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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BART picks developers for huge housing and office development at Lake Merritt in Oakland

Bay Area Regional Transit officials selected a development team to revamp three city blocks above the Lake Merritt BART Station in Oakland.

The agency picked Strada Investment Group and the East Bay Asian Local Development Corp. to develop 1.4 acres into two high-rise towers with 519 homes and 517,000 square feet of commercial space.

EBALDC is one of Oakland’s top nonprofit housing developers with 27 communities in the city. San Francisco-based Strada has owned multiple office buildings in downtown Oakland and has developed multiple projects in various Bay Area cities.

The winning team beat out proposals from global real estate investor Hines, Menlo Park-based Lane Partners and a partnership of Oakland-based McGrath Properties Inc. and Canadian investor Brookfield Residential. Lane Partners came in second, according to a BART staff report.

The BART board will formally vote to select the Strada/EBALDC Team at its meeting Thursday and start a two-year exclusive negotiating agreement to finalize the project. if the two sides fail to negotiate a project in that time frame, BART could then give Lane Partners a shot without having to do another selection process.

BART has wanted to develop its land above the Lake Merritt Station for years. The goal is to boost BART ridership and attract more residents, businesses, and pedestrians to a relatively quiet stretch of Oakland nestled between the city’s core downtown and the lake.

 

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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.

 

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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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Get ready for a big fight over California’s property taxes in 2020

A big battle over property taxes in California is shaping up for the 2020 ballot.

Supporters of a bid to increase taxes on commercial land announced Tuesday they’ve collected more than 860,000 signatures to force a vote on the issue in two years.

“This is a defining moment for California,” Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, said in a statement. “Closing the commercial property tax loopholes is important to our state.”

Backers, including the California Federation of Teachers, the League of Women Voters and community organization California Calls held news conferences Tuesday in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Fresno, San Diego and San Bernardino to demonstrate support across the state for the idea. Of the signatures turned in to the Secretary of State’s office, 585,407 must be deemed valid for the measure to qualify for the November 2020 election.

The initiative would make dramatic changes to the tax system established four decades ago by Proposition 13, which capped how much property tax bills could increase every year. The proposed measure would boost property tax revenues from commercial and industrial properties by assessing them at their current market value. Property tax protections would remain unchanged for residential properties.

The changes could net $6 billion to $10 billion annually in new property tax revenue statewide, according to an estimate from the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. The analyst’s office also warned that the measure could have significant downsides for California’s economy by causing businesses to leave or opt against relocating to the state.

Business groups are girding for the fight over the tax hike, known as “split-roll” because it assesses residential properties different from commercial and industrial properties.

“California already has the worst climate for business and job creation in the country,” Rex Hime, president of the California Business Properties Assn., said in a statement. “A split-roll property tax will just increase pressure on many businesses that are already finding it hard to make ends meet.”

 

 

 

Read more on LA 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.

 

 

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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

 

 

 

Oakland housing developers turn to new ways of building to reduce costs

Rising construction costs are pushing Oakland developers to rethink traditional construction methods to make sure much-needed housing continues to get built.

“It is an issue right now that we are all facing increased construction costs,” UrbanCore Development CEO Michael Johnson said during Bisnow’s recent Oakland Construction & Development Update event. “What will happen is some projects will not move forward as a result of that.”

Double-digit increases in the cost of new construction projects are not driven solely by increases in material costs, but also by higher profit margins and greater labor costs as contractors struggle to find a qualified workforce, he said.

Several developers have turned toward using modular units, designing more efficient floor plans and creating new building technologies.

OWow is developing a type of unit that can adjust the number of bedrooms with a push of a button. Mechanized, acoustically rated walls would raise and lower to create up to four bedrooms, oWow founder Danny Haber said. His company has been building macro-units in Oakland that use efficient design to cut down on construction costs.

Other developers have been pursuing modular construction. UrbanCore Development decided to go modular on its Coliseum Connections project about five years ago, Johnson said. Conventional construction was more expensive, and an analysis estimated about a 10% cost savings on a $40M construction budget, he said.

The modular units are expected to be fully in place by Friday and the 110-unit mixed-income housing project is expected to be completed in January.

 

Read more on Bisnow

 

 

 

Exclusive: Huge cannabis business campus headed to Oakland

Will this business park near Oakland’s Oracle Arena be California’s next big hub of cannabis innovation?

A sleepy Oakland business park a stone’s throw from Oracle Arena may be transformed into the Bay Area’s next big cannabis business campus.

Mesh Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on investing in cannabis startups, hopes to turn an office complex on Edgewater Drive into a center of the region’s cannabis manufacturing, marketing and production.

“It’s going to look very much like a tech campus,” said Mesh Ventures Partner Parker Berling.

The complex is master leased to Mesh Ventures Partner Martin Kaufman who is making around $20 million in infrastructure and tenant improvements.

California Capital and Investment Group bought the 207,700-square-foot office property in 2013 for $7.8 million, but has struggled to fill it. Kaufman said the Mesh Ventures team saw the opportunity of creating a campus in an area with access to top-tier scientific and technological talent.

“Sure, we could have done this in Fresno or Humboldt and t would have been cheaper but the level of people that we have here are unmatched anywhere else,” Kaufman said. “We have academics, scientists, really trained qualified people who are located here and are looking to enter the industry as it turns from a black market to a white market.”

Kaufman is the co-founder of dispensary Blum Oakland, which was sold in 2016 to Irvine-based cannabis agriculture company Terra Tech.

The center is being built out with the particular security and regulatory concerns of the cannabis industry in mind. Berline said roughly three-fourths of the tenants will be cannabis companies, mainly from the firm’s investment portfolio. Tenants are starting to move into the campus – which already has a functioning grow operation – and the renovations are expected to be completed by the end of the year. Leasing rates are rates around $2 per square foot.

 

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Times