That increase in traffic? It’s not in your head. Buoyed by new high density developments that have gone online this year including Emme and Parc on Powell, Emeryville’s population surged a whopping 6.9 percent over the last year according to latest data provided by the Demographic Research Unit of the State Department of Finance. This surge puts our population as of January 2016 at 11,721 (up from 10,967 in 2015). But what does this mean for our city other than increased congestion and are we prepared for this growth?
“I would say that it was expected and we are prepared for it” noted Planning & Building Director Charlie Bryant. “Our General Plan anticipates this growth, showing a 71% increase in population, from 9,727 in the ‘base year’ of 2008 to 16,600 in the ‘horizon year’ of 2030. All of the goals and policies in the General Plan, and all of the City activities that flow from them, are based on this continuing growth in population.” Bryant also noted that Emeryville was actually a year behind our ABAG projections (Association of Bay Area Governments) that predicted our population to be 11,781 in 2015.
The figure was the highest in Alameda County and the entire Bay Area by a wide margin (Dublin being second in the county with a 2.4% increase). Our neighbors in Berkeley and Oakland both had more modest gains of .8%. Albany has the lowest gains in the county with a mere .3% gain. The state as a whole saw a .9% increase bringing us to nearing 40 million people.
“Population growth in Emeryville is and has been a natural product of our evolution from an industrial economy into a commercial economy with a significant focus on residential redevelopment” noted Planning Commissioner and City Council candidate John Bauters. “For many years we relied on Redevelopment Agency tax increment to power our housing renaissance. Much of the kaleidoscope of housing you see in the city today is the product of Redevelopment. At the time the General Plan was crafted, the city anticipated building out our residential base to more than 16,000 residents by 2030. While the calculus of our trajectory may have changed since the demise of Redevelopment, I think this growth data shows that the demand to build and redevelop the city remains strong.”
Emeryville’s relative small population of course amplifies any percentage increase in population. The increase as a percentage was the forth highest in the state behind Butte County cities Oroville & Biggs (gaining 11.9% and 7.2% respectively) with the City of Vernon (Los Angeles County) experienced a whopping 72.1% increase in population (but only rose from a minuscule 122 to 210 people). Vernon is the smallest of any incorporated city in the state and only five square miles. Vernon is best known as the inspiration for the fictional town “Vinci” in the (disappointing) season two of HBO’s True Detective. Emeryville’s industrial era that began sputtering in the 80’s can be likened to a Northern California version of Vernon as a sanctuary for industry. This growth in Vernon is spotlighted in this Curbed article “Famously Corrupt Vernon Trying to be Less Scandalous by Letting More People Live There.”
More residents create property taxes and of course contribute to our sales tax base which represents 24% of our city’s revenue. An increased population also puts a higher demand on our Emery Go-Round, Police and Fire services, service for Seniors, activities for kids and amenities for residents. “It changes how we budget” added Bauters. “We’ll need to look at the population trajectory and adjust the budget accordingly to maintain services at the high standard that we currently provide. As future opportunities to build out Emeryville residentially come online, it will remain important to pay attention to the core principles of the General Plan that can help keep our city livable for and inclusive of everyone. In addition to being sustainable, affordable, environmentally-friendly and accessible to non or low-carbon transit infrastructure, I believe we need to make home ownership development a priority for future development opportunities the city creates. Creating ownership housing with an affordable component that can house teachers, local retail workers, firefighters and their families helps fulfill other goals of the General Plan while making the city more sustainable for our future.”
Emeryville should receive a slowdown in population growth in 2016 with only a few significant projects slated to come online including 3900 Adeline. In 2017, The 105-unit “The Intersection” project on San Pablo is expected to be complete and occupied. Beyond 2017, some massive projects loom that should propel Emeryville’s population including (NOTE: Not all projects have been approved):
- Public Market 223-unit “Theater Site”, 167-unit “Shellmound Site” and 66-unit “Parcel C”
- The 186-unit Anton “Evolve” project at 6701 Shellmound Street (AKA “The Nady Site”)
- The 87-unit EAH affordable housing project at 3706 San Pablo Avenue
- The massive 540 unit Sherwin-Williams Urban Village project
The Sherwin-Williams project itself could see our city’s population increase by nearly 1000 residents or about 8-9%. “Quite likely, in those years, we will once again be one of the fastest growing cities in the Bay Area” concluded Bryant.
The DOF’s full report can be Read Online.