Some updates on Emeryville’s housing pipeline as the city tries to ratchet up their housing production to meet their 2031 RHNA goals of 1,832 new units. The city has met less than a quarter of this goal according to a progress tracker created by YimbyAction.org.
Two of Emeryville’s largest projects are winding down and the city is beginning to undertake three large affordable housing projects. At the conclusion of The Emery and Bayview projects (both whose planning goes back at least a decade), the city’s development bar chart indicates only 20 units of approved, under-construction private housing units.
The three city-funded affordable projects will comprise approximately 525 units.
Emeryville’s current city council majority has worked to actively appoint applicants to their commissions and committees that align with the so-called “YIMBY” agenda. YIMBY activists tend to align with “urbanist” views including vehement support for public transit, protected bike infrastructure and fierce objection to adding additional parking or single-family homes.
Committee members are not required to disclose any paid relationship with lobbyist organizations as they are strictly advisory roles. “For committee members I am not aware of any policy that governs disclosure of lobbyist activity,” according to Emeryville City Manager Paul Buddenhagen. “The Planning Commission has a Conflict of Interest Provision, but no such language associated with the committees.”
The initial YIMBY platform was founded to counter neighbors who organized to oppose the creation of more housing in their neighborhoods (AKA “NIMBYism- Not in my backyard) and help spur housing creation. Lately, it’s evolved to include support for a grab bag of policy initiatives.
Developers Pitch Public Market Office Tower Conversion to Housing
Representatives of Oxford Properties and AvalonBay met with City of Emeryville staff in April to discuss the process of converting the existing 8-story office tower into residential units according to the city’s May Progress report. EverWest Real Estate Partners acquired the top seven floors of the tower in 2017 but have recently listed it for sale according to the SF Business Times.
Since the pandemic, the demand for commercial space has plummeted while the demand for housing remains strong.
Office-to-residential conversion has gotten a lot of attention by housing advocates who argue that it could provide a boost to ailing restaurants, public transit and other businesses that previously relied on an office population to thrive. There are many examples of warehouse conversions or so-called “adaptive reuse” projects in Emeryville where factories were converted to loft space but this would likely be the city’s first office tower conversion.
Converting office to housing is not as straight-forward as one might think and the costs are significant (between $472,000 and $633,000 per unit prior to any seismic upgrades according to this Spur study). Some have advocated that public money be used as an incentive to spur these conversions. San Francisco has actively been pursuing the idea in its ailing downtown/SOMA areas.
In this comprehensive Brookings Institution piece, the authors argue that these conversions are just one component to revitalizing downtown areas.
Bayview Apartments Now Leasing
Construction at the 186-unit Bayview Apartment complex on Shellmound is coming to a close and are now leasing.
The project, located on the former Nady Systems site, was submitted in 2014 and approved in 2016. It sat dormant until 2021 when construction began.
The project saw additional challenges when the clearing of an adjacent homeless encampment was delayed by a legal challenge. Occupancy of the complex was also delayed by PG&E who are experiencing a backlog of connecting electrical main services.
Rents posted for the complex range from $2,975 for a studio to $6,225 for a 3-bedroom unit. 8 units are slated as affordable.
Browse listings on greystar.com.
We know #Emeryville neighbors have been waiting a long time for this (some more than a decade 😐) but the new section of the greenway, dog park, parcourse & 45th St Cut-through are (unofficially) OPEN! (Video 2X Speed) pic.twitter.com/abcsGGy5IN
— The E’ville Eye News (@TheEvilleEye) July 21, 2023
45th St. Cut Through and Greenway Extension Opens to Public
Barriers were quietly removed from the Emeryville Greenway extension last week as construction for the project that began is 2019 begins to wind down. When actualized, the pathway will traverse the entire north-south length of the city from Berkeley to Mandela Parkway in Oakland.
The pathway includes a cut through through the projects’ “The Lab” commercial development which was the ideation of former Planning Commissioner Philip Banta, advocated for by the nearby Artist Coop and fortified into the Community Benefits Agreement by a collection of neighbor groups dubbed PARC (Park Avenue Residents Committee).
Recently retired Planning Director Charlie Bryant, who led the 2004-2009 General Plan update that mapped out the path, commented that the project came out “better than he imagined.” Bryant is credited for being one of the main visionaries behind the award-winning plan.
What the current occupancy of the 4-building housing project is is unknown but The Emery are currently offering 6-weeks of free rent and thousand dollar credit.
Amenities along the path include public art, a parcourse and dog park that is divided for small and larger dogs.
All four buildings of the project have obtained a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TOC) from the city and are actively leasing. They will obtain their final Certificate of Occupancy when the city accepts completion of the two-acre public park which is is expected by mid-October.
Christie Ave Affordable Housing Project Study Session
The Emeryville Planning Commission will hold a Study Session for its proposed Christie Avenue Affordable Housing project tonight at 6:30 p.m. (Thurs., July 27).
The 2.2 acre site located just west of The Public Market is slated to accommodate 364 rental units in three separate 95-foot. tall buildings. The site is currently occupied by the vacant Stern Plaza & Premier Cru buildings and a 2-level parking garage.
The project is one of three affordable projects that the city is undertaking that will be partially funded by 2018’s Measure C $50 million housing bond. The first two have targeted specific communities including transitioning homeless and “intergenerational” families. This project, the largest of the three, is targeting families solely based on income level.
Qualified applicants must earn between 30-60% of Area Median Income (AMI) which is currently $158K annually at that location.
EHA (Ecumenical Association for Housing) has been selected to develop the project and will be provided $24 million by the city.
The final price tag is unknown but based on the city’s recent 90-unit project and the regions’ current $1 million per affordable housing unit cost, the project could easily exceed $300 million.
Will Neighbors Oppose Project?
The city has been criticized for pushing all of their 100% affordable projects along San Pablo Avenue creating “concentrated poverty” in the area. The lone exception might be Emery Glen near Doyle-Hollis park (run by Alameda County) that consists of 36 “very low income” units. Affordable units in other parts of the city have typically come via inclusionary requirements.
Other than some concerns expressed over the temporary Family Matters shelter, neighbors along San Pablo Ave have largely not apposed 100% affordable projects. This project might be different as it is directly across from the Pacific Park Plaza condominiums which is among the city’s highest concentrations of homeowners. PPP residents came out in force against the proposed 54-story Onni tower in 2018.
The tools neighbors have to influence housing projects have been largely restrained by recent state legislation. EHA is proposing that the project be processed under SB-35, which mandates “staff level” approval (not Council or Planning Commission approval which can introduce subjectivism and/or bias into the approval process), and AB-1763, which specifies no density limit for projects within one-half mile of transit.
Christie Park Expansion
The project will also include a 6,000 square feet expansion of the popular Christie Park which will include additional landscaping and a multi-use court. This will include a basketball half court and potentially other in-ground sports activities such as the growingly popular pickleball.
An outdoor movie screen is also proposed along with seating and picnic amenities.