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Emeryville Residential housing moratorium ordinance defeated

2 mins read

Developers, Lawyers and a few Oakland resident “ringers” (mixed with a few Emeryville residents) turned out in droves to Emeryville City Hall on a Friday evening before a holiday weekend and on a Sabbath day for some. Most came to speak in opposition to the proposed housing moratorium ordinance that would put a 45-day hold on three major all-rental apartment developments. The Council would have to qualify that this “Urgency Interim Ordinance” met the criteria as an actual emergency to legally qualify and not be challenged.


The comic above circulated by portrayed Emeryville as NIMBY’s. In reality, Emeryville has surpassed required housing allocation by ABAG (Associations of Bay Area Governments) and hardly can be described as “NIMBY’s”. Only 5% of our current housing stock are three-bedroom and above. SFBARF (SF Bay Area Renters’ Federation) identifies itself as an organization that “organize(s) renters to testify in favor of new building projects at neighborhood meetings and hearings” (nice acronym, btw).


Developers argued that they had met all the requirements and that their projects were too far down stream for the City to “change the rules” at this point and doing so was unfair and even irresponsible. They also pointed at that their developments would contribute largely to Emeryville’s affordable homebuyers program as they are required to contribute via a housing program impact fee. Other arguments included that 45 days would not be long enough to make a significant impact anyway.

Jac Asher, who initiated the ordinance discussion, lobbied hard for the votes of the other Councilmembers where a 4/5 majority would be needed to ratify it. “In the last 10 years, we’ve added an additional 56% to our housing stock in the city so the idea that we are ‘bad actors’ within the region simply isn’t true”. “Families with children are a protected class under the Fair-Housing Act. I don’t understand why we would want to build a city that excludes them.”. Asher went on to qualify the emergency nature of the ordinance by pointing out that nearly half of Emeryville households were “overpaying” for housing as of 2010, defined by paying more than half of their household income on housing.

As expected, Councilmembers Martinez and Donahue both aligned with Asher. Councilmember Davis chastised the timing of the meeting and the legal team that drafted it for what she called “probably one of the worst things I’ve ever looked at” and likened it to circus cotton candy cone for the way it was inflated & hollow. “I’m uncomfortable with the process here and if you begin badly, you’re probably going to end badly”.

Ultimately though, the decision rested on Mayor Ruth Atkin who has proved to be the “wild card” of the five. Atkin voted against it, citing “The reason is not for the goals that are stated, I just think this is the wrong way to go about doing this.” With that, the ordinance was defeated. The fast-track timing may have ultimately worked against the agenda as it was cited by many for stirring opposition to the ordinance. The battle was won by developers on this day but there’s hope that this may be a turning point in the war for affordable, for-sale, family-friendly housing in Emeryville. The message was sent that and the city’s policies would need to be revisited.

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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 moved to Emeryville because I wanted to live somewhere dense. I want to be able to walk to things. I want to have more neighbors! Having more neighbors means we can support more locally-oriented retail. Having more neighbors gives us the tax base and potential ridership to support better transit.

    You want more affordable housing. Great! Me too! Anyone who understands supply and demand knows that to get more affordable housing, we need to build more. SFBARF (whose acronym makes me smile) is totally right about that.

    You want more homes for families? Great! Let’s build those too! The only limits are the ones that the NIMBYs impose.

    This decision is a win in my book. I know you don’t agree, Rob, but seriously I think your goals and mine are aligned; we just disagree about how to get there.

    • I had personal reservations about the timing of it. My main beef is the all rental nature of every development in town. We just can’t create a sense of community with residents that only live here for a couple years. I agree with you regarding density and the supply & demand nature of housing.

    • If Emeryville is mostly building housing that caters to people making at least 150% of Area Median Income (AMI), this will have no effect on “supply and demand” for the vast majority of the local population who make lower incomes. If GM only built Cadillacs, this “supply” would have little impact on the families that can only afford a much lower priced car. As others said at the meeting, you can’t build a cohesive community with only 1- and 2-bedroom rental units that exclude families and that exclude people trying to set down roots and minimize future rent increases via home ownership.

