Saturday, August 2, 2014

Development Impact Fees

Emeryville has put in place new fees to be charged to development projects as they get permits to build. These impact fees will pay for three things: transportation improvements, parks, and affordable housing. The staff report from our July 15, 2014 city council meeting are available for you to read here. These fees help to replace some of the funds we lost when redevelopment was dissolved. Some redevelopment funds (20%) were required to be used for affordable housing before 2012.

Putting these fees in place first required nexus studies to be done, showing how new development will create an additional need for transportation improvements, parks and affordable housing. The nexus studies took a year and a half to complete, and they are available for you to read. They are very interesting, both in the methodology and the statistics shared. All are available on the city website at

Transportation Impact Fees
The transportation impact fees are supported by this study completed by Fehr & Peers. Originally established in 1998, the transportation impact fees have already paid for many improvements from our previous list, and are based on new trips generated by different land uses. There is a new list of approved projects that the fees can go toward on pages 11-15 of the report, totaling approximately $100 million. Many of these projects will improve transportation not only for cars, but for transit, pedestrians and bicyclists as well, as we continue to improve our multi-modal transportation elements. The fee can be adjusted by the council from time to time. We set the transportation impact fee at 20% of the maximum allowed by the study.

Park and Recreation Impact Fees
The park and recreation impact fees are supported by this study completed by Willdan. These fees cannot pay for facilities that fix our existing deficit of parks, but can pay for new parks needed based on the new development. Right now Emeryville has park acreage of 1.32 acres per 1,000 service population (which includes people who work in town and use the parks now, but at a weighted or reduced number). Parks are very expensive to develop in a place like Emeryville, with limited open space, often requiring the removal of other uses first. We set the park impact fee at 25% of the maximum allowed by the study.

Affordable Housing Impact Fees
The affordable housing impact fees are supported by this study of residential development and another study of non-residential Jobs-Housing nexus for development, both completed by Keyser Marston. These fees will go toward new affordable housing units developed in Emeryville, recognizing the need for units affordable to all who work in our community. Every new market rate unit in Emeryville increases the need for affordable housing as well, since the future residents will eat at restaurants, buy things at retail stores and get their cars fixed. Each new unit will cause a fee of $20,000 per unit to be paid toward future affordable housing, well below the $35,600 allowed by the study. For commercial, the council established the fees at $4/sf, instead of the $66.00 to $244.00/sf fee maximum allowed by the study.

Here is a table showing projected fees from future developments in town.
This table compares Emeryville's proposed fees with other nearby cities.

The fees adopted for affordable housing were higher for commercial and office use than the staff had initially proposed. Instead of $2/square foot, the council voted to raise it to $4/sf.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL)

At our special council meeting on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, the city council will be considering our agreement with Emery Unified School District (EUSD) to move forward on the Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL) project you can see starting construction on San Pablo Ave at 53rd. This project is the culmination of years of planning, and will create a single K-12 school with a Recreation Center, Library and health and community services, all under one roof. The staff report for this item is here. The supporting resolutions and contracts are quite long, but can be found on the agenda, item number 6.1.

The council has two items to consider:

  1. the Joint Occupancy Agreement, which covers 
    • Project Lease
    • Finance Agreement
    • Governance
    • Operations, Maintenance and Shared Use Agreement
    • Design and Construction Agreement
    • General Conditions
  2. The construction contract with Turner Construction, which came in at $58.6 million.
Please attend the meeting if you can make it to hear updates on the project and share your opinion on the ECCL project. City Hall is at 1333 Park Ave.

Minimum Wage

At our special meeting this coming Weds, August 6 (starting at 6:00 pm), the council will be considering whether to direct staff to bring back an item on setting a minimum wage for our city. You have likely heard lots about this topic recently, as Oakland and Berkeley both are in the process of considering this as well -- Berkeley by ordinance, and Oakland by ballot measure. The Bay Area is an expensive place to live (just look at our recently submitted Housing Element), and workers earning the lowest permissible wages are not able to get by. A report analyzing the Lift Up Oakland ballot measure that will be on the ballot in November said that the measure would bring an raise to 40,000 workers in Oakland alone, 79% of whom are Latino or African American workers, with a vast majority in their twenties or older (not just teenagers). This is a social justice issue.

I am eager to hear the staff presentation and listen to my colleagues discuss this important issue as well. Please join us and bring your thoughts and comments!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at City Hall, 1333 Park Ave. starting at 6:00 pm!

Charter City Update August 2014

On Weds, August 6, 2014, at 6:00 pm at City Hall, the City Council has a special meeting and one of the items is considering placing a Charter City ballot initiative on the ballot for November 4, 2014. There are many good reasons to vote for this ballot initiative, which I will explain further below. The Council is considering funding measures to diversify our revenue sources.

