Emeryville is a small city located in Alameda County, California. It is located in a corridor between the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, extending to the shore of San Francisco Bay. Its proximity to San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, the University of California, Berkeley, and Silicon Valley has been a catalyst for recent economic growth. It is home to Pixar Animation Studios and Jamba Juice. In addition, several well known biotech and software companies have made their home in Emeryville: Electronic Arts' Maxis Software division, LeapFrog, Sendmail, MobiTV, Bayer, and Novartis (formerly Chiron before April 2006). The population was 9,583 as of 2008.

The housing stock in Emeryville consists mainly of newly-developed condominiums and townhouses, in a variety of modern styles. There are also a small number of single-family homes built in the early 20th century.

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Before the colonization of the area by Spain in 1776, this area was the site of extensive Native American settlements. Mudflats rich with clams and rocky areas with oysters, plus fishing, hunting, and acorns from the local oak trees provided a rich and easily exploited food source for the residents, who disposed of their clam and oyster shells in a single place, over time creating a huge mound, the Emeryville Shellmound.

During the Spanish and Mexican eras, Emeryville was the site of a small wharf near the mouth of Temescal Creek adjacent to the shellmound. The wharf served the Peralta family's Rancho San Antonio, and was used for loading the principal produce of the ranch—cattle hides—onto lighters, and subsequently transferring them to ships, including New England-bound schooners.

The handling of cattle continued into the American era with the establishment of numerous meat packing plants along the bayshore in Emeryville between 67th and 63rd Streets in an area called "Butchertown". The cattle processed here were raised in nearby ranches and farms, and brought in by rail or barge. The odors emanating from this district were notorious and often mentioned in local newspapers of the 19th and early 20th century.

The Town of Emeryville was incorporated December 2, 1896. It was named after Joseph Stickney Emery who came during the Gold Rush and acquired large tracts of land in what became known as "Emery's". In 1884, Emery was president of a narrow-gauge railroad called the California and Nevada Railroad. The railroad was originally intended to extend from Oakland, through Emery's (at the time, just an unincorporated settlement along the bayshore) and then east across the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the gold mining town of Bodie, California. From Bodie the railroad would extend east through Nevada to a connection with the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.

Despite its grandiose intentions, the railroad was only built from Oakland to Orinda and its right-of-way was sold to the Santa Fe Railway. The Santa Fe then constructed a rail yard and passenger depot below San Pablo between 41st Street and Yerba Buena Avenue. Although located in Emeryville, the depot, which opened in 1902, was called "Oakland".

The Key System, a local transit company, acquired the general offices of the California and Nevada as well as their nascent pier into San Francisco Bay, which was quickly transformed into a long pier reaching nearly to Yerba Buena Island. The Key System established its main rail yard adjacent to the yard of the Santa Fe in a large tract west of San Pablo Avenue in the vicinity of Yerba Buena Avenue (so named because the island was visible in line with the thoroughfare). The Key System's main power plant, used to energize its streetcars and commuter trains, was constructed adjacent to the city limits with Oakland. The immense smokestack was a local landmark for decades, surviving right through the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. It was demolished for safety reasons shortly thereafter.

The old Key System mainline to the pier, and later, to the Bay Bridge, ran in a subway below Beach Street and the Southern Pacific mainline near the power plant. That subway survives and is today used as a private entrance to the main sewage treatment plant of East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD, the water utility serving Oakland and many surrounding cities). The rail yards and shops of the Key System and Santa Fe were acquired by Santa Fe's real estate development arm, later known as the Catellus Development Corporation, and this firm proceeded with the development which is today a sprawling shopping center and multiunit residential district.

Emeryville used to be as well known for its gambling houses and bordellos as it was for its booming industrial sector; then Alameda County district attorney, later California governor and then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren once famously called it "the rottenest city on the Pacific Coast". During the Depression, Emeryville was jammed with speakeasies, racetracks and brothels and became known as a somewhat lawless center for entertainment.

