When most city folks think of Emeryville, they imagine IKEA and poorly designed condos (and maybe Pixar). John King at SF Gate just wrote an insightful article detailing residential areas in Emeryville that are far from bland and boring.
He starts off by describing the green housing development at the north end of Doyle Street. "There's a concrete lane for bicycles and a decomposed granite one for strollers. New homes frame the scene with front porches, not driveways," he writes. He also talks about Halleck Street, which is essentially a plethora of eclectic buildings, mostly because it's part of Emeryville's Historic Industrial District.
When speaking of the "collision of old and new at 1401 Park Ave.," King summarizes the aesthetic with "imagine a Hummer wearing a doily." The article also talks about a controversial 8-foot-tall black metal fence that surrounds Pixar's campus (for security purposes), which isn't exactly what you want to see directly across the street from Emeryville's City Hall (which you do).
If there's one thing San Francisco can learn from Emeryville, it's how to have a healthy balance of historic preservation and contempory new developments (without a lot of hassle).