Fruitvale: Transit and Community

More than just a BART station.

metro or subway station may seem one-dimensional, a jumping-off point from one place to another. But some stations are destinations, drawing in visitors on the basis of their own merits. They may be architectural gems, like Grand Central Terminal in New York City or shopping meccas like Shinjuku in Tokyo. A few go beyond attaining this status and have become communities unto themselves.

Fruitvale Station is one such place. It’s a thriving transportation hub that also possesses the elements of a long-standing community.

I commute to the city from Fruitvale Station every day, witnessing this tangible sense of community up close. My daily journey here began in January 2009, just a few weeks after Oscar Grant was shot and killed by a BART police officer in the early hours of New Year’s Day. The tenth anniversary of the tragedy happened on January 1 of this year, marking a milestone that has largely defined the identity of the station.

Fruitvale ingests passengers not only from its namesake neighborhood but also from other areas of Oakland and adjacent towns — as evidenced by the busy AC Transit buses and the jam-packed parking. The ongoing stream of humanity begins in the early morning with commuters and school kids and continues until the last train departs for Warm Springs at 1:00 a.m.

The first clue that more is afoot than simply moving people is the Fruitvale Village sign that stands next to the station entrance. Fruitvale Village was developed in the early 2000s by the Unity Council, a nonprofit Oakland group, and became an early model of transit-oriented development.

The development is home to housing and multiple community organizations, including institutions that are hallmarks of any civic community: a health clinic, a public library branch and a school. It also features shops and restaurants, most of them locally owned, like neighborhood Mexican food fixture Obelisco (formerly the Taco Grill). In 2017, Reem’s, an Arab bakery, opened to much acclaim. Owner Reem Assil has been recognized by the James Beard Foundation and major food publications. Equally notable, Assil has made social justice a core value of her business by hiring local workers and providing a living wage.

Read more at The Bold Italic

New Richmond ferry draws developers and businesses to long-struggling city

A new ferry terminal has spurred development and optimism in Richmond.

Keba Konte hopes a new ferry in Richmond will bring his business scores of new customers.

Konte’s Red Bay Coffee, which currently operates three locations in Oakland, will cater to Richmond’s first ferry commuters in over two decades when the city opens its new $21 million ferry terminal on Jan. 10. He plans to park his coffee truck near the waterfront Craneway Pavilion.

“Richmond interests us because it shares the same spirit as the city of Oakland, a working-class city that has often been viewed as the underdog. It’s a developing city and we strive to be a part of that story,” Konte said.

The ferry terminal has spurred other businesses and developers to want to be a part of Richmond’s story as well. They’re attracted to the idea of a high-density waterfront community, a 35-minute commute to San Francisco and increased foot traffic to businesses and restaurants along the waterfront and downtown. Already, there are over 2,000 housing units slated to be built within five miles of the terminal, said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt.

“The waterfront is our biggest opportunity to promote Richmond,” Butt said. “The ferry service is going to accelerate some of these projects in the pipeline because a l lot of people are really anticipating that ferry. A lot of people commute to San Francisco from Richmond and areas around it. It’s going to be popular.

 

 

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Times

 

Oakland requires landlords to retrofit ‘soft-story’ buildings

Landlords have six years to retrofit the buildings, which are prone to substantial earthquake damage.

To prevent hundreds of multi-story, wood-frame apartment buildings from collapsing as they did in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, Oakland is requiring seismic upgrades of all those at risk in the next big shaker.

There are 1,479 such “soft-story” apartment buildings in the city constructed before 1991 — when the building code changed — that stand two to seven stories tall and contain five or more apartments, according to a 2008 analysis by the city and the Association of Bay Area Governments.Those buildings are supported by slim columns with either garages or storefronts underneath, and contain a total of 24,273 apartments.

With fears of the “big one” occurring any day now along the Hayward fault — which runs along northeast Oakland and south along Interstate 580 — the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Dec. 14 making the seismic retrofitting of soft-story buildings with more than five units mandatory, giving landlords four to six years to get their buildings up to code.

“A major earthquake along the Hayward fault is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when,” Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement released a week before the meeting. “As a city, we have a responsibility to put measures in place that will prevent injury and loss of life, and reduce displacement and recovery time in the aftermath of a major quake. This ordinance does all of those while also ensuring that we’re not placing an undue financial burden on property owners and tenants in our community.”

San Francisco passed a similar ordinance that went into effect in 2017; Berkeley and Fremont also require soft-story buildings to be seismically retrofitted. The Hayward council is scheduled to consider a similar measure in February.

In 2009, Oakland required soft-story building owners to gauge the potential earthquake damage that could occur. In the city’s 2015-2023 General Plan, officials called for the creation of a seismic safety retrofit program that would encourage retrofits through financial and procedural incentives.

