As Emeryville looks to the future, a number of development projects are being planned, the City and school district have joined forces to create a magnificent new state-of-the art school and community center complex, and the City is forging a new vision through its General Plan Update. These efforts will accommodate a growing population while adhering to regional “smart growth” principles.
On the Drawing Boards
A number of development projects are currently being proposed. Some have been approved and are awaiting construction, while others are still in the planning stages. North of the Amtrak station, Wareham Development is proposing a “Transit Center” to improve bus access to the train station, provide additional parking, and offer space for medical offices and/or research laboratories. “Site B”, north of Bay Street, has been acquired and cleared by the Redevelopment Agency and the contaminated soil is being cleaned up in preparation for future redevelopment. In the North Bayfront area, TMG Partners (successors to The Martin Group and David Martin) received approval in August 2008 for a Planned Unit Development called the Marketplace Redevelopment Project; it will include 674 residential units, retail, office uses, and structured parking in a number of buildings that will replace the existing surface parking lots. The project was the first in the nation to receive “Platinum” status (the highest rating) under the U.S. Green Building Council’s “LEED for Neighborhood Development” (LEED-ND) pilot program. The first phases of construction are expected to begin within the next few years. BRE developers have acquired the office building constructed by Lathrop in the late 1960s near the corner of Powell and Christie and plan to replace it with a mixed use project to include residential, hotel, and retail uses. Several residential projects have received approval and are waiting for better economic times to begin construction. These include the Papermill project, 168 units at Powell and Hollis Streets; the MacArthur-San Pablo project, 94 units at San Pablo Avenue and West MacArthur Boulevard; the 39th and Adeline project with 101 units on Adeline Street just north of San Pablo; the Bakery Lofts IV project, 18 units on Adeline near 47th Streets; and the 4520 San Pablo Townhouses, 29 units at the corner of San Pablo Avenue and 45th Street. For the latest status on major projects being processed by the City, check the Planning and Building Department’s major projects page.
In addition, planning of a number of city projects is underway. A new Arts and Cultural Center is being planned for a brick former industrial building behind Old Town Hall, which will be the permanent home of the Celebration of the Arts and their annual art show, as well as the archives of the Emeryville Historical Society. Pedestrian-bicycle bridges over the railroad at Temescal Creek and over the freeway at 65th Street are being planned. Horton Landing Park next to the railroad between 53rd Street and Stanford Avenue will be an extension of the Greenway and will serve as the eastern touch-down for the bridge over the railroad. Construction of street improvements to Park Avenue west of Hollis Street, as envisioned in the Park Avenue District Plan, will begin in the spring of 2009.
Center of Community Life
For several years the city, school district, and Emeryville community, through the Education and Youth Services Advisory Committee, have been planning for a new multi-purpose multi-generational facility called the Center of Community Life. A number of alternative sites and programs have been considered, finally settling on a new complex to be built on the Secondary School site on San Pablo Avenue between 47th and 53rd Streets. In April 2008 the City hired an architect to prepare a conceptual plan showing how the various program elements could fit on the site. The resulting plan includes athletic fields, plazas, and several three-story buildings with space for all school grades (K-12), recreation and fitness programs, Senior Center functions, sports and recreational programs, arts, performance, food service, community services and family support programs. A series of meetings are being held to solicit support and feedback from all segments of the Emeryville community, and an architect is to be hired soon to prepare a final design. Construction is anticipated in 2010. This important project has become a symbol of the spirit of cooperation and mutual support of the city and school district for the betterment of Emeryville citizens of all ages. For the latest information on the Center of Community Life, visit their website at http://www.emerycenter.org/.
Vision for the Future - General Plan Update
Following the City’s first general plan in 1966, subsequent general plans were adopted in 1974, 1979, 1987, and 1993. The current plan dates from 1993 and is essentially a repackaging of the 1987 plan. In 2003 the City Council determined that the vision presented in the 1993 plan of transforming the city into a mixed use urban center had largely been realized, and that it was time to create a new plan to ensure that future development focuses on quality of life issues for the Emeryville community. They appointed a 16-member General Plan and Zoning Update Steering Committee, representing diverse segments of the Emeryville community, to guide the effort. The committee began meeting in October 2004, and conducting an unprecedented public participation effort including stakeholder interviews, a citywide mail-in survey, several newsletters, seven community workshops, and over 50 public Steering Committee meetings, most of which were televised live. From this effort, a draft General Plan has been crafted that calls for preservation and enhancement of existing residential and industrial areas; a high-density, high-rise core in the central Bayfront area that steps down in scale and intensity in all directions; four neighborhood centers to serve the local needs of the community; a regional retail district along 40th and Shellmound Streets; transit oriented development at the Amtrak station and the 40th/San Pablo transit hub; redevelopment of shopping centers into high-density urban neighborhoods; an expanded street grid to facilitate walkability and finer-grain development; a transportation system focused on alternative modes such as public transit, bicycling, and walking, while still accommodating automobile travel; a comprehensive open space system including two new large centrally-located community parks with playing fields, additional smaller parks throughout the city, and a new east-west greenway with water features to celebrate Temescal Creek; urban design policies to promote design excellence, emphasize pedestrian amenities and establish gateways at major city entrances on Powell Street and San Pablo avenue; and sustainability policies balancing the three “E’s”: environment, economy, and equity. The draft plan has been reviewed by the Planning Commission and City Council and is anticipated to be adopted in the summer of 2009. For more information, visit the General Plan Update web page.
Population Projections and “Smart Growth”
Throughout the early 20th Century, Emeryville’s population hovered at around 2,500. With the development of Watergate, Pacific Park Plaza, and other residential developments in the latter part of the century, the population had increased to almost 7,000 by the year 2000. Since then, the population has continued to grow and is estimated at about 10,000 today. The draft General Plan projects a population of 16,600 by 2030. In addition, the city is home to about 20,000 jobs; this number is projected to increase to about 30,000 by 2030. The draft General Plan includes land use policies that will accommodate this growth, while its urban design, transportation, open space, and other policies will ensure that quality of life for the Emeryville community will be maintained and improved. These policies are part of a regional strategy of “smart growth” developed by the major regional planning agencies including the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). This regional effort, called “Focus”, is intended to promote high-density infill development in the urban core area in order to discourage suburban sprawl on the regional fringes, thereby preserving agricultural land and open space; and to allow people to live closer to their jobs, thereby reducing vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change. To learn more about the Focus regional planning effort, visit their website at http://www.bayareavision.org/. While Emeryville may be small, at only 1.2 square miles of land area, it is doing its part to help save the planet by subscribing to “smart growth” principles.
The City of Emeryville faces many challenges in the future, not the least of which are the worldwide economic meltdown and concerns about global warming. But the City has faced and surmounted hurdles in the past, and, with a “can do” attitude and community support and enthusiasm, will do so again. This account of Emeryville’s past, present, and future was written in April 2009. By the time you read it, more progress will have been made. Please check the City’s website often for the current status of the various plans, programs, projects, and initiatives that keep Emeryville the most exciting and dynamic little city in the Bay Area!
Much of the information on this page about Emeryville’s early (pre-1960) history comes from the Emeryville Historical Society. They do not have a website, but they can be reached at 6389 Racine Street, Oakland, CA 94609. Membership, including a subscription to their quarterly journal, is $10 per year. In 2005, they authored an excellent book with many photographs of early Emeryville, as part of Arcadia Publishing Company’s “Images of America” series. The book can be purchased at local bookstores including Barnes and Noble at Bay Street and Borders Books and Music at the Marketplace, or directly from Arcadia’s website.