City of Emeryville responds to Measure C $50MM Housing Bond Q&A, Mayor Bauters Silent

11 mins read

For the large percentage of residents that vote via mail, you should have already received your ballot for the June 5th Primary election. Among the local measures on the ballot is the “Measure C” Housing Bond. Measure C looks to pass a $50 Million bond to support “affordable” housing projects and programs in Emeryville.

Taxpayers will foot the bill for this bond measure by being assessed $49.12 per $100,000 of assessed property value. It behooves us as voters to understand what our personal household cost will be and what the community should expect to garner from it.

To determine your property’s assessed value, please refer to the Alameda County website.

Putting Measure C on the ballot was approved unanimously by our council two months ago at the March 6th Council meeting. The deadline to file with the California Secretary of State was just three days later on March 9th. The short time frame gives voters little time to understand the mechanics of it.

Rent Impacts not researched, More Taxes & Fees Looming

While Affordable Housing is a high priority for residents, the measure will test the appetite of voters to take on additional taxes to pay for it. Voters will be faced with a litany of other tax increasing measures in tandem with our increasingly staggering cost of living that includes the third highest rents in the Bay Area. Rents have become so high in our region that a recent poll noted 83% of Bay Area renters said they planned on leaving. The City notes below that the bond’s impacts on rents have not been studied.

Regionally, voters will also be asked to support a half cent sales tax (Measure A), a $3 bridge toll increase (RM3), and likely later this fall, a $4 Billion State Housing Bond among other increases. Our Council has already discussed additional “revenue generating” measures including a $10 million Parks Bond, A 10% cannabis tax, a $50 per space parking space tax and a 15¢ per square foot building tax (none of these have been solidified). Residents will also likely soon be paying $100-300 street parking permit fees per vehicle.

The East Bay Express pointed out the ambitious nature of the sum the city is asking for noting the bond amounts to $4,284 in borrowing per resident. EBX also notes that if a city like Oakland were to pass a bond at this same scale, it would amount to a $1.8 Billion affordable housing bond. They ultimately endorsed the measure.

Fixed Income Seniors Express Opposition

Some of the most outspoken voices against the measure have ironically been one of the ‘vulnerable populations’ the measure purports will help. It’s worth noting Seniors will not be exempted from the measure.


“I receive Social Security income benefits,” noted one resident on Nextdoor. “This measure means I will pay an additional $300 per year in tax. Social Security does not go very far in the SF Bay Area.”

“I’m against it,” noted a senior at the March 6th Council Meeting [1:37:34] that identified herself as a resident. “I have modest social security. I heard [on the radio] that said the average person gets $1,330 [per month]. That would be marvelous! I get so much much less.” Another senior who identified herself as a social worker noted it would be “immoral not to do it”.

Mayor Bauters Hyperlocal Media Silence

Mayor Bauters, who created the campaign committee to support the measure and has been heavily lobbying the initiative through the larger Bay Area media, has gone dark on any inquiries from us. At one of the few opportunities for the public to ask questions directly to him, the media was subsequently ejected.

We reached out to Mayor Bauters independently to help provide answers to resident proposed questions, but he’s thus far been unresponsive.

Because of Bauters’ involvement with the “Yes on C” Campaign Commitee, he is in fact legally disqualified from responding to questions in an official city representative capacity. He can do so as a private resident or as a member of his campaign committee.



Measure C $50 Million Bond Q&A with The City of Emeryville

These questions were provided to The City of Emeryville staff on May 3rd and returned on May 17th. Question 4 was amended to reflect updated information provided by the city. The City staff are limited to providing objective information only. The City’s information and own FAQ’s can be found on their website. A more thorough description on how housing bonds work can be read on Investopedia.com.

1). How much city money is budgeted toward communicating this initiative and will a campaign committee or PAC be established to provide private donations to campaign for it?
The City expended $15,334.64 to produce and mail two informational flyers that were sent to all Emeryville households. In addition, the City has used existing staff resources to respond to questions submitted over email and in-person and provided informational presentations to committees as detailed below. The City does not and cannot by law create a campaign committee or PAC, therefore whether one is established to advocate for the measure is outside of the City’s purview.


[The “Yes on Measure C with Mayor Bauters for Affordable Housing” (FPPC #1404754) Campaign Committee has been established.]

2). What funding (Federal, State, County and Local) does our city currently rely on to support affordable housing and homeless assistance projects?
The City currently uses several funding sources to support affordable housing and homeless assistance, including:

  • Residual property tax increment distributions to the City resulting from the dissolution of the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency
  • Affordable Housing Impact fees from development projects
  • Federal 9% and 4% Low Income Housing Tax Credits
  • Federal Community Development Block Grants and HOME program funds, administered by the County
  • Alameda County Affordable Housing Bond funds
  • State grants, including the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program and the Affordable Housing Program

Additionally, the City’s General Fund supports these activities directly, including providing staff resources for the administration of these projects and programs.

