Which Bay Area neighborhoods are at risk for a major earthquake?

Earthquake map reveals liquefaction risks in Bay Area neighborhoods.

No place in the Bay Area is safe when it comes to the inevitable, devastating earthquakes that loom on the horizon. But some neighborhoods are better situated than others.

Read more on NAI Northern California’s Newsletter

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

Looking to invest in Qualified Opportunity Zones? These resources may help

As investors across the nation seek to deploy billions of dollars in capital gains into Qualified Opportunity Zones, they are actively seeking guidance about the program and on the hunt for resources to help identify neighborhoods, assets and available land within opportunity zones most ripe for investment. 

The program, created through the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last year, aims to incentivize private investment in underserved and otherwise blighted communities across the U.S. in exchange for a hefty tax break.

More than 8,700 census tracts have been classified as opportunity zones and numerous opportunity zones funds have already launched to take advantage of the program — with an estimated $6 trillion in unrealized capital gains eligible to be deployed into opportunity zones, according to a study conducted by Real Capital Analytics.

In response to high demand from firms and high net worth individuals interested in the opportunity zones program, a number of tools have come to market to help potential investors understand how the program works, identify neighborhoods that qualify for it and locate assets within the designated areas in need of investment.

“Opportunity zones have brought national attention to areas of the country that have been too often looked over for investment. Unlike traditional community development institutions, knowledge and understanding about these communities is quite limited,” Smart Growth Americas Vice President of Land Use and Development Christopher Coes told Bisnow. Coes is also director of national real estate developer and investor network LOCUS.

“The structure of the opportunity zones tax incentive places the onus on the investor to identify and conduct due diligence … which requires an understanding of not only the project but also the place. Because of this demand, we’re seeing a lot of tools [come to market] to help assist investors and policymakers.”

Read more on Bisnow

 

 

What Google’s San Jose project means for downtown

For years, much of the area around Diridon Station has been a neglected jumble of grimy auto body shops, vacant lots overgrown with weeds and shabby warehouses.

Google — whose plans face a critical City Council vote Tuesday — is expected to transform some 50 acres into a mix of offices, shops and restaurants connected by pathways that wind through parks and plazas filled with public art. Steps away, Diridon is set to undergo its own renovation and become the only place in the Bay Area where BART, Caltrain, Amtrak and high-speed rail converge.

It’s a tall order. But if the tech giant succeeds, the project could transform a downtown that has struggled to rebound from sprawling development in the 1950s and 1960s, when city manager Dutch Hamann rapidly annexed land at the city’s fringes while neglecting its urban core. When it’s complete, the area could support more than 25,000 workers, a 65 percent increase in the number employed in the core of the city today.

For longtime restaurateur and downtown business owner Steve Borkenhagen, Google’s foray into San Jose might finally spark the kind of urban rejuvenation he’s dreamed of for decades. For Kathy Sutherland, a nearly 40-year resident of the Delmas Park neighborhood in the shadow of the proposed development, the project brings both the long-sought possibility of a vibrant neighborhood and the fear of displacement. And for the urban studies theorist Richard Florida, the project is less personal but no less important — a chance for a major American city to finally get redevelopment right, to provide an antidote to the debacle of the Amazon HQ2 rollout.

It will be years before any such dreams or fears are fully realized, but the sale of more than $100 million dollars of city land — expected to be finalized at the Tuesday council meeting — sets the stage for planning and development to begin in earnest after months of closed-door talks and speculation about the biggest thing to happen in San Jose in generations.

 

 

Read more on the East Bay Times

 

 

A sample of SF waterfront redevelopment concepts

The Port of San Francisco’s “request for interest” for 14 waterfront structures within the Embarcadero Historic District is an outgrowth of a larger effort to update the port’s Waterfront Land Use Plan.

That effort began in 2015 and should move to environmental studies next year. The goal for the requests is to try and begin making plans to revive specific piers, so work could begin soon after an update is approved.

