Is Richmond the new Oakland? New ferry terminal attracts SF homebuyers, stokes gentrification fears

During his 16 years selling homes in Richmond, realtor Mark Lederer has always seen buyers from San Francisco looking in the East Bay city.

But he says those numbers have gone up recently, thanks to both skyrocketing prices in SF and the soon-to-open Richmond-SF ferry service. In fact, he estimates that 30 to 40 percent of buyers in Point Richmond and Marina Bay, the two areas closest to the ferry, are moving from San Francisco.

“Most SF buyers see tremendous value in the different neighborhoods in Richmond,” he says. “This is because the price per square foot is less than half that of homes in San Francisco’s most desirable districts.”

He says high-end condos in Point Richmond have been going for up to $950,000, with prices starting as low as $500,000. In Marina Bay, the price point is a bit lower, with condos and townhomes starting at $300,000 and going up to the mid-$700,000 range.

Those looking for a single-family home are attracted to North and East Richmond, which is a five-minute drive or 15-minute bike ride to the new ferry terminal. “This neighborhood is full of 1920s homes that mimic those found in El Cerrito, Albany and Berkeley,” he says. “Prices range from $325,000 to $731,000 for a home. This area has seen tremendous growth over the last couple of years and a spike once the ferry terminal was announced.”

San Franciscans are certainly attracted to the prices in Richmond, but they also have their concerns, including what Lederer calls Richmond’s “tough crime-ridden image.” But he says this perception doesn’t do justice to all that Richmond has to offer. “The roughest parts of Richmond are an isolated area that is very small as compared to the entirety of Richmond,” he says. “Most of Richmond is full of beautiful housing, water access, beaches, trail and hillside access, great restaurants, fun pubs and great entertainment.”

Richmond realtor Cherie Carson compares Richmond to another East Bay city that has gotten a lot of attention from San Francisco buyers in recent years: Oakland. “Richmond is like Oakland in that there are many different neighborhoods to choose from,” she says.

Just like in Oakland, there are fears of gentrification from this new onslaught of buyers potentially driving up home values and rents. Richmond Vice Mayor Melvin Willis told the Chronicle that he’s concerned long-time residents could be priced out—not just in the tony neighborhoods closest to the ferry, but throughout the city. “If rents go up in certain areas around the ferry, that would cause rents to go up in other parts of Richmond,” Willis said.

 

 

 

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BART to build 519 new homes at Lake Merritt

Last week, the BART Board of Directors voted to advance a plan to develop hundreds of new homes near the Lake Merritt BART station, a proposal that’s been in the works for years and continues the agency’s foray into transit-adjacent housing on potentially choice plots of land it owns throughout the Bay Area.

Technically, the motion at the board’s September 13 meeting (which passed unanimously) only authorizes negotiations with potential developers, a process that could take up to two years.

A press statement from BART provides some additional details:

The Board voted to authorize BART staff to enter into an exclusive negotiating agreement with a joint venture of East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) and Strada Investment Group with a goal of creating a transit-oriented development (TOD) above the BART station.

The plan proposed by the EBALDC/Strada joint venture calls for four new buildings on BART-owned lots above the station. The proposal features 519 units of housing, 44 percent of which would be affordable, and 517,000 square feet of commercial space for offices and shops.

BART staff singled out EBALDC as the developer of choice but retains the option to negotiate with SF-based Strada if those talks fall through.

 

 

 

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UC Berkeley professor blames rent control for California’s housing shortage

Kenneth Rosen hopes to sway voters against Proposition 10.

Kenneth Rosen, a UC Berkeley economist and real estate consultant, published a paper Wednesday titled The Case For Preserving Costa Hawkins, in hopes of swaying voters against Proposition 10.

Proposition 10, which will go before voters in November, would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act, a state law that severely curtails rent control in California cities. For example, under Costa-Hawkins, only San Francisco apartments built before 1979 may be subject to rent control.

Passing Proposition 10 would not in and of itself create any new rent control housing, but it would allow cities to expand rent control stock for the first time in decades if they so choose.

Rosen, however, argues that turning the clock back to 1994 will stifle new housing and drain apartment stock.

 

Read more on Curbed SF

 

Why property owners should consider renting out to Section 8 households

Johnny Burks, who had a long career as a youth educator in Oakland, has straightforward advice for parents who want to set their children up to succeed.