      Mandating ownership units to be bought only by people who use the unit as their primary residence (via deed restrictions); mandating a certain percentage of 3- and 4-bedroom homes to accommodate families; and mandating construction of units for all levels of AMI, with no more than 30% of units rented/sold to those making more than 150%% of AMI (via permanent deed restrictions), are a few of the tools that will build more affordable and cohesive communities.

      Let’s hope Emeryville revisits the moratorium soon and stops construction of all new housing until controls are in place to build an inclusive, cohesive and stable community.

  2. I just stumbled across this article while trying to figure out why I am homeless right now. I agree that there were some valid points made for both sides and understand why some people thought a “pause” was necessary. Here’s what the problem is….there is nothing for a family here in Emeryville!!!!! If you want developers to build housing that is family friendly, you must first have reasons for families to want to move to the area. The only things that are geared towards children in the actual city of Emeryville is the park and a few gyms. I think this needs to be the priority first.

    Because of this pause, because of this moratorium, lots of peoples living situations have been jolted. I was supposed to have moved into the PARC on Powell apartments but affected by all this because they did not receive their TOC. It was put on hold. Now I have had to spend money to put all my things in storage, was looking at apartments and housing outside of the city of Emeryville and am staying in a hotel. Now that it is over, they can go forward with getting the rest of their permits to occupy. This all happened a week before I was supposed to move in. I can now start to replan my move, pay for movers, again, to take my things out of storage and into my apartment I had been planning on moving to since January. At this point it would have been a lot easier for me to just move out of the city.

    This whole pause was quite selfish and I don’t think anyone thought of the actual impact it would have on Emeryville residents or its future residents that were in the same boat as me. A lot of people talked about affordable living, well I bet there were some less fortunate people who were supposed to move into these affordable living apartments in these new developments that went through the same things I went through. Did anyone think about how stressful it is to think you’re going to be moving, invest time and money to move at a specific time to then only be told you can’t? To be told “I’m not sure when you can move in.”

    If you want more families to move to Emeryville, you need to build housing whether its homes or apartments, raise wages in the entire bay area, and finally, create an atmosphere where children are welcome. How much of this can you really think can be accomplished in a 2 mile city with less than 11,000 people. I say make the city a fun place for young adults and bring more attention to the city. Then the people living here will want to STAY here and raise family’s.

    • Jenny, The moratorium was defeated. It never happened. The reason Parc is delayed is because of building, fire code and their failure to sign off on some legal documents regarding the park that they are obligated to build. If they told you it had anything to do with the proposed moratorium, they lied to you.
      Per the City:
      “There are several issues with Parc on Powell. The basic problem is that Equity was way too optimistic about when they could get a TCO (Temporary Certificate of Occupancy). They made commitments to a bunch of tenants that they now are unable to keep. The “dispute” relates to the park and doctor’s parking lot that Equity is obligated to build. These don’t necessarily have to be finished before they get their TCO, but there are legal agreements that need to be signed. These agreements were approved by the City 8 months ago, but have not yet been executed by Equity. There are also some building and fire codes issues that need to be resolved before they can get their TCO, and there might be some other outstanding issues as well. Many developers start talking to us about TCO requirements 3-6 months before they hope to get one so that everyone can work through the issues in a timely manner and there are no last minute surprises. Equity didn’t do that.”

      • Yes I know the moratorium was defeated. I watched the city council meeting. Parc never told us why we couldn’t move in. I was assuming this had something to do with it because no one, from equity or the city, could tell me what the hold up was. Thank you for clarifying what was going on. But why was this info so hard to find out? I had emailed lots of different people in the city’s different departments trying to find out on my own what was going on.

  3. Whom did you email in the city? I would think Equity would be obligated to tell the truth here. Doesn’t seem like they’re building a great track record.

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