The density bonus system does not provide direct funding to the City for the production of affordable housing but does result in the production of additional affordable units.

This is not an exhaustive list, as funding sources vary on a project-by-project basis depending on specific project elements and economics, as well as timing.

3). The City recently held two community meetings for their Parking Management Plan. What opportunities have there been for public discourse on this measure.
The City has employed the full complement of informational outreach required for a ballot measure to be decided by voters, including community polling, which informed the City Council’s decision to move forward with the affordable housing bond measure.

The initial discussions regarding revenue opportunities began during deliberations on the City’s operating budget in 2017. More specific discussions regarding possible measures, including the affordable housing bond measure took place during the City Council meetings of December 19, 2017, January 16, 2018, and February 6, 2018. Subsequent to these meetings, a mailer was sent to all Emeryville households inviting attendance at the February 20, 2018, and March 6, 2018 City Council meetings to specifically discuss the actions relating to the measure. Additionally, a special meeting of the Economic Development Advisory Committee was held on February 26, 2018 to discuss the measure, and presentations regarding the measure were made to the Housing Committee and Budget Advisory Committee on February 7 and 28, 2018, respectively. All meetings of the City Council, the Economic Development Advisory Committee, the Budget Advisory Committee, and Housing Committee were noticed and agendized as public meetings in which members of the public had an opportunity to provide public comment.

4). What is Emeryville’s current BMR (Below Market Rate) inventory. How does this percentage stack up to our neighboring cities of Oakland & Berkeley?
Total BMR unit counts have little relevance to measuring housing needs. The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) goals are the generally accepted measure of housing need and provide a better comparison between jurisdictions. Also notable is the fact that Berkeley has rent stabilization, which means that even units that are not deed-restricted BMRs may in fact be affordable to lower income households.


Staff conducted an analysis of existing and proposed Below Market Rate (BMR) unit inventory which includes more current figures than those you have cited. The City has 7,170 total housing units and 853 of them are restricted to BMR rents, which is 11.9% of the total. If all of the current projects in the pipeline with entitlements are included, the percentage of BMRs is 12.7%, but note that this bump in affordability is an anomaly because of the Estrella Vista project, which is comprised entirely of BMR units.

5). The City of Berkeley is also considering a $50-100 Million Housing bond although their population is roughly 10 times Emeryville’s. Do you think the amount Emeryville is proposing is at scale with other municipalities?
This question calls for speculation and conjecture and thus the City will not provide a response.

6). Berkeley (although not finalized) is proposing their measure for the fall ‘Midterm’ election when turnout is expected to be much higher versus the June ‘Primary’ election when Emeryville is pursuing theirs. Was there a strategic reason for placing Emeryville’s on the June vs. Nov. ballot and how would our City Council respond to those who say the City is using a lower turnout to avoid getting an accurate representation of the will of taxpayers?
The City Council discussed the decision to place the housing bond on the June ballot at its open, public meetings on December 19, 2017, January 16, 2018, and February 6, 2018. Please refer to the minutes and video archive of those meetings. The remainder of your question calls for speculation and conjecture and thus the City will not provide a response.

7). The County of Alameda recently passed a $580 Million Affordable Housing Bond in 2016 called Measure A-1 that taxpayers are already supporting. The State of California is targeting a $4 Billion Housing Bond this fall. Why not just target these County & State funds for Emeryville?
The City Council’s decision to pursue a housing bond rather than rely on other funding sources was discussed at its open, public meetings on December 19, 2017, January 16, 2018, and February 6, 2018. Please refer to the minutes and video archive of those meetings.

8). The average home sales price in Emeryville is approximately $573K which would translate to a property tax increase of $280 annually and about $7,500 over the 27 year repayment of the bond. What is the average annual and total amount an Emeryville homeowner/taxpayer will be assessed on their Property Tax bill if this measure passes?
The average annual tax is based on assessed valuation, which is not necessarily the market’s valuation (nor sales price of a similar property) since Proposition 13 limits the assessed value of properties. The table below provides the average tax rate for the median assessed valuations for Emeryville single family residential properties and condominium/townhome properties. Note that the Average Total Tax is the sum of additional tax over 27 years.

9). More than 2/3 of Emeryville residents rent and Emeryville currently has the third highest median rents in the Bay Area. How will ‘Corporate Landlords’ be assessed (i.e. Essex, Equity, Avalon Bay, Prometheus, etc.) and has any research or polling been done to understand if this Property Tax increase will be passed along to tenants in the form of increased rents?
All properties, including those owned by corporations, will be assessed for the debt service on the bonds. The City has not conducted research or polling on whether owners of rental properties would raise rents in response.

