City Manager Patrick O’Keeffe likened it to “an Earthquake” at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, and the aftershocks can be felt throughout the 1.2 square miles that is the City of Emeryville. As part of his budget deficit proposal, Governor Jerry Brown abolished state redevelopment money in turn killing the nearly 400 agencies that manage these funds. The subsequent December 29th, 2011 appeal against this decision was upheld, retaining the cut-off for elimination at February 1st. The final fight to be waged will be an appeal to extend this deadline for closing existing projects to April 15th. The Emeryville City Council did not sound optimistic of this happening after traveling to Sacramento to discuss the matter with State Senator Loni Hancock.
Much of the development that has made Emeryville what it is today was as a result of Redevelopment money. Credit should be given to our city’s Redevelopment Agency (RDA) for procuring a fairly disproportionate slice of the states’ 5 billion annual RDA “pie” over the last two decades. The award-winning Brownfields remediation, ample retail and the affordable housing program that has helped many residents (including myself) realize the dream of homeownership all came as a result of redevelopment money. Emeryville’s reputation for using the money effectively has made it a poster-child for the program. Pundits would argue that the money was not being used to remedy blight as intended and instead being used to line the pockets of developers and fund non-related programs and city salaries.
At stake for our city are all pending projects that are not significantly underway such as the proposed Emeryville Center for the Arts, the South Bayfront Pedestrian-Bicycle Bridge and a 60MM transit center near the Amtrak Station (maybe that’s why that glass “Monster” at the Corner of Hollis & Powell has seemingly gone up overnight?). Construction of a Macy’s retail anchor at the Bay St. “site B” that would have included a public park and additional parking is also in jeopardy. A complete list of pending projects can be read here.
There are no shortage of articles out there about this major decision including this article on SFGate, Huffpost and a more critical view from The Emeryville Tattler. Recently anointed Mayor Jennifer West has posted her take on what this means for Emeryville on her Blog. The city recently posted it’s own update on the City website.
What’s next for Emeryville? The first order of business is to approve resolutions to settle our existing obligations to developers. 110MM in assets dedicated to pending projects will have to be relinquished back to the state. Also on the table is the possibility of selling city-owned parcels to fulfill these obligations. It’s a trying time for the city and the somber mood at Tuesday’s city council meeting reflected this. Emeryville will need to brace for a change in the way be do business.