A rendering from the General Plan shows Shellmound looking south from the vantage point of where the Four Points by Sheraton hotel is currently.
A rendering from the General Plan shows a reimagined Powell Street Plaza Shopping Area.
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Emeryville Receives ‘Prohousing’ Designation Touting 3,687 New Home Ambitions

4 mins read
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Emeryville was among eleven cities to receive “Prohousing” designation in a recent announcement by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).

The designation is awarded to cities that embrace policies that support housing production like zoning reforms and affordable housing programs. Prohousing cities must demonstrate the capacity and desire to exceed their RHNA-mandated housing targets by 50%.

Emeryville has worked in recent years to streamline the approval and construction of housing projects as well as implement programs that support the creation and preservation of affordable housing units.

The city has also passed policies to discourage driving and encourage use of transit such as the elimination of parking minimums and a parking management plan.

Cities that achieve Prohousing Designation are eligible for funding incentives and additional resources through state grant programs to help speed up the production of housing. To date, a total of 22 California communities have received Prohousing designation.


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“Remarkably, in just a few weeks since our last announcement, the number of Prohousing Designations has doubled, a testament to the growing number of communities taking responsibility and committing to building their fair share of housing,” California Governor Gavin Newsom noted in a April 5 press release. “Instead of making excuses, these jurisdictions are rising to the challenge, making difficult choices and ensuring that Californians have access to needed housing.”

Prohousing
A rendering from the general plan envisions a reconfigured East Bay Bridge Shopping Center with The Home Depot as a storefront with upstairs housing.

Emeryville’s Prohousing Plan Banking on “Underutilized Sites”

For Emeryville, 150% of its 1,815 unit mandated RHNA target would mean 2,700 units within the city’s 1.2 square mile footprint over the next decade. Emeryville’s approved 2023-2031 Housing Element outlines an ambitious plan to support as many as 3,687 new units. The figure is eye-popping as this would be more than double the city’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) goal.

Many of the units would require leveraging so-called “underutilized sites.” Underutilized sites are mostly surface parking lots of the city’s shopping centers such as The East Bay Bridge Shopping Center (Home Depot) and Powell Street Plaza (Trader Joe’s).

Prohousing
This map indicates vacant or underutilized sites the city has identified that could accommodate over 3,000 new housing units.

2,196 of these 3,687 homes would be built on these lots (detailed on pages 153-154 of the approved Housing Element). 838 units would come from the city’s increasingly scarce vacant sites.

Emeryville is banking on incentivizing developers to build housing on these surface lots.

Prohousing Designation


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Emeryville’s current Housing Pipeline Continues to Close

The plan seems a bit optimistic as developers in Emeryville have recently shied away from building housing in favor of commercial projects. Developers have pointed to a variety of reasons for this including the exorbitant cost of construction, declining rents and to some degree, policy.

As previously detailed, upon the completion of The Emery (500 units whose planning goes back to 2006) and The Bayview projects (186 units whose planning goes back to 2013), there will be very little housing in the pipeline other than three city-owned sites accounting for 525 affordable units.

The only significant private housing project is the Oxford Project that would include 98 units. The 5850 Shellmound project that accounted for 30 affordable ownership units was recently scrapped by the developer.

Emeryville’s recent housing stock has been overwhelmingly multi-unit apartment complexes. The last significant ownership project in the city was the Adeline Place Condominiums in 2009.

Prohousing Designation
Despite a narrative being pumped by politicians and YIMBY advocates, Emeryville’s housing production has tapered off dramatically in recent decades (Chart: CoE Housing Element pg. 42).

Emeryville’s “YIMBY” Leaders Ongoing Push for Density

Based on the city’s current 1.76 people per household occupancy, these 3,687 units would translate to 6,489 new residents but likely to be much more with the city’s current “family-friendly” unit mix regulations that require more two and three-bedroom units in new, multi-unit developments. If this figure approached the county average of 2.82 people per household, this could translate to over 10,000 new residents.

Emeryville has always had ambitions of being more of a dense “city” with high-rises clustered in its core. Much of the recent push for density has been a reaction to the ongoing housing crisis and spiraling cost of living that has many fleeing or considering fleeing California. This has helped spawn the so-called YIMBY (Yes in my back yard) movement. Emeryville politicians have “hitched their ride” to this movement even being referred to “One of California’s most YIMBY city councils” in a recent Chronicle story.

This surge in population would surely put a strain on city services like police and public works. More growth also comes with more opposition by neighbors (pejoratively referred to as “NIMBYism”) as we saw with the proposed “Trader Vic’s” development.

Emeryville has long been projected to eclipse 20,000 people 2040. This could happen much sooner if the city can spur the housing .

Wether of not these units actually come to fruition remains to be seen. The city just needs to demonstrate that it has the capacities and policies to support them. Actually building them is dependent on a variety of economic factors and desires of private property owners.

The state has a collective goal of 2.5 million new homes over the next eight years with at least one million serving the needs of lower-income Californians.

A rendering from Emeryville’s General Plan of the corner of 40th & San Pablo Avenue envisions the demolition of the Black & White Liquor store and replacing it with dense housing.

Feature Image: A rendering from the General Plan shows Shellmound looking south from the vantage point of where the Four Points by Sheraton hotel is currently.

Additional Resources:

Prohousing FAQs
2023-2031 Housing Element Documents
SF Bay Area 2023-2031 Final RHNA Plan
City of Emeryville General Plan

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.

3 Comments

  1. This is such a joke. City leaders are narrowly fixated on ONE type of housing – “affordable” (low-income) apartments. In order to subsidize these below-market rents, developers jack up prices on the remaining units, so “market rates” creep up a little higher every time a major new complex is built (EMME, Avalon, etc.)

    That’s it. No new condos. No new townhomes. No single-family homes. The middle class gets nothing except ever-higher “market rents.” The major condo complexes built in the 1960s-80s (Watergate, Pacific Park, Bridgewater) are showing their age, and half of their units are rented out.

    Emeryville does NOT deserve this designation.

  2. Agree. This is same as restaurant owners providing reviews on YELP. Bauters must have brought a box of chocolates to HCD and told them they were good looking. On the one hand he should be congratulated for hiring a very talented fantasy artist to prepare those renderings. On the other hand let’s vote him out since he hasn’t delivered on his promises.

  3. And like all things Emervyille in a decade there will be nothing (literally) to show for it.

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