Welcome to the 2021 Wrap-Up. The pandemic continued for a second full year, but the emergency actions the council took in 2020 to protect residents and small businesses proved successful lifelines for many community members through the very tough, early days of the pandemic. The city continues to face fiscal challenges as hotel tax receipts remain way below pre-pandemic levels. Challenges remain, but we will work with the community as we always have to overcome together.
I have done this annual wrap-up to provide additional opportunities for transparency and accountability to the Emeryville community for the work I do as one of your council members. Since I was elected in 2016, I have reported updates on the campaign promises I made every year, with links to articles, reports, and data on these items. As a reminder, you can review each prior year’s wrap-up here:
2021 was the first year of my second term as your councilmember. During my first team, I tracked our action on my five original campaign promises. Going forward, I will continue to track our work on these issues, while expanding them to be inclusive of other things residents have identified as important to the community over the past four years. The five categories are:
- Housing Affordability & Stability
- Parks, Open Space & Environmental Issues
- Transportation & Public Works Infrastructure
- Community Safety & Wellness
- Small Business, Economic Development & Finance
Housing Affordability & Stability
Emeryville continues to be a regional leader on affordable housing and tenant protections. Just this past month, the SF Chronicle wrote a feature piece about the city’s affordable housing practices and policies, and how we have emerged as a leader on the issue of affordable housing. If you missed that story, you can find it here.
- Measure C Affordable Housing Bond Expenditure Plan: Over the past couple years, city staff, the resident Housing Committee, the resident Budget Advisory Committee, and the City Council have been developing an expenditure plan to preserve and produce affordable housing for our city. We opted to integrate the bond revenues voters approved in 2018 and roughly $15 million in other housing assets into a comprehensive expenditure plan that will help us continue our good work. The Expenditure Plan was approved this past year. You can read the expenditure plan here.
4300 San Pablo Avenue: In 2020, the city council approved exclusive negotiating rights with EAH Housing, a nonprofit affordable housing developer, to construct a 68-unit intergenerational affordable housing project aimed at seniors and formerly homeless or foster care system-involved youth. In early 2021, EAH Housing reported back that the city’s vision of an intergenerational project that served seniors and youth was in jeopardy of being realized because California tax credit laws prohibited financing for this type of project. The City Council sponsored state legislation to amend the existing law, allowing for state tax credit financing of intergenerational housing projects. Senate Bill 591, which received bipartisan support and was signed by Governor Newsom in September, takes effect today, January 1, 2022. This will make our new housing project competitive for state financing, leveraging local dollars the city has committed, bringing in state resources to build the project, ensuring we build much-needed affordable housing for our community. Below photo: Rendering of future intergenerational affordable housing at 4300 San Pablo Ave.
- 3600 San Pablo Avenue (“The Nellie Hannon Gateway”): The city partnered with RCD Housing to acquire the site during a bankruptcy proceeding in 2019 and entered into an agreement for the development of affordable housing. The project will contain 90 units made available to very low income renters, including a number of units that will provide permanent supportive housing to people experiencing homelessness in our community. The ground floor will include a permanent, indoor facility and dining room for ECAP, which serves over 200,000 meals annually to low-income seniors and people experiencing homelessness and hunger in Alameda County. The project has been approved and an application for building permits was filed in November 2021. The city supported an application for competitive state funding through the Affordable Housing - Sustainable Communities Grant Program. Notice of whether the project will receive as much as $20M in awarded state funds is expected in January 2022. Below photo: Rendering of future affordable housing at 3600 San Pablo Ave.
- Sherwin-Williams (“The Emery”): Significant progress was made on the 500 units (87 affordable) at the former Sherwin-Williams paint factory site. The first two buildings are expected to be ready for new residents by May 2022, with the other two buildings, the new 2 acre city park, dog park, playground, basketball court and community garden expected to be completed in summer 2023. Below: Rendering of “The Emery,” currently under construction.
- 6701 Shellmound (“Nady Site”): The long-abandoned Nady property at the Shellmound Street off-ramp was cleared in January 2019 to make way for a new, 186-unit project. The project is under construction and will likely be completed in 2023.
- MAZ Building: This Rick Holliday development at the corner of Adeline, MacArthur and San Pablo Avenues, that was twice destroyed by arson, was finally completed and opened in 2021. Holliday gifted the building’s 105 units to UC Berkeley for use as affordable graduate student housing.
