• Emeryville Looks To Revamp Density Bonus Rules

  • Multi-family developers seeking entitlements for higher densities in Emeryville could be subject to a significantly revised density bonus program now under discussion. City staff characterized the draft revamped rules at a recent Emeryville Planning Commission as a means to attract more families. But a BIA|Bay Area representative and several BIA members cautioned the commissioners to be mindful of unintended consequences: The proposal contains a number of costly provisions that will kill projects or result in lower density developments. In either case, it will deprive the city and the Bay Area of the housing it desperately needs. The Emeryville City Council is scheduled to hold a study session on the issue at its meeting on July 21, 2015. Click here to download the Planning Commission staff report. For questions, contact BIA|Bay Area East Bay Governmental Affairs Executive Director Lisa Vorderbrueggen at lvorderbrueggen@biabayarea.org or 925-348-1956.

    MORE: Here’s a summary of Emeryville’s proposed multi-family density bonus and related regulations: 50 percent of all units in projects of 10 or more units must have two or three bedrooms. Alex tells me there is little market demand for these larger units.

    • The draft density bonus point program lowers the thresholds for FAR, height and residential densities above which projects would need bonus points to build at the higher densities. In other words, more developments would require bonus points in order to build at the higher densities.
    • At the same time the city is capturing more developments in the bonus point system, the city is also proposing to eliminate categories under which a developer could earn bonus points including sustainable design, water efficiency, energy efficiency, public art, significant structures and universal design. Per city staff, developers are already required to meet many of these provisions and if they are not, the city can adopt or revise the necessary implementing ordinances. (The city is working on a significant structures ordinance, for example.)
    • A new category of "affordable housing" would require developers seeking higher densities to provide additional affordable housing at increasingly higher unit mix percentages. For example, a project that adds 10 percent affordable in exchange for 50 bonus points, at least 60 percent of those units must have two or more bedrooms and 12 percent must have three or more bedrooms. The equivalent per square foot fee ranges from $4.50 to $29, depending on the base rate. For comparison, the city's existing affordable housing impact fee equates to $4 per sq. ft.
    • Developers would be required to earn the maximum number of affordable housing points before they would be permitted to use the other categories.
    • A new category of "Flexible Public Benefit" would be added. It would be up to the city, Planning Commission and City Council to determine the nature of this benefit.
    • The City Council has scheduled a study session on the issue on July 21. It will then return to the Planning Commission for public hearing and vote in August. The City Council would cast its vote on Sept. 15 and the ordinance would go into effect on Nov. 6, 2015.