10). Residential and commercial property owners will both be assessed. Has any data been calculated on the impacts on commercial tenants (e.g. small businesses)?
All properties, including those owned by corporations, will be assessed for the debt service on the bonds. The City has not conducted research or polling on whether owners of rental properties would raise rents in response.


11). The information online attests that this will be subjected to proper ‘oversight’. Please explain.
The measure includes a provision that the City Council will establish an independent oversight committee that will review expenditures to ensure that bond proceeds are used for the eligible purposes enumerated in the measure.

12). Ultimately, how will these funds be allocated (through a public process or through our council’s recommendations)?
Funds would be allocated through the public process used to develop the City’s Capital Improvement Program, which includes the City’s affordable housing projects. Additionally, each project will be subject to the public process for entitlement and expenditures likewise subject to public review as part of the City Council approval process.

13). If Prop 13 is theoretically repealed or reformed as some activists are trying to do through a ballot measure, what would the impact be on the ‘assessed’ amount and revenue from this measure?
This question calls for speculation and conjecture and thus the City will not provide a response.

14). The Estrella Vista Affordable Housing Project on San Pablo cost $64 Million for just 87 units (Roughly $736K per unit). Construction costs in our area are currently second highest in the world and continue to climb. Do we have any estimates on how many affordable units this $50M Bond will actually build?
The City has included a number of housing projects in its Capital Improvement Program, which you can view here. The Housing projects begin on page 56. Beyond these projects, the identification of new projects is necessarily dependent on opportunities as they arise (i.e. as sites become available) and therefore cannot be estimated.

Within these identified and future projects, the precise amount of units and bond funds required for each unit is difficult to estimate because nearly all affordable housing projects are financed through multiple sources.

15). The mailer notes this will help middle-income households purchase homes in our community (sometimes referred to as the “Missing Middle” or middle class people who can’t afford the “luxury” units being built and don’t qualify for BMR’s). Please explain how this could be implemented.
The City may explore recapitalization and expansion of its existing first-time homebuyer program to increase eligibility to 150% of area median income to provide financing assistance for first-time homebuyers. The City’s existing program has resulted in hundreds of households purchase homes in Emeryville and expanding this program can extend these benefits further to middle-income households. Any such program modifications would be subject to additional review and analysis as well as input by the Housing Committee and City Council.

16). The literature for this measure is promising assistance to pretty much everyone (Seniors, Veterans, The Homeless, Artists, The Disabled AND Families), yet is short on specifics. How can $50M address the needs of all of these groups and do we have estimates on how many people this $50 Million will actually benefit?
As noted above, the precise number of units supported by the bond are difficult to estimate because of the variation of project sizes and other funding sources used. Certain funding sources are applicable for particular populations, including those noted in your question.

17). Addressing our Homeless crisis is among the highest priorities of voters this year. People want results and they want them quickly. How much of this $50M bond will go toward the proposed $22.5M “Supportive Housing” project on San Pablo (Nearly .5 million for each of the proposed 39 units). Do you think this is the most economical way to help as many of our unhoused population as possible which number as many as 3,000 in our county on any given night?
This question calls for speculation and conjecture and thus the City will not provide a response.


18). Could any of the money that will be allocated for projects for our unhoused population be used to alleviate the quality of life issues that are impacting neighbors of the existing encampments on our borders including disposal of waste, sanitation and additional security?
The measure is limited to financing the costs of providing or enhancing affordable housing. Because the measure can support the construction of supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness, it can contribute to mitigating this regional issue in the long term.

19). Cost of Living expenses in our city and region have reached a staggering level causing many people I’ve personally spoke with to consider leaving. Do you think passing another tax burden onto middle-class taxpayers is the right approach vs. say increasing business taxes or other revenue generating measures to support affordable housing projects?
This question calls for speculation and conjecture and thus the City will not provide a response.

20). Bay Area residents will likely face a slew of new taxes and fees this year including Measure A (Sales Tax increase), Parking permit fees, A $3 bridge toll increase, a Cannabis tax … is the city considering any additional tax increasing measures for the fall ballot (i.e. discussed $10M Parks Bond, Parking Lot Tax, Soda Tax, etc.)?
Please see the materials for the Council meetings of December 19, 2017, January 16, 2018, and February 6, 2018. for the City Council’s discussion on potential future measures.



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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.