- Housing Element: All Bay Area cities must update their Housing Element every 8 years. The city has just undertaken the start of the yearlong process for updating the Emeryville Housing Element. You can learn about that process, sign up for updates, and review the calendar of events for this process on the city’s website.
- You can check monthly updates on all pending projects in the city at this link.
Parks, Open Space & Environmental Issues
The city has been busy working to expand and improve open space this past year, with a couple long-awaited projects completed and a couple others approved for work in 2022.
Point Emery: For the past few years, the city has been actively working to prevent the loss of Point Emery Park to erosion. In summer 2021, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) approved our proposal for the rehabilitation of Point Emery. You can read the entire proposal by using the links under agenda item 8 from BCDC’s summer meeting. The city has secured funding to deliver this natural resource restoration project. The work will include installing a path and benches at Point Emery. The work will begin June 15, 2022 and take 6-8 weeks. Below: Diagram of improvements slated for Point Emery in 2022.
Horton Landing Park: The city opened this park on December 3, 2021 in conjunction with the South Bayfront Bridge (more below under Transportation). This park extends the Emeryville Greenway from Stanford/Horton Streets to the new bridge. By summer 2023 the Greenway will be completed down to Sherwin & Halleck Streets. Horton Landing Park will have a new dog park facility added to it in 2023 as well between the east end of the bridge and the north end of the Emery housing development. Below: Horton Landing Park.
Davenport Park: The city faced some logistical delays with the development of this new playground on the Emeryville peninsula near Trader Vic’s. The construction bidding package has been approved for release and we hope to receive approval from BCDC to construct this new playground in 2022. Below: Image of layout for Davenport Park (please note that the bottom of the photo is north).
- Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD): I have had the honor of serving as the Alameda County cities’ representative to the nine-county Bay Area Air Quality Management District since 2018. This past year, as chair of the committee that oversees refinery regulation, we adopted the most stringent particulate matter emissions regulation in the world following months of public workshops and multiple days of testimony at public hearing. **You can read about the historic vote on Rule 6-5 via this KQED story. **Thank you to the many Emeryville residents who participated in the process. The Board of Directors has elected me to serve as Vice Chair of the Board in 2022. I look forward to advancing more health-first air quality regulations in the coming year.
- Alameda County Healthy Homes Department: I have represented the City of Emeryville on the County’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Board of Directors since taking office in 2016. As a reminder, if you live in pre-1978 housing, your home may contain lead paint, which is toxic to human health, but especially children’s neurological development. You can request free lead testing from this agency. Please visit this website if you’d like to have us come test your house for lead risks.
- COP 26: I had the privilege of attending the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland this past year. You can read about that experience in greater detail in my prior post.
Tree Survey: At the December 21, 2021 council meeting I requested a future discussion to examine conducting a citywide tree survey. Such a survey will allow us to identify opportunities and strategies for expanding our urban tree canopy, improving tree health and making better use of street tree wells. Expanding trees in cities is linked to human health and improved property values. I will have more information on this item in one of the following posts. Below: New street trees planted along Sherwin Avenue.
Transportation & Public Works Infrastructure
The city continues to leverage it’s position at the geographic heart of the East Bay to bring new opportunities for multi-modal movement, last-mile connections, green and safe transit to our community. We had some big milestones in 2021 and have a lot on the horizon in this space in 2022.
South Bayfront Bridge: After decades of planning and community input, winning a protracted legal battle over funding with the California Department of Finance, delayed design and legal negotiations with the UPRR, and a few railings arriving behind schedule, the long-awaited bicycle-pedestrian South Bayfront Bridge opened on December 3, 2021. Hundreds of people turned out for the Grand Opening event, which included a party at Bay Street.The council is happy to finally deliver this project and hope the community will enjoy it for many years to come. Below: Walking across the new South Bayfront Bridge with Rufus and Reyna on Christmas morning.
Ashby Interchange: The Ashby Interchange Project project is in the final stages of environmental approval. Please note that the final proposed design for this project is currently open for public comment. Comment on the Draft Environmental Document can be made until January 31, 2022. Please visit the Alameda CTC’s website to review the document and also to submit any comments. The anticipated timeline for construction to begin following completion of the environmental review phase is early 2024. Below: Image of the proposed new design for the Ashby Interchange.