Councilmember Dan Kalb — who introduced the ordinance — said city staff had been researching the risks of soft-story buildings and working toward the legislation for about four years. Though some California cities have required the buildings be retrofitted, others have not yet addressed the issue.

Seismic retrofits fall under the Oakland rent board’s definition of capital improvements, and thus up to 70 percent of the cost of may be passed on to the tenants. This ordinance requires that pass-through costs to tenants be dispersed over 25 years to prevent substantial rent hikes.

 

Read more on East Bay Times

 

 

Square takes over enormous Oakland building

Uptown Station, once meant to be Uber’s Oakland HQ, nets a new tech tenant.

Not too long ago, the circa 1929 Beaux-Arts building in Oakland now known as Uptown Station was meant to be the East Bay home of Uber, which had ambitious plans for the historic and recently refurbished locale.

But Uber sold the building almost exactly a year ago, netting $175 million from Oakland-based investment firm CIM Group but leaving the future of the sometimes neglected unofficial landmark up in the air.

On Thursday, CIM and Square announced that the SF-based payment app company owned by Twitter CEO (and Benioff antagonist) Jack Dorsey will lease much of the building, completing the locale’s long transition into an East Bay tech hub.

“Square has signed a lease for the entire office space in the iconic Uptown Station building,” according to a Thursday press release from both companies, a deal covering more than 350,000 square feet.

The building at 1955 Broadway first opened as an HC Capwell department store in the ‘20s, at the time apparently a very big ticket for Oakland as thousands showed up to see the mayor overturn the first shovelful of dirt on the future shopping hub.

Eventually, the building transitioned into being a Sears store instead, and for many years now has laid mostly dormant.

Developer Lane Partners spearheaded efforts to turn the disused retail Mecca into a new mixed-use office building before selling to Uber in 2016.

Square won’t actually move in until the end of 2019, possibly because CIM Group is still overseeing work that’s being done on the nearly century-old building.

“Oakland is committed to attracting businesses whose values align with our community. […] I believe Square can be that company,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said Thursday.

 

 

Read more on Curbed SF

 

 

As another San Francisco office tenant decamps for Oakland, will Salesforce take its space?

Another office tenant plans to move to Oakland from San Francisco, freeing up some space that Salesforce is reportedly looking to lease.

The exodus of office tenants fleeing San Francisco for Oakland continues. The latest example is the California State Department of Insurance, which plants to vacate its space in 45 Fremont St. and recently signed a lease for 47,000 square feet on three floors in 1901 Harrison St. in Oakland.

Another tenant, Blue Shield of California, inked a deal back in 2016 to leave the same building for space in a new office tower, 601 City Center in Oakland. The insurance company plans to occupy 225,000 square feet in the building in mid-2019.

The moves illustrate a broader trend of traditional office tenants leaving San Francisco while the tech industry gobbles up available spaces.

Cloud software maker Salesforce Inc. is rumored to be close to taking the 282,000 square feet in 45 Fremont, owned by Shorenstein Properties and Blackstone Group. The building is next door to 350 Mission St., known as Salesforce East, that is part of Salesforce’s urban campus in SoMa.

 

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Times

 

 

Oakland may require landlords to retrofit seismically unsafe apartments

Oakland may soon require hundreds of old apartments to be seismically retrofitted in an effort to prevent a mass collapse of buildings in the next big earthquake.

The retrofit rules would apply to soft-story residential buildings: multiunit, wood-frame structures with weak first stories built before 1991. An apartment with garage parking in the ground floor or street-level retail could fall into the targeted category.

Such buildings are prone to collapse during earthquakes, when the combined weight of shaken upper levels becomes too much for the vulnerable first story, as Loma Prieta proved in 1989 and Northridge in 1994.

“You look at photos of (San Francisco’s) Marina District after ’89 — quite a few buildings looked like three stories when they used to be four,” said Thor Matteson, a structural engineer of the Bay Area firm Quake Bracing.

Oakland is believed to have more than 24,000 housing units in 1,400 to 2,800 soft-story buildings, defined as those with at least five units and two to seven stories, according to city estimates. The first step of the ordinance proposed by City Councilman Dan Kalb and Mayor Libby Schaaf involves finding out which buildings must be retrofitted and which are exempt, such as those that have already completed the work.

Building types would be divided into three tiers, and each category would be on a different timetable. Owners would have four to six years to complete the retrofit work.

Read more on the San Francisco Chronicle

Oakland’s building boom is giving rise to robos, virtual reality and other construction tech

With the building boom in full swing in Oakland, many contractors are using different technologies from productivity software to robots to improve productivity, efficiencies, and job-site safety.

Contractors that are ahead of the game are using drone technology, 3D modeling and building information modeling, virtual reality, print camera technology and mobile-friendly software, such as PlanGrid, which digitizes building plans and makes them accessible on any device. The startup was just bought by AutoDesk for $875M.

Nationwide, contractors are turning to these technologies to create better efficiency, supplement the workforce during a skilled-worker shortage and reduce mistakes and project costs.

