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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.

 

 

 

Read more on Curbed SF

 

 

 

Cupertino approves massive development agreement for Vallco Mall

The city of Cupertino approved a specific plan and development agreement Wednesday night that could aid in bringing nearly 3,000 residential units and millions of square feet in commercial space to replace its dying Vallco Shopping Mall.

In a 3-2 vote, the council reluctantly approved the densest development ever proposed for the 58-acre site that sits about a mile from Apple Inc.’s new headquarters.

Cupertino Mayor Darcy Paul and City Councilmember Steven Scharf, who both favored a less dense redevelopment option, voted against the plan.

The vote marks the first move by city council members to willingly pave the way for a dense project on the site after years of community disagreement over what should replace the nearly empty, 1.2 million-square-foot mall has kept redevelopment in limbo.

That stalemate ended early this year when Vallco property owner, Sand Hill Property Co. invoked SB-35, a new and highly controversial state law aimed at speeding up residential development in housing starved California. That proposal set a tight deadline for the city to either approve Sand Hill’s redevelopment plans or come up with something better that the Palo Alto-based developer would consider building instead.

Read more on Silicon Valley Business Journal

 

 

 

 

Business fees to fund housing will be studied in San Jose

The concern, even for some council members who voted for the study, is that despite its housing shortage, San Jose still has many more residents than jobs, which is the opposite of the situation in many surrounding cities.

The imposition of commercial linkage fees to fund below market-rate housing is still alive in San Jose after Tuesday’s 9-2 City Council vote to add a discussion of them to next week’s agenda.

The vote came on an item of how the city should respond to a Santa Clara civil jury report issued in June that included among its findings that the fees are overdue and would increase housing.

Five council members, including Mayor Sam Liccardo, wrote memos changing the staff-authored response of disagreement with the finding to say the city would consider a study to confirm the causal relationship between job creation and an increased need for housing and a second study of the feasibility of enacting fees.

 

 

Read more on Silicon Valley Business Journal

 

 

 

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.

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Times

 

 

 

Mayor wants to lure modular housing factory to SF to provide both homes, jobs

As San Francisco officials continue to scout locations for a factory that can churn out modular housing units, Mayor London Breed is lining up the city to be the first customer.

Breed is expected to announce Monday that the city is prepared to spend $100 million on hundreds of modular apartments that would grow the city’s stock of affordable housing.

Who will run the modular housing factory won’t be known for some time, though the leading plan is to seek a private operator on city-owned or city-leased property. And even after a site is selected, it will take years to get a factory up and running.

But Breed and other officials hope the early — and sizable — promise to buy will entice interested operators to set up shop in San Francisco.

Read more on SF Chronicle

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.

 

 

 

Read more on SF Gate

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Read more on Hoodline

 

 

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

 

 

 

Oakland’s growing pains could stifle future development

Dozens of cranes dot Oakland’s skyline and thousands of new housing units are in the works, making the current cycle one of the most robust in Oakland’s history.

As more people and businesses turn toward Oakland as a cheaper area to live and work, Oakland has struggled to keep up with both office and housing demand. Downtown Oakland is one of the tightest office markets in the country and multifamily rents have risen 51% since the start of the cycle.

Developers and designers are looking for ways to build more efficiently to keep rents down, but growing community activism, overworked city planning staff and tightening financing could stall future growth in Oakland.

Panelists discussed these topics as well as the impact of modular units and designing housing to meet residents’ changing needs during Bisnow’s Oakland Construction and Development Update event Thursday.

With 900 housing units delivering this year and 2,400 next year, the city is undergoing rapid change.

“Instead of the city [staff] focusing on department stores and auto dealerships, they’re making Oakland a very vibrant place to live,” Junction Properties owner Charles Long said during the event.

The increased development has spurred an anti-displacement movement and a backlash over a lack of affordable housing, which could shut down the future fulfillment of housing that Oakland has in its pipeline, he said.

Developers need to be more cognizant of working with the city and other stakeholders to better address the anti-displacement backlash, he said.

 

Read more on Bisnow