East Bay Express staff writer Darwin BondGraham has been doing a fair amount of coverage of our little city that gets so little exposure. BondGraham wrote several pieces during the minimum wage battle, and also provided some coverage of the recent officer involved shooting of Yuvette Henderson (albeit more from a social justice perspective than objective news). BondGraham identifies himself as an investigative journalist and sociologist.
In this piece, BondGraham identifies Emeryville’s shift to a progressive majority and their priority of creating affordable, family friendly housing. The article recollects the boom era of Emeryville development over the past few decades fueled by redevelopment after the exodus of manufacturing – to the more recent implemented property transfer tax, attempted development moratorium, recently rejected Public Market Parcel and in-progress reset of the City development bonus system. “I am very appreciative of the work Dianne and Scott and Jac do — they have good intentions,” notes 28 year councilperson Nora Davis in an interview. “But I’m wondering if they really looked at this whole process. To throw a monkey wrench in here hurts the city and ultimately it hurts our ability to get more affordable units.”
Emeryville Is Finally Rethinking Development
By Darwin BondGraham
Photo: Bert Johnson
During the heyday of redevelopment, Emeryville was practically rolling in cash. An A-list of real estate developers lined up to build thousands of housing units and massive shopping malls. The compact East Bay burg, much of it a blighted and toxic landscape of hollowed-out factories, quickly morphed into a sparkling model of new urbanism. From 2000 to 2010, Emeryville’s population expanded by 46 percent, but the city, a veritable growth machine, added housing faster than people, growing its stock by 56 percent. Emeryville’s leaders took advantage of nearby Berkeley’s aversion to big-box stores, adding retailers who generate millions in sales taxes.
But growth under this regime created problems — problems that have mushroomed in recent years, threatening the social fabric of the city. Emeryville’s redevelopment-era regime raised money based on the expected future tax revenues that new retail and housing would generate, and channeled these funds into building even more housing, retail, and office buildings through the city’s redevelopment agency. But under the rules of redevelopment, new property tax revenues raised in the city’s redevelopment zones — which covered a full 95 percent of Emeryville — couldn’t be used by the school district, transit agencies, and other public agencies responsible for essential services.
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