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Saturday, July 18, 2015

'Market Place' Developers Overturn Hard Fought Family Friendly Housing Policy

'Family Friendly' OUT,
Say Hello Instead to"Family Flexible" Housing

Developers Eviscerate New Guidelines 
Empty Euphemism Replaces Real Policy

The developers of Emeryville's largest residential development to be built in years, the 'Market Place' project on Shellmound Street, are requesting the City Council give final approval for their 456 unit all rental proposal Tuesday night but they're asking that the Council ignore Emeryville's new family friendly housing guidelines, protections the Council itself enacted recently to correct a chronic lack of suitable housing for families in town.  Instead the developers, City Center Realty Partners and Avalon Bay Communities Inc, are pushing something for their project they call "family flexible" design; a dramatically weakened version of the Council approved 'Family Friendly Design Guidelines', that critics say will result in precisely the kind of housing the City's new guidelines are meant to stop; namely apartment units taken up by students with roommates in place of families.
It's a critical distinction; the "family flexible" Market Place project in fact removes the most salient and essential protections of the Family Friendly Guidelines; the single master bedroom requirement, and separation of sleeping areas from living areas, rendering the Market Place proposal as essentially not different from any other Emeryville residential project built over the years that has failed to attract families.

Roommate Problem
The developers for their part insist their "family flexibility", that being the regular two and three bedroom apartments in the project's mix without any restrictions, is sufficient enough to do the job.
Mark Stephan
City Center Realty's

point man for the 
Market Place development.
"Family flexible" units are good.
It's got the word 'family' and 'flexible'
...that's good, right? opposed to rigid.
However if history is to be a judge, families won't move in to those units; instead the more likely outcome will be students and others will rent out the units and take on roommates for the extra bedrooms.  This is in fact what has happened with other apartment buildings built with multiple bedrooms over the years in Emeryville before the Family Friendly Design Guidelines were crafted.  The 'roommate problem' is exasperated by this "family flexible" every-bedroom-is-a-master-bedroom provision and is the primary reason the City wrote the new Guidelines.

Anti-Family Emeryville
Compared with all our neighboring cities, Emeryville is a city without families.  This is known by census information.  Formerly ignored by City Hall, appreciating Emeryville's lack of family friendly housing reached a nadir after passage of 2010's Measure J, the $95 million public school bond and its built in existential need to increase student enrollment at the new school.  Soon after, City Hall's come-to-Jesus moment came as a result of the civic embarrassment accompanying a paper released by the University of California's Goldman School of Public Policy.  The Goldman study found a primary reason for Emeryville's remarkable childless population was the family inappropriate housing stock; virtually all the new housing built is for singles or couples.  Families have been left out of the mix.  So even though the rhetoric at City Hall has been pro-family, the housing policy has not been supportive of that cause and the housing as built has stubbornly remained anti-family.
The Goldman report noted when developers had been convinced to provide some two and three bedroom units in their projects, instead of attracting families, they were generally rented out by college students.

$18,000 Family Housing Study
Last November's election brought a new pro-family City Council majority and earlier this year, the Council commissioned a six month policy study to ameliorate this lack of family housing.  The council spent $18,000 on consultants and lots of paid staff time on the study and the resultant policy is now official, encoded as the Family Friendly Design Guidelines.
Meet Emeryville's newest neighbors!
Build "family flexible" units and they will come.
Central to the new Guidelines are three provisions the Market Place's 'family flexible' designation overturns (J-53 through J-55 in the 'unit design'); among them the every-bedroom-is-a-master-bedroom, and a prohibition against bedrooms opening directly onto common living spaces.  Perhaps tellingly, the Market Place developer's "family flexible" designation removes what the consultants said are the most essential ingredients for attracting families.

Tuesday night the developers of the Market Place project will attempt to convince the new Council majority all their work and money invested in attempting to attract families to Emeryville has been wasted and public policy is best left up to developers who know what's best.  The developers of the Market Place, who did not return calls from the Tattler,  will try to tell the Council their "family flexible" idea is great for attracting families.  Perhaps the developers won't reveal that it just so happens they can maximize profits with the "family flexible" idea over the more regulatory and onerous Family Friendly Guidelines.
Will the new progressive majority of the Emeryville City Council hold?  Before the sun rises Wednesday morning in Emeryville, we'll know if the first stand of the new Family Friendly Design Guidelines was also its last stand.

1 comment:

  1. Yet another developer scam. I think they do this kind of thing because they know we expect them to do it.