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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Emery School Board Says NO to Affordable Family Housing

School Board Majority Rejects Affordable Housing and Making Emeryville Family Friendly

Last Wednesday night, Emery School Board members, considering whether to consider supporting Measure C, Emeryville’s emerging June housing bond, demurred, a majority disapproving and refusing to aid citizen efforts to help bring affordable family housing to Emeryville.  The Board's vote to reject affordable housing split fell along familiar lines; the 'affluent majority' made up of Corporate Vice President of Marketing Cruz Vargas, school architect Donn Merriam and lawyer Bailey Langner  rejecting member Barbara Inch’s proposal to discuss the June 5th Measure C with an eye towards endorsing it.   

Board Member Donn Merriam Weighs In
He told Emeryville's right wing blog that providing affordable 
family housing will do "nothing for the greater good". 
Good public policy is something cynically forwarded
only to help politicians he said.  Government solutions 

are not to be trusted.  Then he voted NO to even 
discussing the housing measure by the Board.  

Measure C would leverage some $50 million of Emeryville bond proceeds with State and other funds ultimately providing $300-$400 million to build affordable housing for Emeryville with an emphasis on families.  
The lack of affordable housing has become Emeryville's most intractable problem, especially for the School District.  
Citizens not familiar with politics at the Emery School Board watching the proceedings last Wednesday night, might have been surprised a school board would reject an affordable housing measure that places families with children attending Emery’s schools at the top of the list for housing placement.  Even some veteran Board watchers expressed bewilderment at the Board’s own gas lighting policies.

Board Member Bailey Langner
Let the private sector work it out.
The Board has no interest in helping
low income or middle class families.

Nothing can be done.
The housing crisis that has befallen Emeryville comes on the heels of a 20 year private sector building boom that’s almost doubled the population and caused a shift from a town of majority home ownership into an unaffordable renter majority town.  The results are dramatic; the annual income needed to afford a studio apartment at this point in Emeryville is a shocking $83,772 according to City records.  
Not surprisingly, the effects have hit families hardest; Emeryville already has the fewest families of any town in the East Bay and the private sector is failing to deliver affordability for them in the housing market.  The explosion in rents has chased out middle class and low income residents, especially families with children and fueled a crisis at Emery where attracting students is only possible by inter-district transfers.  Further, the District, struggling to survive, has turned its focus away from the business of educating children and embraced a new role as a real estate enterprise; renting out its two closed schools to shore up its budget in the face of the declining student enrollment.  The low numbers have driven the District's budget into deficit even with the real estate deal making. 

Emery historically has been interested in increasing student enrollment despite the Board’s inexplicable decision Wednesday.  In 2010, the District sold Emeryville voters on the idea that the building of the new school campus, the Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life (ECCL), would generate a large increase in students, a $95 million gambit that has failed to deliver any increase in enrollment.  Years later, the District continues to suffer from low enrollment, driving up the cost per student and turning Emery into the most expensive district in the East Bay, now pegged in excess of $14,000 per student per year.

Interestingly, the same Board members that now can't imagine monies being spent on affordable housing in Emeryville just last month had no problem supporting a renewal of Measure A, a School District proposed sales tax that spends money outside Emeryville, including at one of the private schools that has a sweetheart deal with the District.

The problems the District faces with low student enrollment and its corollary of providing a place for families to live in Emeryville were not considered by the Board Wednesday night however; the majority seeing to it there should be no government action in response to what a rapacious private sector has delivered to us.  
Emeryville voters will go the polls June 5th regardless of the School Board’s precipitous and inexplicable NO on affordable family housing. 

Board President Vargas didn't return calls for this story and member Merriam, running for re-election in the fall, refused comment, allowing his "greater good" statement made to the E'Ville Eye blog to stand.

Correction: We originally reported Measure A as an existing parcel tax.  School District insiders inform us in fact it is a proposed sales tax.  We apologize for the mistake.
Board President Cruz Vargas
Increasing student enrollment is not all it's
cracked up to be.  Who needs more families in Emeryville?
Certainly not the School District. Besides, the private sector is

doing a good enough job providing affordable family housing...


  1. It's a strange thing for them to be against this. You never found out WHY. Go back Tattler and do some more digging. Why are they against affordable housing for families?

    1. It IS strange. And their refusal to answer this most basic question only increases the mystery. But they're not telling the Tattler. So we throw it out to the readers: If any of you can find out why the School Board (of all people) is against increasing much needed affordable housing in Emeryville, please drop us a line. The whole thing doesn't add up and we're left only to speculate. let us know.

    2. I don't know for sure why the school board would not want this measure. But I can guess. I think its just old fashioned greed, "I got mine & I don't care about you". They don't want to personally spend any money on helping our town.

  2. May have been decided in a spirit of them ain't us, the prevailing
    domicilic paradigm being tacky little condos for tekkies.

  3. Your premise is wrong: It's not we should be confused about the people in charge in government using their power to bring down what they're hired to protect and nurture. Just look at the Trump cabinet. They're here to do what they're doing. This is the new normal in Trump's America.

    1. Wow! I say it again; Tattler readers are the smartest kids in the room. Your comment, while being a bit overwrought, speaks to a greater reality. Good job and thanks for responding.

  4. While others may disagree, I applaud the decision. Emeryville is but a small dot on the landscape of the Bay Area. Emeryville is almost fully built out. And, Emeryville is already paying for Bonds that are unproven. Stop this spending. We got our noses where they don't belong. Vote NO!

    1. Your sentiment about Emeryville, "we got our noses where they don't belong" indicates a libertarian view of public policy; namely, the private sector is sacrosanct and ideologically, public interest is served by advancing private interests in Emeryville. It's the old 'trickle down' nostrum that was popular with the right in the 1980's, fallen into disfavor nowadays (at least in rhetoric). You're welcome to bring it back but the point of the story is those entrusted with specifically NOT advancing that, the School Board, are in your camp (at least in outcome if not sentiment). Anyone running for elected office should make sure the voters understand they harbor these views so we can get what we voted for. It's democracy and it's a good thing. We we have now at Emery is more akin to 'bait and switch'. I don't think a single person that voted for Donn Merriam for instance could have imagined if elected he would not want to help the school district.

  5. Note to readers: I deleted a vile racist comment that contained a personal attack.