E’ville looks to make dent in affordable housing with San Pablo development, Impact fee hike

4 mins read

The E’ville Eye helped initiate the conversation with its The 800-Pound Gorilla in the city is Housing article back in March. Exposing the direction of the city’s housing stock toward rental, its lack of rental controls and impact on resident continuity and advocacy. Without Redevelopment, the city lost its biggest tool for providing incentive for developers to include for-sale, affordable housing and the city has to get creative to close this gap … before it’s too late. Regular Contributor William He fills us in on what the city is doing to tackle this:

Emeryville desperately needs affordable housing and the City should get some credit for trying. Announced earlier this year, the non-profit EAH Housing was selected amongst a pool of eight others to develop an 86-unit affordable housing complex at 3706 San Pablo Ave. Previously owned by the City and known as the former Golden Gate Lock and Key site which was demolished. It is bounded by San Pablo Ave, W. MacArthur Blvd, Linden Street, and 37th Street. The location would be less than a mile from MacArthur BART station and close to the 580 freeway. The new homes would be placed near the Adeline Place and Lanesplitter’s Pizza, which were both developed by the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency a few years back.


EAH Housing will be working with architect KTGY Group to design the complex. They propose a five-story mixed-use building with one to four-bedroom units and 7,000 square feet for retail on the pedestrian level. The work promises to align with Emeryville’s requests for “family oriented unit layouts, open space, community benefits, affordability and strong financial plans.” (The Registry, March 26, 2014).  “This new community will embody both the values of the City and the mission of EAH by melding together quality affordable homes with commercial mixed use on the ground floor, transit-oriented housing, and leading energy efficiency and environmental measures,” said Mary Murtagh, president and CEO of EAH (San Francisco Business Times, April 3, 2014). Amenities within the complex includes a playground, gardens, and a rooftop sky garden. This comes at an opportune time when communal space has been scarce in the City. The units are also striving for LEED Silver rating for environmental measures. Construction is scheduled for spring of 2016.

The City Council Presentation of the proposal can be seen on the EPOA YouTube Channel:
[youtube id=”5NKJuw11xbs” width=”620″ height=”360″]

This new housing development is just one amongst many scheduled for the next two years. EAH’s site comes right after the grand re-opening of the California Hotel and the announcement of Holliday Development’s proposal for the old MAZ site on 3800 San Pablo Ave. EBALDC renovated the historic California Hotel at 3501 San Pablo Avenue to 137 affordable units in May of this year. Holliday Development plans to develop the MAZ site into a five-story mixed use complex with 100 market rate housing units. It’s safe to say that with these three sites so close together, a new community would spring up the Triangle district in the near future.

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d3151.3755542187528!2d-122.27853900000002!3d37.82809299999993!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x80857e11bbfaf877%3A0xbbaa197891b68995!2s3706+San+Pablo+Ave%2C+Emeryville%2C+CA+94608!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1405314865781&w=600&h=450]

This new generation of housing stock comes at a transformative time in Emeryville. According to the 2010 Census, the City had 10,080 residents and 6650 housing units. They also had about an estimated 25,000 jobs, which created a 4.2 jobs per resident ratio in the tiny 1.2 square mile city. Demand for affordable housing has consistently increased. EAH’s site would be part of the 1,200 residential units coming to Emeryville, which would boost Emeryville’s population to 12,000 in the next five years.

The new development will be a welcome addition to our stock of affordable housing … but is it enough? The City held a recently study considering the creation of a Housing Impact Fee of $2 & $4 per square foot on new hotel & commercial developments to help give affordable housing a boost and help fund other city infrastructure projects like open spaces. The increase would put us in line with most of our neighbors including Oakland & Berkeley. “Every new market rate unit that we build increases the demand for affordable housing” added Council member Jennifer West at the recent City council housing element presentation. She reasoned that it’s no secret that the lowest paying jobs in Emeryville are those in the retail and service industry and it’s about time that we take a step in the right direction to  accommodate that work force. West argues that while the City is doing better than its neighbors in developing affordable housing, we’re still far behind in achieving a balance with market rate housing. According to RHNA, Emeryville is supposed to be building 50/50 in market rate and affordable housing units. A recent study from U.C. Davis, there are 7.8 minimum wage jobs for each affordable housing unit in Emeryville, making a deficit of 1150 units.

Existing Fees on Commercial Developments Comparison:


New $4/s.f. housing Fees on Commercial Developments Comparison:


Conversely, John Nady, owner of the land where the proposed AvalonBay project would be built called the fees “Draconian” and claims that the fee would cause him to lose the project. “The city will never see fees on projects that are killed and will lose the other benefits that would come from these developments.” The project, 6701 Shellmound, proposes 260 units, and with a $20,000 fee on each unit, a new $5.2 million dollar item will be added to its budget. Nady believes that projects proposed before this fee should have a reduced fee or exempt from it altogether. He proposes a $8,000/unit reduced fee for projects that were entitled before the ordinance in order to sustain some level of profitability.

The resolution passed 3-1 with councilmember Brinkman favoring the lower $2/sq. ft. option and Atkin with an excused absence. While this proves to be a major step for affordable housing funding in Emeryville, the city planning director hinted at something bigger to come: our neighbors are already planning on increasing their impact fees as we are just getting started. The fees will officially take effect on September 13th.

The City Council Presentation of the proposed impact fees can be watched here:
[youtube id=”9lYutqRYLn4″ width=”620″ height=”360″]

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William He

is a city planner for the City of American Canyon. He grew up in Oakland and moved to Emeryville in 2011. He has a Master's Degree in Urban Planning from San Jose State University and completed his thesis on the impact of redevelopment projects in Emeryville. His interests include community planning, land use optimization, and urban design. William lives with his wife in the Park Avenue District and enjoys photography and traveling on his spare time.


  1. Thank god. My rent’s going up again :____: and housing is rapidly getting further and further out of my price range. :/ I feel trapped in my place. Thanks for your work and shedding light <3

    • I understand how you feel Kimberly. Holliday is evicting us in 30 days to sell the condo we’ve been leasing since 2009. The market is hot and renters who are unable to buy are the victims. Holliday’s realtor said she would work with us if we wanted to buy. She quoted one price that was possible. A few days later, she quoted another price that was completely out of our reach! This is our “free market” at work!

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