  1. I contacted Emeryville City Hall about outreach meeting for Measure C. I explained that I work and don’t even get home much before 7 PM and this is their reply

    City Council meetings typically start at 7:15pm on first and third Tuesdays. The Economic Development Advisory Committee meeting was a special meeting held at 11:00am on a Monday, the Housing Committee was at 6:00 pm on a Wednesday, and the Budget Advisory Committee meeting was at 2:30pm on a Wednesday. We did not hold weekend meetings, but we did have staff and informational materials regarding the measure at the Day on the Bay event on Saturday March 24 and the Community Expo on Saturday March 31.
    Another words, if I cannot make their meetings I am out of luck. There is no attempt to accommodate me, a resident who they plan to tax.
    I am very much against measure C

  2. Let’s see, a $50,000,000 interest free loan to developers to build an unspecified number of units to an unspecified population based on unspecified criteria on an unspecified timeline with no measureable outcomes and does nothing to address the homelessness problem. I guess I wasn’t doing anything with the money I make from working anyway, I will like to use it help further John Bauters political career by helping him help developers.

    $500k per unit for the “supportive” housing? When is there going to be “support” to the people who buy homes and then pay taxes and have their cars broken into and kick the water bottles full of urine off the sidewalks?

  3. But what you’re failing to acknowledge is that this is a $90 million dollar investment in John Bauters’ political career.

    He takes $10K from every household in the city and gets to ride his progressive affordable housing advocacy to the CA legislature.

    That’s a fantastic investment in John Bauters you’ll be making for the next 20 years.

  4. It’s actually a perfect ploy. Push most of the seniors out of Emeryville save some 25 lottery winners that John gets a photo op with, and replace them with techies that can afford his higher taxes.
    Not only does the city collect a real estate transfer tax, they boost their property tax revenue.

    We’ll played Mayor Bauters, well played.

  5. i know they’re trying to protect a certain look as far as a community but why are artists included in the bond language? Not sure if they’re a protected class. This is just one example of how poorly this measure is written. If they’re set of getting everyone on board, they should have included dog owners, left handed people, single individuals, etc. I guess we’ll all be paying for it but who benefits?

    • Who benefits? The current City Council and their friends.

      The language is not poorly written. It is written to give the city a blank check to route $50 million dollars to whomever they choose as long as they can say it’s loosely tied to at least some part of the text. The more loosely it’s written, the greater the flexibility they have to use the funds to backscratch, fund pet projects, and move money that helps them politically and personally.

      It’s a well written measure that does exactly what it’s intended to do, that is, be vague enough to let politicians do what politicians do.

  6. Were federal HUD funds explored as a funding source? I thought that HUD Community Development Block Grants were available to accomplish these similar goals? I heard the county and state funds were/are being explored as part of this initiative, but I have heard nothing about any HUD funds. If not, why as they can be sizable?

  7. Councilmember Donahue’s wife Lilian is personally attacking you on his brother’s blog again. Some really petty shit going on in this town when we can no longer ask questions or disagree with our council without their friends at RULE trying to smear you.

    • Yeah, pretty tacky dragging my family and personal life into this but no surprise if you’re familiar with RULE and their tactics. This is the same group that continues to turn a blind eye to bullying and harassment by its members while preaching their self-righteous ideology. They are the hypocrites IMHO.

      They’re not even true progressives. They continue to battle housing projects and engage in NIMBYism which most people think is the reason for our current housing crisis. They’re not interesting in improving our community, they’re interested in power and literally “RULEing” our city.

      As I said on Nextdoor, I’d be personally supportive of this measure if it was more specific about its intentions like expanding the city’s BMR program which gave many middle-income people like myself a gateway toward homeownership in our city. Right now, its hard to hold the city accountable because the measure is so vague and feels like a $50 million dollar blank check.

      The role of journalism isn’t just to cosign whatever politicians are preaching, it’s to ask questions and occasionally take on the roll as the contrarian. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m not advocating anyone vote one way or another, but I think voter education is a bit lacking on this measure and the politics by Bauters are dishonest.

  8. Thank you for this blog post. I’m 100% against this bond measure. There is no clear gols as far as what to do with the money. One of the reasons I bought in Emeryville was the property tax was lower. A second reason was a better police force. A third WAS the idea that Emeryville government believed in smaller government. I guess the hope of my third reason is gone.
    I feel so bad for people living on fixed incomes. This bond measure is a kick in the gut to the retired people out here.

  9. The upside of Measure C is that the residents are finally getting a taste of what the small businesses and their employees have been enduring for the last 4 years. It’s easier to respect how bad our city council is when they are reaching directly into your life and the lives of the people you care about and making a mess just to boost their political aspirations.

    They are just very bad at governing and balancing the interests of the community. More to the point, they don’t seem to really care about the interests of our community.

    They want to make progressive news, and if that costs seniors their homes, small business owners their life’s work, or employees their jobs, they really just couldn’t care less.

  10. tax tax tax, eventually the property owners will need these units after they cannot afford their taxes

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