Last Tuesday, July 2, first-year California Governor Gavin Newsom toured Emeryville’s nearly completed $64 million affordable housing development, Estrella Vista. The 87-unit apartment project has been in the works for nearly a decade and is now accepting applications for a brief two-week window.
Scheduled for completion this fall, Estrella Vista will include a majority of two-bedroom and above “family friendly” units. The units are specifically reserved for families whose income is 60% AMI (Area Median Income) and below.
Newsom called Estrella Vista “a project that is meeting demand, that meets a crisis developing in our state – the issue of homelessness – and this is protecting the most vulnerable individuals and families.”
Located on the border of Emeryville and West Oakland in the “Star” intersection where San Pablo, Adeline and MacArthur Blvd. intersect, the six-story mixed-use building is in a designated transit corridor less than one mile from MacArthur BART, along several AC Transit routes, and blocks from the I-580/Highway 24 on-ramps.
The project is being developed by EAH Housing (Ecumenical Association for Housing), a 50-year-old nonprofit organization that specializes in affordable housing. Oakland-based KTGY Group were the chosen architects. The project broke ground in 2017.
Project targeting families below 60% AMI
To qualify for the units, applicants household incomes must be below 60% Area Median Income (AMI) thresholds. The Alameda County Area Median Income limits by household size are defined as follows:
- 1-person: $78,200
- 2-person: $89,350
- 3-person: $100,550
- 4-person: $111,700
- 5-person: $120,650
Out of the 87 units, there are four studios, eight one-bedrooms, 45 two-bedrooms, 23 three-bedrooms, and seven four-bedrooms.
The complex installed solar PV for electricity and solar thermal. Jordan informed that there were no VOC paints or adhesives used in construction. The complex will also have a strict no smoking policy, further prioritizing the health and safety of the soon-to-be tenants. Estrella Vista will strive for LEED Gold certification (which includes AC Transit passes for all residents).
A Public-Private Partnership
Estrella Vista was privately and publicly financed by 13 different entities including the City of Emeryville, City of Oakland, County of Alameda, California Department of Housing and Community Development, Wells Fargo, and the Federal Home Loan Bank among others.
While the City of Oakland provided Section 8 vouchers for part of Estrella Vista in Oakland, the Alameda County Housing Authority provided Section 8 vouchers for Emeryville’s portion. According to Jordan, about 25%-30% of funding came from Section 8 vouchers.
Funding also came from vouchers from housing authorities from both the County and the City of Oakland, two grants, the cap and trade program (that awards points for “transit-oriented” developments, which Estrella Vista qualifies as), and the Measure A1 Housing Bond.
Mayor Medina explained to Newsom that Emeryville’s contribution totaled $4.5 million. “This land was a vacant lot and we zoned this area for residential,” she added. “We recently decided to up-zone this entire San Pablo corridor to 75 feet. It’s a transit-rich area and having more density just makes sense.”
Newsom asked how EAH turns a profit on projects like these and Jordan reiterated that EAH is a nonprofit, but “we obviously have to pay our bills.” According to Jordan, the biggest constraint right now with a project like Estrella Vista are “the dollars.” There was a 30-40% pricing increase, which apparently prolonged the project. Hakimi stated that the price of construction for every square foot ranged from $300-$400.
When asked what the state could have done to help expedite the project, which was originally set to finish in Spring 2016 but was delayed until July 2019, and yet again delayed for another 3-4 months.
Hakimi said the state could have helped “with cost escalations.” According to Hakimi, construction costs have gone up 10% in the past 4-5 years due to supply and demand and tariffs.
Newsom Administration Prioritizing Housing
The visit came just days after Newsom signed the state’s 2019-2020 budget. According to a press release, the budget includes “historic investments to combat the housing and affordability crisis facing Californians.” The budget has included nearly $3 billion to jumpstart housing production in the state that is facing an unprecedented housing and homelessness crisis.
“That’s really the spirit of this budget if we’re going to address the issue of affordability, housing, the middle class, and the California Dream,” Newsom told local and national reporters on hand. “We’ve got to hit this issue hard and it’s going to take years. We’re not going to over-promise that this will all be solved in one legislative cycle or one bill or budget is going to solve it.”
In his State of the State address back in February, Newsom declared that housing is perhaps the most overwhelming challenge in the state and that he promises that, “together we will build one house for one California.”
Our crumbling housing crisis began decades ago and if we’re going to effectively address this issue, we must invest in a solution. That’s why $1.75 billion was added to our budget to sustain and create resources to fix our broken housing crisis. pic.twitter.com/LwGPU6uJQv
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) July 2, 2019
Newsom has also promised a “carrot and stick” approach to holding cities accountable for building more housing including fining cities that don’t meet their targets. He lauded Emeryville for its commitment to creating affordable housing.
“Emeryville is a city that gets it, and is getting it done,” he praised at the tour. “This is important.”
Medina suggested that neighboring mayors should collaborate with Emeryville to develop more projects on the San Pablo transit corridor. “I think they should look to partner with us on large-scale transportation projects,” she said. “I think the San Pablo Corridor project is a phenomenal opportunity for all of us to really rework this corridor into something great for people who live here.”
Two-Week Application Period Opens
Applications for Estrella Vista will be available for two weeks beginning Monday, July 8th and concluding on Saturday, July 27 at 4:00 pm. Applications can be downloaded online or picked up at The Emeryville Civic Center.
Estrella Vista aims to fill its units by the end of 2019. A grand opening event is tentatively scheduled for May 2020.