Construction technology is still new to many contractors in Oakland, and it hasn’t yet been fully implemented. Because of this, some contractors are still running up against a lot of rework due to poor communication, PlanGrid Western Region Customer Advocate Ross Wagner said.

“Business out here hasn’t had the growth that San Francisco has had … but overall there certainly are people who are ahead of the curve in Oakland,” Wagner said. “The growth curve is just a little bit later.”

He said technology is allowing contractors to work together and increase productivity without having to go back and forth to the trailer to get information needed at the job site.

 

 

Read more on Bisnow Oakland

 

 

As housing pressures increase in the Bay Area, multifamily developers focus on Contra Costa County

With several multifamily developments rising up around the Bay Area, many developers have started to turn their attention to Contra Costa County.

With rents and housing prices rising around the Bay Area, parts of Contra Costa are becoming more affordable comparatively and ideal places for millennials and other generations to raise families.

Developers are hoping to capture this shifting demographic as demand for housing shifts to the outer areas of the Bay Area. Walnut Creek and Concord have specifically benefited lately from new investment.

“We always wanted to be in Walnut Creek,” Bay Rock Multifamily CEO Stuart Gruendl said during Bisnow’s Future of Contra Costa County event in early November. “The government here in Walnut Creek is somewhat pro-development.”

The city has two active specific plans, and Bay Rock is a stakeholder in the North Downtown Specific Plan. The developer owns a large parcel and has plans to build 52 units, Gruendl said.

Unlike other Bay Area markets, there aren’t thousands of units teed up in Walnut Creek, Gruendl said. The costs are rising in the Tri-Valley and are becoming cost-prohibitive. A no-growth movement is growing in Pleasanton so there will be a natural cap on growth in that area, which bodes well for Walnut Creek, he said.

Bay Rock is focusing on projects in Walnut Creek, Berkeley and Oakland. “We find tremendous value in this market,” The Address Co. CEO and founding partner Eric Chevalier said. “There’s an affordability factor as well. People are getting priced out of the South Bay and the market. … They are migrating in this direction.”

The Address Co. builds both for-sale and rental properties. The company is working on a multifamily project called Riviera in Walnut Creek and has three other projects in the city. It also is working on entitling a project in Richmond, a city which the company is bullish on, Chevalier said.

 

Read more on Bisnow Oakland

 

 

Contra Costa County setting itself up to be next Bay Area hub if only the jobs will follow

Several large-scale projects in Contra Costa County could transform the suburban county into a thriving employment center with live-work-play dynamics.

The region’s biggest challenge will be actually getting to that point. Many investors and developers think the county is well on its way.

“What is wonderful about Contra Costa County is that it is unmatched quality of life if you can afford to live here in terms of work, play, live opportunity,” East Bay Leadership Council President and CEO Kristin Connelly said during Bisnow’s recent Future of Contra Costa event. “I’m a huge champion of the East Bay. We are poised to be the center of the mega-region in Northern California because of our assets.”

While more development is occurring in Contra Costa County, many cities are struggling to be attractive to employers, and many residents are still commuting elsewhere for their jobs. The East Bay Leadership Council found that 78% of Contra Costa workers commute to Western Alameda County, San Francisco or San Jose, Connelly said.

Cities like Walnut Creek and Concord are having to build more housing to meet the needs of current and new residents.

“When you’re seeing the South Bay having a 10:1 job-to-housing ratio, we’re the ones in the East Bay and the suburbs having to pick up the slack because of that,” City of Walnut Creek Mayor Justin Wedel said.

Cities are working to create better balances that can be attractive for employers seeking a live-work-play dynamic.

 

 

Read more on Bisnow Oakland

 

 

‘Monster in the Mission’ housing proposal back in new form, but with same old opposition

The developer behind a long-stalled mixed-use apartment complex above the 16th Street BART Station in the Mission District has a new plan, but so far it is being met with the same staunch opposition as previous iterations.

Maximus Real Estate Partners, which owns the 57,000-square-foot site at the southeast corner of 16th and Mission streets, has filed a revised design that calls for two 10-story market-rate buildings — one on Mission Street and one on 16th Street — totaling 285 units, as well as 46 affordable units arranged in a row of five-story townhomes along Capp Street.

The affordable units would be given to the city, and the rents spun off from that building, roughly $1.15 million a year, could be used to help subsidize rents in other nearby buildings in the rapidly gentrifying area.

The revised project, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, also scales back some aspects of the project, which critics have long dubbed the “Monster in the Mission.”

The 163-unit mid-rise on Mission Street would be moved back 15 feet to expand the usable space on the BART plaza by 40 percent. The three buildings would each have a district architectural style — one green tile, one red brick and one wood — to break up the massing and better fit into the character of surrounding buildings, project architect Leo Chow said.

 

 

Read more on SFGate