“The best thing a parent can ever do for their children is give them a peaceful night’s sleep where they can dream,” Burks said.

But Burks, a former guidance counselor at Castlemont High School and the founder of Project Reconnect, a juvenile intervention program in Alameda County, understands that ensuring a peaceful night’s sleep is hard for parents who struggle to keep a roof over their heads.

The city of Oakland wants to give those families a break, but it needs help from people like Burks.

In January, Oakland began a program that gives financial incentives to landlords renting Section 8 apartments to low-income families, and Burks was one of 64 owners who joined the new program through June.

Burks is doing his part to curb displacement. He owns two four-unit buildings in East Oakland, and five of the eight apartments he owns now have Section 8 tenants.

Section 8, run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, gives housing vouchers to low-income families, the elderly, the disabled and veterans. The average annual income of a Section 8 tenant in Oakland is $19,370, which doesn’t go far in a city where the average rent for an apartment is $2,527, according to RentCafe, a real estate tracking website.

For many low-income Oakland residents, Section 8 is the last hope to stave off homelessness.

Section 8 landlords are the largest provider of affordable housing in Oakland, according to Mayor Libby Schaaf. But from 2012 to 2016, the number of landlords accepting Section 8 fell from 5,374 to 4,254, according to data from the Oakland Housing Authority, which administers the HUD program.

 

 

 

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Oakland leaders declare Section 8 landlord incentive program a success

An incentive program aimed at bringing new landlords into the Section 8 low-income housing program — and keeping them around — has yielded positive results, with hundreds of new units added this year, Oakland city leaders announced today.

The three-tiered incentive program was launched by the Oakland Housing Authority in January. As of June 30, 75 new property owners had signed up to accept Section 8 housing vouchers.

“In just six months, 684 families have found stable, secure, affordable housing in Oakland. That is something to celebrate,” Mayor Libby Schaaf said at a press conference today.

Section 8, a federal program that provides rental assistance to qualifying low-income families, has been struggling in Oakland in recent years.

From 2015 to 2016, the Section 8 program shed more than 1,000 owners, according to Eric Johnson, executive director of the Oakland Housing Authority.

Since then, the program has been in “recovery mode,” he said, looking for ways to attract new owners.

“It can be a challenge to get to know us,” Johnson said. “We have lots of forms, and the first time through them is not easy.”

At a 2016 cabinet that discussed ideas to address Oakland’s housing and displacement crisis, city leaders identified incentives for Section 8 landlords as a priority.

 

 

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Richmond vacant property tax headed to November ballot

Richmond voters in November will decide whether to tax vacant properties to pay for homelessness services, affordable housing and other things.

The vacant property tax measure was inspired by one in Oakland, which was approved for the November ballot a few weeks ago, said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt. If Richmond voters pass the measure — it needs a two-thirds majority vote — a special parcel tax will be placed on vacant properties at the rate of $3,000 a year per vacant developed parcel and $6,000 a year per undeveloped parcel.

The tax would generate an estimated $5.4 million a year for the next 20 years, according to a report from Butt and Councilman Eduardo Martinez. That money will be earmarked for homelessness services, housing, blight, fighting illegal dumping and other specific programs.

There are 980 to 1,180 vacant parcels in the city and 250 vacant structures — most of which are abandoned homes, the report said. About 998 would be subject to the tax.

“In addition to creating a dedicated funding source, by taxing vacant properties, this measure will help encourage people to put those properties back into use, thus increasing the housing supply,” Martinez and Butt said in the report.

The measure passed unanimously at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Only one member of the public spoke on the measure; she was concerned that a vacant lot that she has owned since the 1980s and had turned into a garden would be taxed. City officials at the meeting said it would not be subject to the tax.

Property would be classified as vacant and subject to the tax if it is used less than 50 days a year. The tax would not apply to properties used as gardens or to host farmers markets, the report said.

A hardship exemption would be available to people who qualify as “very low-income” under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s guidelines. Very low-income is defined by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development as households who make 50 percent of the area median income. For Richmond in 2018, a family of four with an income of less than $58,100 would be classified as very low-income.