The popular local restaurant The Townhouse is one such trace, a location that once was a speakeasy during Prohibition. Today, this tradition is carried on to a degree by the Oaks Room Card Club, a legal gambling establishment on San Pablo Avenue.

During World War II, Emeryville was the southern terminus of the Shipyard Railway, a specially constructed electric rail line operated by the Key System to transport workers to the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond. The station was located on the west side of San Pablo Avenue on the Key's yard property. The tracks led out to San Pablo Avenue where they were merged into existing streetcar tracks.

From the late 19th into the early 20th century, Emeryville's development as an industrial city grew. Besides the meat-packing plants, other industries were added. Among these were the Judson Iron Works and the Sherwin-Williams paint company. From 1939 until the 1970s, a massive animated neon sign showing a can of red paint tilting, spilling, and covering a globe of the earth, with the slogan "We Cover the Earth" sat on the roof of the plant's main building, a familiar sight to eastbound motorists on the Bay Bridge. It was also once the location of Shell Development, the research arm of Shell Oil Company, which relocated in 1972 to Houston, Texas.

A large scrap metal yard (part of the Judson Iron Works) was visible from the Eastshore Freeway for decades until the early 1970s. Also visible, a large facility of the Pacific Intermountain Express (PIE) trucking firm. A heavy truck manufacturing division of what was formerly IH (International-Harvester Company, later Navistar) was located in Emeryville.

By the late 1960s, industries were beginning to move away from Emeryville and the appearance of the city seriously declined. This began to change in the mid-1970s starting with the development of the marina section of Emeryville. By the 1980s, a large shopping area began to take shape north and south of the Powell Street corridor. Additionally, the Chiron Corporation (now Novartis), a major biotechnology company, established its headquarters just south of the old junction of the SP mainline tracks and the old Berkeley Branchline (Shellmound Junction) at the end of Stanford Avenue, the site of the old Shellmound trotting course.

Following the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989, a new Amtrak depot was built in Emeryville to replace the old 16th Street Station in West Oakland, which had been deteriorating even before it was seriously damaged by the quake. The Emeryville station serves Amtrak's California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, San Joaquin, and Capitol Corridor trains. The California Zephyr originates here with service daily to Chicago, Illinois via Salt Lake City, Utah and Denver, Colorado. Buses link the station with San Francisco.

By the 1990s, the old Santa Fe and Key System yards’ tracts were transformed into a large shopping and residential area, as was the Shellmound corridor. Development of these areas included major roadwork, with the extension of 40th Street, including the construction of a large overpass across the Southern Pacific (now Union Pacific) railroad tracks which connected 40th Street to an extension of Shellmound Street, creating a single thoroughfare linking two sections of the new Emeryville.

On the northern stretch of Shellmound Street, the Emery Marketplace and a movie multiplex were built. In 2007, the western end of Yerba Buena Avenue was linked with the northern end of the Mandela Parkway, creating a new through route between Emeryville and West Oakland.

In 2001, the city contracted developer Madison Marquette to build a new shopping center (Bay Street Shopping Center) on the former site of an Ohlone village and burial ground, which by that point was occupied by a defunct paint factory. Madison Marquette developers worked with archaeologists and Ohlone tribe representatives in order to leave the human remains undisturbed. Some remains were reburied at an undisclosed location on the site.

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In the 1970s, one of the last man-made marinas in the San Francisco East Bay was built in Emeryville; named Watergate, the Emeryville marina is home to a mixed use development including two marinas (one public, the other private), a park, a residential condominium community known as Watergate, a business park with several office buildings, and several restaurants, including Hong Kong East Ocean and the historic Trader Vic's. 

Mudflats and other environmental features

At one time, the Emeryville Mudflats were famous for their stench. In the 19th and early 20th century, this was caused by the effluent from the several meat-packing plants along the bayshore called "Butchertown". Stripped carcasses were also dumped in the bay here. Later on, untreated sewage from Emeryville, Oakland, and Berkeley flowed directly into the bay over the mudflats producing hydrogen sulfide gas, particularly noticeable on warm days.

