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Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Tattler Celebrates Five Years

The Emeryville Tattler turned five in February and we're re-posting some of our favorite stories and the reader's favorites during our month-long celebration.  As the news cycle permits, look to see some of these oldies but goodies re-blasted. 

We continue the celebration with a piece from Sunday June 5, 2011.
The Emeryville Tattler's reporting has been a force for change at City Hall since its inception and this 2011 story has been perhaps the most influential of all.  
Emeryville politicians now universally agree there needs to be more family friendly housing built in our town.  It wasn't always like that.  Many residents had for years challenged the City Council to get developers to build more of this kind of housing, especially after the School District took on the task of rebuilding the schools with the Center of 'Community' Life project.  But for decades, the Council showed no interest in family friendly housing, deferring instead strictly to market forces.  That all changed after the Tattler released this story that depicted a dysfunctional Emeryville within the Bay Area through an unflattering independent report from the University of California.   
Here's the story, titled "Scathing Emeryville Housing Report Released", one of our faves: 

June 5, 2011

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.

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