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Friday, February 1, 2019

Emeryville Considers Roll-Back of Family Housing Regulations

The Most Unfriendly City to Families in the East Bay, 
Emeryville Considers Housing Roll-Back

Two Tier Deregulation Scheme Gives Biggest Developers a Pass
for Family Housing Requirements

The City Council is considering relaxing existing regulations meant to attract more families with children to Emeryville by letting big developers off the hook for providing three bedroom apartments in their projects, at a scheduled Tuesday night special meeting.  The changes to Emeryville's so called 'unit mix' regulations are being spurred to accommodate the developer of Christie Avenue's planned Onni Tower who says the City's requirement to build family housing "won't pencil out" for the controversial 700 foot tall residential tower.  If the Council agrees to the changes, the regulation roll back would not be enjoyed by small developers, as they would still be required to provide family friendly housing that the municipal code currently requires.

Emeryville's proposed Onni Tower
At 700 feet, lots of apartments but

family friendly housing
"won't pencil out" says the developer.
Also being considered for roll back are 'tower separation' provisions in the existing regulations designed to stop the Manhattanization of Emeryville by maintaining prescribed distances between towers.  The builder of the Onni project if it were forced to abide by the rules, would not be permitted to build a planned  accompanying 16-story office tower sharing the four acre site with the 54-story main tower.

City Hall's 'family friendly' unit mix regulations, part of the municipal code since 2015, were drafted in a lengthy and democratic process that sought to repair a lopsided anti-family demographic; Emeryville's terrible legacy of  virtually unregulated growth over the previous 20 years.  The 'hands off developers' approach Emeryville became known for during that time, net us the town we now live in with only 32% family households compared with 68% statewide and an average house size population of only 1.7 versus 2.9 for the whole state.  The current unit mix regulations seek to redress these discommodious inequities and to build support for the City's investment in the recently completed $95 million Emery Center of Community Life by feeding children to the struggling Emery School District.
The existing unit mix regulations, 50% of proposed units be two or three bedroom and no more than 10% be studio apartments, were written to apply to all housing development projects that contain over 10 units.  The Onni Christie Mixed Use Project  is proposed for 638 apartments.
It is unknown how far the City Council will ultimately deregulate City Hall's family housing provisions, if at all.  A vocal citizenry will probably have an effect on their decision.

The two tier regulation proposal, one that rolls back regulation for developers building over 100 feet high and the unchanged regulations for smaller projects, was first proposed by Mayor John Bauters last October. The majority of his Council colleagues at the time, agreed it should be considered.

The special study session meeting to consider the changes is scheduled for Tuesday February 5th at 6:30 pm at City Hall.
Tightly packed.
Emeryville's 'tower separation' regulations, designed 
to avoid this, will also be rolled back if the Onni
developer gets his way.   


  1. Oh my, constant vigilance is needed isn't it? I would have hoped this kind of thing was relegated to past Emeryville. I hope the councilers don't off and do something like this. We need more families, not less.

  2. I’m not even sure why we need to attract all these families to Emeryville. There’s plenty of kids here now and adding so many regulations will only make it more expensive for everybody else. Emeryville is not family friendly anyway. Needles everywhere and homeless people using the streets as toilets. We don’t have any parks to speak of and the schools are atrocious. Families go to the suburbs where the REAL family friendly housing is. The urban core is more for adults and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    1. I couldn't agree more. This project is well conceived, and very appropriate for the site. I hope it gets approved!
      Thank you for publishing my opinion.

    2. If anyone wants a family friendly place, across the tunnel starting with Moraga to Livermore does the job. Next to Bay Bridge does not do it.


    3. Suburbia offers a particular kind family friendly housing. Like urban family friendly housing, it has positive attributes and negative ones for families. It sounds like you're of the opinion the positive attributes of suburban living outweighs the negative ones for families and many have made that same assessment. However, urban living for families can offset some of the negative qualities of the suburbs. Many believe urban living to be superior for families.

      Regardless, we here in Emeryville have collectively decided we want to make our town family friendly, complete with housing stock towards that end. To the extent the City Council is subverting that desire of the people, that's newsworthy and the Tattler will report on it.
      The problem stems from the fact that nobody, overtly, with your line of thinking ever runs for City Council, rather they say they will support family housing and once in power they don't. I think you should seek out candidates for City Council that uncynically reflect your views. It would be nice for the people to be able to decide about this without the use of political grandstanding and subterfuge. Solicit a candidate that overtly runs against family housing and I will applaud the honest and open choice offered to Emeryville residents. The danger with the current system for you and your compadres is that you may get a politician that says he's for family housing and then actually works towards that goal once in office. Honesty in public policy is best.

  3. All the calls against this building are just NIMBYs complaining. The family housing angle is just another way for NIMBYs to try to shut this down. I can't think of a better place for an infill development. This project will be an asset for Emeryville.

    1. You've made a good point here- some people are likely upset that the City may get rid of rules to provide for housing for families in their back yard. They would be the people who want family friendly housing in their backyard.....or their neighborhood or town. NIMBYists are those that want a nice place to live that welcomes everybody...even families.

  4. A truly excellent school system would attract families to Emeryville. Notjinh else will do as well. Perhaps we might lease our schools to a top notch institution for lease payments of educating local children along with their regular students. .