Respondents include restaurateurs seeking space, cultural entrepreneurs, and developers or design firms eager to take part in future projects. The full set of 52 responses can be found at www.sfport.com, but here are six examples that show the range of ideas.

 

Read more on the San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

New effort to push more housing near transit stations by setting state rules

A state bill to allow dense housing near transit stops, alleviating long commutes and coaxing people out of cars, never made it out of committee last session. But backers think the mood has shifted enough in the housing debate to try again.

“I think the political climate is changing,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. He’s the lead sponsor of the More HOMES Act — HOMES stands for Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, Equity and Stability.

“In talking to my colleagues, there’s more support than there was earlier,” Wiener said.

The new iteration, SB50, prevents cities from restricting density within a half mile of a major job center or transit hub, such as a BART or Caltrain station. It raises height limits to 45 feet, about four stories, within a half-mile of the station, and 55 feet or five stories within a quarter mile. It also eliminates minimum parking requirements for new developments, a move that the Board of Supervisors is contemplating for San Francisco.

Those provisions are less dramatic than what Wiener proposed in SB827, his first attempt at statewide zoning reform. It would have barred cities from rejecting four- to eight-story apartment or condo buildings near transit nodes.

Wiener’s first measure laid bare an ideological divide in a state struggling with soaring rents, jammed freeways and a paucity of housing. The crisis has pushed people farther from jobs, forcing them into wildfire zones or soul-grinding commutes, Wiener said. But it has also ignited fears that new development will push out existing residents — or drastically change the landscape. And many opponents bristle at the idea of Sacramento interfering with local governments’ ability to shape their own neighborhoods.

“The issue seems to be that Scott Wiener and his bills are so often looking to undermine local control,” said Susan Kirsch, founder of Livable California, a San Francisco organization that advocates for local urban planning and moderate growth. It opposed SB827.

Political leaders in San Francisco and Berkeley fumed at the building heights in SB827, saying it would allow luxury high-rises to sprout up, unchecked, in quaint residential neighborhoods. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed a resolution against the bill after an emotional hearing in which residents compared it to a “hydrogen bomb” and an “undemocratic power grab.” Some detractors worried that their neighborhoods would be remade to look like Manhattan or Miami Beach.

To other critics, the original bill felt like an unfinished draft. It didn’t do enough to protect tenants from displacement or require affordable housing.

“It felt like it was a big proposal, it was a bold proposal, and there were a lot of details that had not been sufficiently worked out,” said Anya Lawler, a policy advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty. The center opposed SB827 but has not taken a position on the new bill.

Yet in the last few months, the tenor of the debate has changed. London Breed was elected mayor of San Francisco on an ardent pro-housing platform — she’s among the politicians tentatively supporting Wiener’s revised legislation. In September, the Legislature passed a law empowering BART to fill station parking lots with homes. And Wiener is seeking an ally in Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, who emphasized the link between housing and transportation in a post-election speech.

 

 

Read more on SFGate

 

 

 

Google is gearing up to buy prime San Jose land for a new tech campus. What now?

As the city of San Jose gets ready to release long-anticipated documents related to the sale of 20 acres of land near downtown, the question on the minds of both boosters of the Google expansion and skeptics is “what now?”

The city of San Jose is on the verge of releasing details of a controversial 17-month negotiation to sell 20 acres of publicly owned land to tech giant Google for a massive new campus near downtown.

Those details, set to be released Friday, are a key milestone, but only the first step of making the Bay Area’s largest city one of the next expansion points for Alphabete Inc.-owned Google, a plan that has been met by community members with both excitement, deep disdain, and as of this week, a lawsuit over transparency.

Now, as the release date of the long-anticipated land sale documents near, the question on the minds of both boosters of the Google expansion and skeptics is “what now?”

First, the end goal: Google has said it wants to build a mixed-use campus that could span as large as 8 million square feet and would include housing, retail, and office space next to transit. Somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 workers could show up each day at the campus if built out fully.

 

 

Read more on Silicon Valley Business Journal

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Read more on SFGate