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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

City Council Moves to Overturn Family Housing Rules

Council Says Family Housing Rules From 2015  Are Too Onerous

Big Developers to be Helped With Regulatory Rollback

The City Council voted Tuesday night to move forward with a plan to roll back existing family housing regulations for large developments in Emeryville citing claims that developers can't make their projects "pencil out" if they are required to provide such housing in their unit mix.  While the Council made no secret the rollback is primarily meant to benefit the developer of the 58 story Onni project proposed for Christie Avenue, they expressed hopes their proposed deregulation for big developers could spur a flurry of tower building similar to Onni for Emeryville.

Ignoring the pleas of three attending School Board members hoping to safeguard the family housing 'unit mix' rules enacted in 2015, the Council also voted to move to rollback regulatory impediments that dictate how close towers can be to each other, Emeryville's so called 'tower separation' rules meant to stop the manhattanization of our town.  The case was made that the tower separation rules and the unit mix rules were stifling skyscraper tower construction and that the City had blundered in 2015 when they mistakenly enacted the regulations.
Councilman John Bauters lead the charge against the family housing unit mix rules stating that high rise towers are more expensive to build than low rise buildings and that makes the rules too onerous for the developers of those buildings.
Emeryville's unit mix rules for family housing for small developers will remain unchanged by the proposed rollback.
Two Proposed Apartment Buildings
Two Tier Law
The one on the right must provide family
units, while the one on the left gets a pass.

Mr Bauters told the assembled crowd Tuesday the City did not develop the two tier law it now proposes back in 2015 when the regulations were crafted because no one at the City at the time was aware how much more expensive buildings over 100 feet tall are to build and that large developers need the extra help.  Besides, he said, reducing the requirements for large projects like the 700 foot tall Onni tower to supply three bedroom units would result in more families moving to Emeryville.  Board President Barbara Inch dissented, stating "Three bedroom units may not benefit the developers but they do benefit the community."  Her colleague, Board member Susan Collins said the existing unit mix rules should stand and deregulating as the Council proposes will hurt the community, Emery schools and the City's investment in the ECCL, "The community has signed on to the Emeryville Center of Community Life" she said.

With the exception of Councilman Christian Patz who argued to save the existing unit mix regulations stating "If we want families in town we have to do it", the City Council was united and undeterred by his and the School Board member's pleas when they moved to bring on the regulation rollback after another study session planned for the near future.  The biggest fan of regulation rollback on Tuesday however, Councilwoman Dianne Martinez, was clearly agitated over the vote to hold one more study session on the subject.  Warning her fellow Council members that the Onni tower developer needs their help now, Ms Martinez was definitive, "No more study sessions should delay this" she said.


  1. Anybody surprised?

  2. I find the comment "...because no one at the City at the time was aware how much more expensive buildings over 100 feet tall..." The council were aware of the different specs for buildings over a certain height as were the residents attending those meetings. And developers know that materials used for skyscrapers cost more--show me a developer in penury. Not only is this project outside the scope of the general plan, it does not meet the acreage required for park land or multiple other factors. While many residents are in favor of taller buildings, they are not in favor of their general plan being destroyed. If this developer cannot comply with the general plan, then find one who will.