First of all, a Charter City is not the same as a Charter School. Charter cities (as distinguished from General Law cities) have the opportunity to enact charter amendments. Our drafted Charter is very short and simple, no tricks or big changes. The only amendment that the Emeryville City Council is interested in enacting at this time is a Real Property Transfer Tax (which will also appear on the November ballot, and will be considered next Weds, August 6 as well). This tax at the time of sale of a property will provide funds to partially replace those we lost when redevelopment agencies were dissolved two years ago. The tax is being considered at $12 per every $1,000 of valuation at the time of sale. This is lower than both Berkeley and Oakland's $15 per $1,000.

Taken together, these measures would create a guaranteed source of local funding for vital city services that, by law, cannot be taken by Sacramento, ensuring our tax dollars stay local for the benefit of Emeryville residents.

Emeryville residents enjoy the benefits of our clean, safe, and well-maintained city. Because our police and fire services are top-notch, Emeryville is a desirable place to live and do business. These measures help the city to maintain excellent public safety services.

These measures help support the services that make Emeryville a great community and are important to our local quality of life, such as neighborhood parks and open space, youth and senior services, and clean, safe streets and roads.

Please share your thoughts on these ballot measures, and help Emeryville by supporting them this Fall!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Charter City and Property Transfer Tax

The City Council has directed staff to prepare a ballot measure for the November 4, 2014 election making Emeryville a Charter City, as most of our neighbors already are. Only charter cities can increase their Property Transfer Tax. As a general law city, we are restricted to follow state guidelines for how to organize and run our city. A charter city has greater autonomy, in that we can set our own guidelines through charter amendments passed by the electorate. More info on the city website here.

Because redevelopment went away two years ago, Emeryville has had to adapt, as 95% of our city was inside a redevelopment area, and we received significant funding for our budget and capital improvements from redevelopment as a result. Today, the council is looking at ways our neighboring cities have traditionally paid for these things, and one of those tools is the Property Transfer Tax. The Property Transfer Tax is a fee paid at the time of a property sale or transfer. Our current fee, which is the maximum allowed under general law, is about 5% of what Alameda collects and about 4% of what both Berkeley and Oakland collect. If we become a charter city and increase this tax, we have a lot of room to gain funds for critical capital improvements, and will still be competitive compared to our immediate neighbors.

The Property Transfer Tax is not going to be a consistent source of funds for the city, as it depends on how many parcels change hands year to year, and on what those parcels' value is according to the market. Looking back over the past several years, if we had had in place Alameda's higher rates, Emeryville could have collected between $800,000 - $13 million/year, instead of the current $38,000 - $600,000/year. These fees are paid when a property is sold, and are often split by the seller and buyer as closing costs.

March 18: City Council directed staff to bring back a charter city ballot measure. Staff report is here.
April 22: City Council approved the "narrow" or limited charter city idea, and directed staff to engage a consultant to poll on this ballot measure, along with the range of Property Transfer Tax we would consider. Staff report is here.

I hope you will support the charter city measure and the property transfer tax to help Emeryville find new funds to continue to improve our city.

Impact Fees: Transportation, Housing and Parks

The City Council is considering Impact Fees to help Emeryville maintain and improve roads, parks and create affordable housing. These fees would be levied on any new residential or commercial developments in town.

These three fees will help to replace some of the redevelopment funds that we no longer have. There are three types of fees we are considering, and all funds that come in are designated to each type of improvement, as their adoption is based on studies that show how new development in town needs to pay for the impacts associated with that development. All studies we conducted justify the maximum fees that could be collected. What the staff is recommending is something far below that cap. Finding the right mix of fees so that we are not discouraging development is important.

Transportation Impact Fees
We have had a Traffic Impact Fee in place since the 1990s. This means that what we are doing is updating the reasonable amount that can be collected on each unit or by square footage (for non-residential). It also means that we have a new list of projects that can be funded through this fee. Most of the projects are improvements for bicycles and pedestrians. Car infrastructure improvements have been the focus in the past, and now we need to encourage fewer cars and more alternative transportation modes to reduce the traffic in town.

Affordable Housing Impact Fees
Every new development, even market rate developments, directly create an increased need for affordable housing in our region. A new unit brings people who will buy groceries, eat out, shop at clothing stores, use housecleaners -- and all of these actions require staff who are not paid adequately to live in the expensive Bay Area. As housing costs go up (and they are doing so in Emeryville), we have to make sure there is good affordable housing. I think this is critical, and one of my biggest jobs as a leader here.

These fees will help, but will not cover the cost of adequate affordable housing. We will continue to find other sources of funds to ensure we are creating a "just" Emeryville where all incomes are welcome.

Parks and Recreation Impact Fees
Emeryville is a dense 1.2 square mile urban village, and we need open space to make it a desirable place to live and play! Particularly for families, but for all residents and employees, we need more open space. These new fees cannot pay to remedy the historic lack of open space, but can pay for more parks that are required to support new development. Building parks in infill locations is very expensive, as it can mean relocating tenants and tearing down buildings. But look at how many people were enjoying the Movie in the Park at Doyle Hollis on Friday night! This is a critical need as well, and we must have a way to pay for new parks.