Emeryville's mudflats

In the 1950s the East Bay Municipal Utility District constructed a regional sewage treatment plant near the eastern terminus of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, which, for the most part, cured the noxious problem.

The Emeryville Mudflats became famous in the 1960s and 1970s for public art, erected (with neither permission nor compensation) from driftwood timbers and boards by professional and amateur artists and art students from local high schools, the UC Berkeley, the California College of Arts and Crafts and the Free University of Berkeley. The mudflats were even featured in the 1971 film Harold and Maude.

In the late 1990s, the sculptures and materials were removed in the interest of establishing a more natural and undisturbed marshland for the nurturing of wildlife. This process continues around the bay in many other wetlands, former diked grazing fields, and salt production evaporation ponds.

Historically, Emeryville had been the location of a number of heavy industrial uses such as P.I.E, whose properties were developed by bringing in waste and construction debris fill from San Francisco in the early 1900s. Correspondingly much of the underlying soil contained heavy metals, hydrocarbons and other soil contaminants. Much of this contamination was removed in the 1980s when the considerable wave of redevelopment occurred.

View across the City of Emeryville towards the hills

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As of the census of 2000, there were 6,882 people, 3,975 households, and 1,164 families residing in the city. There were 4,274 housing units at an average density of 3,506.5/sq mi. The racial makeup of the city was 45% White, 26% Asian, 19% Black or African American, 0.5% Native American, 0.3% Pacific Islander, 5.1% from two or more races, and 4.2% from other races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race comprise 9.0% of Emeryville's population.

There were 3,975 households out of which 11% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 18% were married couples living together, 8.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 71% were non-families. 56% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.7 and the average family size was 2.7.

The population distribution was broad, with 11% under the age of 18, 13% from 18 to 24, 42% from 25 to 44, 23% from 45 to 64, and 9.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 100 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $45,400, and the median income for a family was $57,100. Males had a median income of $49,300 versus $39,500 for females. The per capita income for the city was $33,300. About 6.3% of families and 13% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.5% of those under age 18 and 8.0% of those aged 65 or over.

It is very important to note that these numbers are now 10 years old. Emeryville has had profound growth, particularly in housing, in recent years. Several housing developments capable of holding multiple hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been completed and opened since the census.

The population had increased to almost 7,000 by the year 2000. Since then, the population has continued to grow and is estimated by General Plan projects a population of 16,600 by 2030. In addition, the city is home to about 20,000 current jobs; this number is projected to increase to about 30,000 by 2030.

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Current Development

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. 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 first phases of construction are expected to begin within the next few years.

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.

The Emeryville Center for Community Life is a planned development by the city and school district on the site currently occupied by Emery Secondary School, which will be closed along with Anna Yates School once the center is completed. The center will consist of a new K-6 elementary school, a grade 7-12 high school, plus a pre-school, day care, and adult education facilities. The development will break ground in June 2012 and take two years to complete. The school district and city have hosted meetings over the past 7 years to hear what community uses Emeryville residents would see as a benefit to the community, as well as addressing concerns regarding the plans and the design of the center.

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Emery Unified School District has two schools, Anna Yates Elementary School for grades K-6 and Emery Secondary School for grades 7-12. Ex'pression College for Digital Arts is a private, for-profit university located in Emeryville.

The National Holistic Institute, a college of massage therapy founded in 1979, is also located in Emeryville.

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Emeryville is home to a large number of companies, as well as many shopping centers and retail establishments, providing critical employment for the residents of the East Bay and San Francisco.

Alibris Inc., an online supplier and retailer of used and rare books founded in 1997 by Martin Manley and Richard Weatherford.

Alternative Tentacles Records, a long-running independent record label, specializing in punk and alternative music, founded and run by former Dead Kennedys singer/songwriter Jello Biafra.

Art.com, a web site selling art and framing services.

Aspera, a networking software company.

Bayer, formerly Novartis Biopharma division (Chiron Corporation prior to April 2006): a global biotech leader and research company and manufacturer of biopharmaceuticals.

