeryville we also want to support the schools because we're so heavily invested in them. We've borrowed money up to the hilt to build the Center of 'Community' Life and we don't want to see our investment squandered.
Understanding all this, there's a specific existential problem here. The problem is an irrational municipal code. City Hall has correctly identified the problem of the lack of family friendly housing but hasn't correctly identified a critical metric for how to deliver more children to the schools. The problem is Emeryville's municipal code and planning guidelines don't make the vital connection between family friendly housing and affordable housing. As it stands now, family friendly housing in Emeryville needn't be affordable. This assures that even if we did start to build family friendly housing, we would subvert the primary reason for building it. And that's because wealthy and upper middle class families, the only ones that can afford to buy in Emeryville now, won't send their children to our public schools. Those kids go to private schools. That's been well documented. Only the desire for diversity part of bringing families to Emeryville is being addressed by our polity. The biggest part, supporting the schools, is left out of consideration entirely.
We know why Emeryville is set up for failure with this. It's because developers don't want to build affordable housing of any kind, let alone family friendly affordable housing. This placating of the desires of developers is a relic left over from before our newly elected City Council majority. The new Council can fix this irrational piece of tautological incoherence at City Hall. We may not be able to force developers to deliver affordable family friendly housing as much as we would like but we should at least stop deluding ourselves and craft a cogent and rational polity surrounding it. From now on, affordability should be part and parcel of being family friendly; the two are inexorably connected. If it's not affordable housing, it's not family friendly housing and if it's family friendly, it's affordable.
Let's get to work. First we need to fix the documents, then we can start bringing in the families. Kids are nice to have around, it's true, but more importantly we've got hundreds of millions of dollars in public money being spent on the schools at the Center of 'Community' Life that needs supporting.
the future of Emeryville