Please see additional information in the staff report from the April 1 study session (special city council meeting). This will be coming back to council at the May 20 or June 3, 2014 meeting. The impact fees have gone to various committees in April for input.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Joshua Simon leaving the school board

Joshua Simon has served on the Emery Unified School District's Board of Trustees for 12 years. He and his family are moving to Oakland, and March 26, 2014 will be his last meeting. EUSD is looking for applicants to fill his position, with a process that will be announced soon. I encourage any interested folks to reach out to me and I will put you in touch with someone on the School Board. As my neighbor, I will greatly miss Josh and his family! I thank him for his dedication and years of service.

The school district is also in the process of hiring a new superintendent. More information on that is here.

Josh's letter is below:

Dear Neighbors,

It has been a privilege to serve the Emeryville community as a member of the Emery Unified School District Board of Trustees for over 12 years.  Unfortunately, my professional responsibilities as the newly hired Executive Director of a nonprofit community development corporation and the needs of my family, have combined to require that I resign my position as School Board Trustee effective March 31st

With two teenage daughters, we are moving from our two bedroom, one bathroom condominium to a much larger condominium in downtown Oakland.  Our new home will accommodate our family's needs, and has room for our parents in the future.  We continue to own property in Emeryville and we intend to move to Emery Bay Village after the Center for Community Life is completed.  In the meantime, I will remain involved as a tax payer and future neighbor of the Center of Community Life.

I am grateful to my colleagues on the school board for their dedication to supporting the work of our teachers, students, families, guardians and the community.   I feel honored to have had the opportunity to work with School Board members John Affeldt, Miguel Dwin and Joy Kent.  The sound leadership of Board President Melodi Dice has been a rock of stability in the changing tides of school funding.  The dedication and professionalism of these board members over many years has been inspiring.

I am also grateful for the thoughtful partnership of the Emeryville City Council whose work has demonstrated that “partners power student success.”  Closer integration of City afterschool programs with school programs has enhanced work in the classrooms and teachers have been able to buy homes in Emeryville through the City’s first time homebuyer program.  Under the leadership of City Manager Sabrina Landreth, I have no doubt that Emeryville will continue to improve as an “Age-Friendly City”. 

I have been impressed by the many ways that business leaders have stepped up in support of education in Emeryville.  Consistent partners who have worked to power student success include Pixar, Madison Marquette, Expressions Center for New Media, 45th Street Artists Cooperative, the Townhouse Restaurant, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Jamba Juice, Wereham Development, the Emeryville Chamber of Commerce and many others.   The Work of the Emery Ed Fund to coordinate these efforts has been invaluable. 

Most of all, my family is grateful for the twelve years of excellent education that our daughters received at both the Emeryville Child Development Center and Emery Unified School District.  My daughter Sarah was well prepared for her current interest in engineering by the teachers at Anna Yates and my daughter Maya continues to be inspired by the work of the Anna Yates Elementary School Theater Club. (Don’t miss their next performance at the Emeryville Senior Center on Salem Street on March 28th at 6pm and March 29th at 3pm.  Call the Anna Yates Elementary School office at 601-4917 for more information.)

The School District has made great progress toward becoming a model full-service community school.  Our integration of healthcare, parent resources, after school activities and community resources into our schools, has reduced barriers to education and supported teachers to do their best work. 

I am particularly thankful to Congresswoman Barbara Lee for her support of the Family Resource Center and her work to upgrade our High School Gym to be a safe shelter in times of crisis. 

I am also thankful for Alameda County Superintendent Sheila Jordan and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson who have provided invaluable guidance throughout our transformation process. 

The District’s strong relationship with Peralta Community College to bring college level courses to our High School is very exciting, and I must thank Superintendent John Sugiyama, Superintendent Debbra Lindo and School Board member Miguel Dwin for their leadership of this work. 

State Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner and State Senator Loni Hancock have been great partners in fighting for the needs of children and families in Emeryville.  Without their hard work at the state level, our efforts to improve Emeryville’s school district might not receive the critical attention that we require from the California Department of Education and other State Agencies.

With the community’s support, we have started construction on our new community school and will now have adequate facilities for the District’s partnerships and collaborations. Funds are now available to build the facility required to house the combination of recreation, health and pre-k through grade 16 education services that comprise our community school partnerships.  I am proud that the Measure J Bond Oversight Committee recently reported that all Measure J funds are being spent appropriately and responsibly, and that Moody’s recently gave us a very high bond credit rating.

I am confident that the District’s transition dream team of past superintendents John Quinn and John Sugiyama will support our extraordinary professional staff and teachers to continue building on our progress to date.  With the support of EUSD’s amazing staff, I have great confidence in the continued improvement of our school district.

The board intends to discuss the process for filling my position at the February 26th School Board meeting.  I regret that I will not be at that meeting due to work travel, but I look forward to continuing to serve the community until the end of March.

Most of all, thank you for being a community that consistently supports safe quality schools for the Emeryville community.

Joshua Simon