BigFix, an enterprise software company which provides a endpoint management services, including asset inventory/discovery, security vulnerability detection and remediation, software distribution, IT compliance reporting, patch management, software license management, security policy enforcement, and endpoint device power consumption management.

Bionovo, a biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of drugs to treat cancer and women's health issues such as hot flashes and vaginal atrophy associated with menopause.

Cartridge World, ink-jet refill retailer and franchiser.

Cetus Corporation, (acquired by Chiron in 1991) one of the first biotechnology companies. Working from the old Shell Development buildings on Horton Street, they produced two significant pharmaceuticals, Betaseron and Proleukin. They also developed the PCR process, which won a Nobel Prize for its inventor, Kary Mullis, in 1993.

Electronic Arts, the world's largest video game maker has Will Wright's Spore development team Maxis based here.

Gracenote, a company that maintains and licenses an Internet-accessible database containing information about the contents of audio compact discs (acquired by Sony Corporation of America in 2008 for $256 million).

Innovative Interfaces, Inc, a leading supplier of integrated library system software.

Kodak Gallery (formerly Ofoto.com), an Internet digital photo service whose product offerings include photo prints and gifts.

Leapfrog, an educational toy company best known for its LeapPad, a paper-based electronic reading toy.

Mason Investigative Group, the well-known investigative services outfit has been based in Emeryville since its inception.

Nextsport, an action sports company most recognized for the Fuzion scooter.

Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics (Chiron Corporation prior to Apr 2006), a global biotech leader and research company and, vaccines and blood testing kits, vaccines against meningitis, flu and rabies, Immunodiagnostics testing kits for hepatitis and HIV and NAT testing kits for West Nile virus, hepatitis and HIV.

Peet's Coffee & Tea, specialty coffee roaster and retailer.

Pixar Animation Studios, a major animation and computer graphics firm known for award-winning shorts, and feature films including Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, and WALL-E and Up. In their movie The Incredibles, a map is shown on the dashboard of the hero's car, easily recognizable as part of Emeryville near Pixar's headquarters. Also, a "Welcome to Emeryville" sign is briefly seen in their 2006 film Cars. Pixar was bought by The Walt Disney Company in 2006 for $7.4 billion.

Quantitative Medical Systems, Inc., a software company providing billing and clinical systems for the dialysis industry.

RelayHealth, A software company specializing in secure physician-patient communication, electronic health records, and health information exchanges.

SeeqPod, a search and recommendation web site.

Sendmail Inc., a software and services company that was founded by Eric Allman, the creator of sendmail.

Wham-O Toys, a toy company and an inventor's workshop, home of the original Frisbee, hacky sack and hula hoop.

As part of a huge urban renewal project, several enormous shopping centers opened in the late 1990s next to the intersection of Interstate highways 80 and 580, capitalizing on Emeryville's unique access to San Francisco as well as East Bay customers. Among these centers' anchor tenants is the first IKEA store in Northern California, as well as more familiar merchants such as Home Depot.

A new retail and residential development named Bay Street Emeryville now sits along Highway 80 and is home to such merchants as Banana Republic, GAP, Coach and the Apple Store, and restaurants such as California Pizza Kitchen and Pasta Pomodoro. The complex is anchored by AMC Theaters and is located next to IKEA. The residential component, which consists of 284 rental apartments (named Metropolitan) and 95 town homes (named Bay Street One), was completed in 2006.

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Emeryville has an Amtrak station, and also sits about two miles west of the MacArthur BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Station in Oakland. To supplement the bus service provided by AC Transit, the regional transit agency, the city runs a free shuttle service called Emery Go Round that serves MacArthur BART, the Bay Street shops, the Marina and other places.

As for freeway access, it sits on a key section of Interstate 80, just north of where that freeway meets Interstate 880 and Interstate 580 in a large interchange known as the MacArthur Maze. Highway 24 is also accessible from Emeryville, which connects southbound to Interstate 880 via Highway 980 and continues eastward to Highway 680, towards Walnut Creek and Concord.

Emeryville also maintains a small marina with limited services. There is a standing citizen Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

The Emeryville Amtrak station looking south

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