Search The Tattler

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  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 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.


  1. Ahh, so now our suspicions have proved correct, Nora Davis IS a blowhard.

  2. For the sake of the student who wrote the paper, I hope it is more based on fact and reality that the characterization you give here.

    The rest of us will never know since you never post the URLs of your source material or tell us where we can find them. I'm pretty sure because you don't want anyone to read the document for themselves to see that your interpretation is way off base.

  3. You know me. I live in a small one-bedroom with my husband, teenager, and small red dog. One of those "Below-Market" places that Emeryville likes to brag about. Kind of crowded doesn't event begin to describe. And we may not be able to afford our Emeryville condo much longer, as modest as the mortgage payments seemed at first. No, I'm not bitter.

  4. To Anon at 9:15-

    "The rest of us will never know since you never post the URLs of your source material"- You can know right now by getting a hard copy of this report from City Hall. It isn't available on-line yet.

    "I'm pretty sure because you don't want anyone to read the document for themselves to see that your interpretation is way off base." - I'm a big fan of transparency so I'm sorry but you're wrong. Please get a copy of the report yourself. FYI, the author of the report praised the Tattler for the story.

    "For the sake of the student who wrote the paper, I hope it is more based on fact and reality that the characterization you give here." - Please show where the story has gotten the facts wrong. Any disconnect from reality in the story should be corrected, so please do so. I will gladly post all of your evidence of the disconnect from reality and factually incorrect statements.

    Thanks for reading the Tattler and in the future when taking us to task, please show evidence of incorrect reporting. If you don't like the content and just want to kvetch for whatever reason, that's OK too.

  5. What is Family friendly housing? Where I grew up it was a single family home on a minimum 1\4 acre lot in a nice tree lined neighborhood that was safe and had good schools. You could stay outside all day long and ride your bike around the neighborhood or to school. Sorry folks, Emeryville will never be close! The most you could hope for is a secure apartment with more than 1 bedroom. If you want family friendly, move to the suburbs. Buy a single family home with a yard in a safe neighborhood with good schools. That's it! There is no way Emeryville will ever be family friendly. It is nearly built out, has a terrible crime problem and the schools suck! Sorry but those are the facts. Quit trying to polish a turd! It's too late!

  6. The reader above is correct that Emeryville is not the suburbs and never will be. But this reader discounts the nation wide re-urbanization trend families are actively engaged in. Cities can be fine, even superior places to raise children over the low density, sometimes alienating suburban environment where drug use is rampant and children must be driven by parents virtually everywhere.

    However, cities must have leaders who can envision children as part of the demographic mix and who are willing to engage a public policy to accommodate them. That's what is missing in Emeryville; it's the developer enthralled city council that refuses to accept children in our town.

    Crime is way down from years ago and continuing to drop. Emeryville has the lowest crime rate in the area. The schools are also improving albeit not fast enough. For a solution to the problem of low academic performance at our hamstrung schools, please re-read the article.

  7. Well, I guess we can agree on one thing,Emeryville is not the suburbs. I think you are fooling yourself about Emeryville's crime problem. Check out any website that documents annual crime data and you will find that Emeryville, while lower than years past, still leads the Bay Area in most crime categories. I would venture to guess it is one of the most dangerous square miles in the State! Here is one link that compares Emeryville to Oakland. Per capita, Emeryville has a higher rate in almost every catagory and Oakland was deemed the 5th most dangerous City in America this year. No thanks, I think I'll raise my kids in the burbs!

  8. I always do show where you have gotten the facts wrong. Then you argue that I'm wrong even thought it is clear that I have done my homework and cited my sources. You never change your articles. You are too stubborn to do that.

    This time there are seriously too many errors and incorrect assumptions to name. I do not have the time to do the research to show that you are wrong. For example, not one single caption under any of the images you have selected accurately describes that image. The each have at least one error. I don't have time to go into each one. This is why I don't write a blog. I'm too much of a perfectionist. Done research and citing sources takes A LOT of time. Apparenlty more time than either of us has.

  9. Dude, what's wrong with single people? Every time people in this town talk about family-friendly housing it sure seems like the language they're using in hating on single people. I live in a two bedroom condo in this town. It's actually shown in the pics and mislabeled. Almost half the units in our complex are two bedroom or larger. I'm single now, but I plan on having kids at some point. I think this is a great place to raise a family, but if you all only want families maybe I'll take my future family somewhere else.

  10. The 2:18 guy is spot on. I too know you're wrong. I also don't have time to do the research to prove you are wrong but that doesn't take away from the fact that I know you're wrong. Anybody that might think you're right just needs to ask: would Emeryville's City Council do anything but a great job on anything? I know they've done a great job providing family friendly housing here. That's what they told us and I know the government wouldn't lie to us. It's you, the Tattler who is lying. Why won't you report the truth that the Council has done a great job?

  11. To the "dude" who asks what's wrong with single people-
    I don't think you've got a thing to worry about. Almost all the housing in Emeryville is built for single people now and it looks like it's going to stay that way. If you are against building a few places for families to live mixed in with the single people, then make sure you vote for the incumbents this November.

  12. The report, "Building a Community: Affordable Family-Friendly Housing in Emeryville," is available online through Scribd.

    It's hard to argue with its basic premise, that the lack of family housing in a community has negative consequences for schools.

  13. The money used to rebuild Emeryville came from bonds through the Redevelopment Agency, which the residents are indebt to; in theory the main job of the Agency is to provide housing-- leadership, policies and programs to preserve and expand safe and affordable housing opportunities and promote strong communities for all Californians, in Emeryville it says it is to:
    implement(s) programs to improve the quality of existing housing, build new low- and moderate-income housing, and support the redevelopment of vacant and under utilized / deteriorated properties within the Redevelopment Project Areas.
    Much ambigious language surrounds these statements--take a look at Emeryville's website.
    Also go to:
    California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes, and see how communities misappropriate housing monies.

    There are lots of great models for big and small cities. Emeryville just employed city staff who are Redevelopment Agency wonks and are out to make a quick return without much thought of long-term investment, housing or quality of life issues. Understandable, none of them live in Emeryville and all of them want to keep their jobs, as demonstrated at Tuesday evening's city council meeting.