- Quiet Zones/Safe Railroad Crossings: After winning a State CTC grant to construct new railroad crossing safety structures in 2018, the city faced obstruction from the UPRR in approving final design plans, which were required to authorize release of the state funds. The city has finally secured the approvals after legal delays, which will now involve closing the 66th Street crossing and installation of a traffic light at 67th and Hollis. With the funding released to the city, the project is out for bid and we hope to be under construction by mid-2022.
- San Pablo Avenue Corridor Plan: The county continues to work with the cities of Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and AC Transit to design and implement a new vision for the San Pablo Avenue Corridor. Based on public surveys and other studies conducted over the past two years, the county anticipates rolling out a first phase of changes to the Oakland and Emeryville segments of San Pablo in the next couple years, with BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) lanes and protected bike lanes. You can learn more about the project here.
- 40th Street Redesign: Several years ago, as an expansion of our San Pablo/40th Street Hub Project, I asked the council to consider redesigning 40th Street. In 2019, we approved a conceptual design for a 40th Street that contains transit-priority lanes and a separate cycle track facility, with pedestrian enhancements. The city has won funding to cover most of the design costs and will be working aggressively to secure construction funding.
Bay Bridge Forward: In 2017, I held a meeting with AC Transit to discuss opportunities for improving transbay bus service for Emeryville community members. In that meeting, I proposed a westbound, HOV/Bus-only on-ramp on the south side of Powell Street to facilitate time reduction for buses approaching the Bay Bridge, along with a dedicated bus-only lane from Powell Street to the toll plaza. After four years of work, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved and integrated these into their Bay Bridge Forward plan for modernizing how transit travels on the Bay Bridge. Design elements for the improvements are currently being refined in partnership with AC Transit and MTC. Below: Map of Bay Bridge Forward Projects.
- Alameda CTC: I have served as the Vice Chair of the Alameda County Transportation Commission for the past two years. The Commission will elect a new Chair and Vice Chair at the end of January to guide the agency for the next two years. There are many opportunities to make Alameda County a national leader on transportation planning and innovation. I will have a more detailed post about regional transportation planning in the spring of 2022.
Community Safety & Wellness
With COVID continuing through 2021, the city has kept the public informed about health and safety orders, impacts to services, and opportunities for services with an updated city web page. Bookmark our COVID-19 Page to get the most up-to-date information on how the pandemic is impacting city services. While many of the wellness and community programs we have traditionally hosted were on hiatus again this past year due to County Health Officer Orders, we hope to bring more of these back to you in 2022.
- Alameda County Fire: Gratefully, there were no significant calls for service related to structure fires in 2021.
- Public Safety: While crime rates remain down below their pre-pandemic level, auto burglaries, a scourge across the Bay Area, rose this year. Shopping center parking lots remain the most common target for these crimes. EPD continues to offer assistance and partner with private shopping center ownership in an effort to reduce crimes of opportunity. I am reprising this 2017 post I did on auto burglaries for new readers as a reminder of best practices to prevent and deter auto burglaries.
Small Business, Economic Development & Finance
The City Council adopted a series of eviction moratorium and rental repayment urgency ordinances in 2020 that were a crucial lifeline to the small business community. While many of those were superseded by subsequent state laws, many of these protections remain in place across our community.
- Parklet Policy: At the December 21, 2021 council meeting, I requested a future agenda item to make permanent the expedited parklet program we approved in response to the pandemic. I support allowing businesses utilizing these tools to continue operating them going forward. I would also like to see restaurants that have considered them have an opportunity to build one with the predictability of knowing they will remain approved post pandemic.
Below: The 2022 Emeryville City Council
Congratulations to Dianne Martinez for completing her second term as Emeryville Mayor this past year. Her steady hand and solid leadership helped our city move through a pandemic-filled year with grace. Welcome to new council member Courtney Welch, who was sworn in to office in December. At the December council meeting, I was nominated and selected to serve as your Mayor in 2022. Ally Medina will serve as the city’s Vice Mayor. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve the city for a second time as it’s Mayor. Look to this space in the New Year for important information about steps we’ll be taking to advance important projects of interest to you.
Although not everyone can or will desire to meet in person, if your HOA, apartment building or neighborhood group would like to schedule a town hall with me in 2022, please contact me at [email protected]. These have been very successful in the past, and your city serves you best when we are in regular dialogue with one another.
I am on Twitter at @JohnBauters
I wish you and yours safety, health, and peace in this New Year. Remember to show kindness to your neighbors - our community is strongest when we support one another.