Vacant property owners who can prove that specific circumstances prevent the use or development of the property are also eligible for an exemption. For example, if a natural disaster damaged the property, or if an undeveloped property was being used as a yard for an adjoining property, it would be exempt. If the measure passes in November, the City Council would include details of that exemption in a  separate ordinance, the report said.

 

 

Read more on East Bay Times

 

 

 

Should California’s Costa-Hawkins rent control act be repealed?

Debating the pros and cons of rent control at the Urban Land Institute

The Urban Land Institute of San Francisco held a public forum at the Google Community Space Tuesday night debating Proposition 10, the November ballot initiative that would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act and allow California cities to potentially expand their rent-control ordinances.

Arguing in favor of Proposition 10 and potential rent-control expansion was Amy Schur, the director of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.

John Eudy, co-chair of the “no” campaign Californians for Responsible Housing (and also a vice president at Essex Property Trust) argued against repeal.

David Garcia, a policy director at UC Berkeley’s Terner Center For Housing Innovation, appeared as a third-way party; however, since Garcia appeared to nominally oppose Costa-Hawkins repeal, he often functioned as a second anti-Proposition 10 voice.

All three parties agreed that the state’s goal should be more housing production. They also agreed that Costa-Hawkins as it exists now is ineffectual at protecting renters and that the status quo won’t do in the future.

 

 

Read more on Curbed SF

 

 

Oakland to vote on property tax, owner move-in eviction measures

Oakland voters in November will be deciding on three new measures.

The three new measures include a tax on vacant properties, increase the real estate transfer tax rate for properties worth more than $2 million and disallow landlords from evicting tenants on the grounds that the landlord lives in the property.

The vacant property tax, which must pass by a two-thirds majority, would impose a special parcel tax on all vacant property — including lots, industrial and commercial buildings, and units in apartment buildings and other multi-unit buildings like condo or townhouse complexes.

The measure was passed during Tuesday’s marathon city council meeting which lasted into the early morning hours of Wednesday. Landlords spoke out against the measures, mostly claiming they would put an unfair burden on small “mom-and-pop” landlords who may only have one rental property and rely on that income. Tenants’ rights activists supported the measures, and shared stories of landlords treating tenants unfairly, as well as the need for housing.

 

 

Read more on East Bay Times

 

 

 

One of Contra Costa County’s tallest office towers could land at Pleasant Hill BART

Harvest and AvalonBay are in talks to finish the Contra Costa Centre Transit Village.

After over 15 years, the Contra Costa Transit Center could be poised for completion.

Harvest Properties Inc. is in talks with AvalonBay Communities Inc. and local officials to develop the 2.2-acre site on the western side of the Pleasant Hill station, according to sources familiar with the discussions. The land is approved for 290,000 square feet — or 12 stories — of office space.

Arlington, VA-based AvalonBay has a ground lease on the site, called Block D, and the adjacent site to the east of the BART station, where it recently broke ground on 200 apartments. Both properties are in an unincorporated part of Contra Costa County near Walnut Creek.

If selected, Harvest would be assigned the development rights for the remaining parcel, which could become the largest new office development in the area since Harvest and Equity Office’s 255,00-square-foot, six-story property at 3055 Oak Road was completed in Walnut Creek in 2009. Harvest is headquartered in Emeryville.

Maureen Toms, deputy director of Contra Costa’s Department of Conservation and Development, is working with the Pleasant Hill BART Leasing Authority, the group of local officials negotiating for Block D. She confirmed that the authority is in talks with one of three developers that submitted proposals, but declined to confirm Harvest’s involvement. Harvest also declined to comment.

“The end goal is to finish what was proposed back in 2001 and complete the vision,” Toms said.

 

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Time

 

 

 

Developer proposes nearly 1,000 units near Richmond BART station

A project that began over 15 years ago could be on the road to fruition.

Two developers are battling to bring hundreds of homes to Richmond.

In coming months, the City Council will choose between San Francisco’s oWow and SAA/EIR as the developer for a 5.8-acre parcel across the street from the Richmond BART station. The project is the second phase of the Richmond Transit Village or Metro Walk, a nearly 17-acre vision of housing and retail that has been in the works for over 15 years.

“This is the dram site,” said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt. “It fulfills a lot of the goals and objectives of sustainable policies from the city level to the state level.”

 

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Times