Mary Murtagh of San Rafael’s EAH Housing has won one of North Bay Business Journal’s Nonprofit Leadership Awards.
Describe your organization
Established in 1968, EAH Housing has become one of the largest and most respected nonprofit affordable housing development and management organizations in the western United States. Based in San Rafael, and with a staff of more than 475, EAH manages more than 110 properties in California and Hawaii, and plays a leadership role in local, regional and national housing advocacy efforts.
Starting in Marin County from grassroots origins in the aftermath of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., EAH Housing now provides housing and robust services to more than 20,000 seniors, families, students, people with disabilities, veterans and the formerly homeless.
I am still amazed at how big our organization has grown — but the credit for this success goes to the whole EAH team. What an honor it is to work with such a talented and dedicated group of people.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I was raised in a university town in New Hampshire, home of Dartmouth College. I received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nonprofit Housing Association in 2013. During the same year, EAH received the Heart of Marin award. I was inducted into the Marin Women’s Hall of Fame in 2008. My husband and I raised two sons in Berkeley.
Family is my first priority. Our sons are grown, but whenever I can steal a free evening with my husband, I love to watch the Warriors or go out to listen to some live jazz or some good old rock and roll.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Leading the growth of EAH from a well-respected but small grassroots agency with about a dozen properties in Marin County 30 years ago into one of California’s largest most successful nonprofit affordable-housing developers. EAH will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.
What is your biggest challenge today?
Despite the recent affordable-housing package approved by the Legislature and governor this fall, we are still far short of sufficient funding, land-use approvals and public support to produce anywhere near the amount of affordable housing, that is sorely needed across the Bay Area and the state. What used to be a housing crisis has since grown into a catastrophe. How sad it is that we are seeing our kids fleeing to other states.
What is the next major project either underway or on the horizon?
We have broken ground on a fabulous new project in Emeryville called Estrella Vista. When it’s finished in about 18 months, it will provide 87 units of affordable housing, with many large units for families. The units will be reserved for families earning 20 percent–60 percent of the area median income (AMI). A transit-oriented mixed-use development, it will allow convenient access between work, home and other uses and services.
In addition, the development will add vitality to the local neighborhood, neighbors and businesses. The community will have beautiful indoor and outdoor common areas for residents and will utilize sustainable sources of energy, including solar thermal generation and a photovoltaic (PV) system. The project is pursuing LEED Gold certification.
President and CEO
2169 E. Francisco Blvd., San Rafael 94901
Professional background: Professionally trained as an architect, Mary specialized in real estate finance and project management prior to joining EAH. In 1980, she served as development officer for the Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) program of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Based in Washington, D.C., Mary was responsible for negotiating loans for real estate projects with a combined value of more than $300 million. Prior to relocating to the Bay Area, she was assistant deputy administrator of the Community Redevelopment Agency (LA/CRA) of the city of Los Angeles. While at the CRA, she participated in the financing of numerous projects in downtown Los Angeles, including the LA Central Library, business development districts and urban residential. She joined EAH as president and CEO in 1986.
Education: She graduated cum laude from Wellesley College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy and art history – and is proud to note, is a classmate of Hillary Clinton, whom she describes as “universally respected and into social justice before she finished her freshman year.” Mary went on to receive a Master of Architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She subsequently studied real estate finance, tax and real estate law at the University of California, Los Angeles at night while working full time at the LA/CRA.