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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

 

 

 

New 155K SF Affordable Housing Project Planned Near S.F.’s Balboa Park BART Station

A new development that will bring more affordable housing to San Francisco is underway next to the Balboa Park BART station.

The 155K SF transit-oriented development, Balboa Park Upper Yard, will deliver up to 120 units of low- and very-low-income housing in a mixed-use project that will have community-serving space. There will be open space on a connected piece of property owned by BART.

The project from neighborhood nonprofit Mission Housing Development Corp. and developer Related California is in the design phase, and construction could start in late 2019 or early 2020. Mithun is the project architect.

Projects such as this one help Mission Housing better serve residents, particularly low-income Latino residents who have been displaced from one district of San Francisco into another, according to the organization. As it has watched residents pushed out of the city’s District 9 in the Mission District, Mission Housing has been looking at expanding into the Excelsior area in District 11 where those residents are moving, and eventually the entire west side of San Francisco.

“We are thrilled to have been given the opportunity to deliver more high quality, affordable housing to District 11,” Mission Housing Executive Director Sam Moss said in a statement. Mission Housing owns or manages 38 housing properties and is one of the area’s largest nonprofit housing organizations. “The community outreach, planning, design, financing, and construction will lead to delivering the excellent affordable housing and community services hub which the people of San Francisco deserve.”

The creation of 100% affordable housing is the biggest tool available to combat gentrification, Mission Housing officials said. They said the new site is expected to benefit from a piece of legislation now in progress for a citywide neighborhood preference that would make 45% of units specifically designated for families that currently live near the project.

 

Read more on Bisnow San Francisco

 

 

Walnut Creek housing project near BART beats back appeal

The developer is a frequent face at Walnut Creek’s Planning Department, and will responsible for constructing more than 900 new housing units around the downtown BART station.

A Walnut Creek housing proposal cemented approval last night after the City Council voted to quash an appeal.

Danville-based developer Blake Griggs’ now has a clear line of sight for its 1910 Noma project, which includes 135 units of housing and 10,000-square-feet of retail about a block away from the Walnut Creek BART station.

Lauren Seaver, Blake Griggs’ vice president of development, said it expects to break ground sometime within the next six to twelve months. Fuddruckers restaurant now occupies the site, but would temporarily leave and then move back into 4,000 square feet of retail space once the site is rebuilt. Seaver said tenants for the remaining 6,000 square feet have not yet been chosen.

A local union, the Laborers International Union of North America, was behind the appeal and cited inadequate environmental reviews. Unions have frequently appealed East Bay housing projects on environmental grounds when they’ve had disagreements with developers over the use of union labor.

The Laborers International Union of North America did not respond to requests for comment.

Walnut Creek Senior Planner Gregg Kapovich said the union could still sue, but as of now, no more appeals are possible.

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Times

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

Oakland, A’s begin Coliseum ballpark negotiations

The Oakland A’s now have the blessing to study both the Coliseum and Howard Terminal in their quest to build a new ballpark in Oakland.

The Oakland City Council on Tuesday night approved an “exclusive negotiating agreement” with the A’s, allowing the two to begin talks about constructing a ballpark at the Coliseum, the MLB team’s home for 50 years.

In vote taken just before midnight, the council entered into an agreement to negotiate with the A’s over the next nine months, while President Dave Kaval studies if the 112-acre East Oakland site is the right fit. The city can extend the negotiations for an additional three months.

“This decision about a new privately-financed ballpark is a really important moment not only for the A’s but our community,” Kaval told council. “We look forward to working together not only this year but for many years to come.”

Last month, the A’s and the Port of Oakland agreed to study Howard Terminal, located near Jack London Square and the estuary. Kaval has called the study of two sites “parallel paths” to keep the team in Oakland.

Though an aging complex, the Coliseum has had some bites from developers lately. Walnut Creek developer Mark Hall approached the city to build a 15,000-18,000 seat soccer stadium for a United Soccer League franchise. The city said another person proposed to build a corporate campus at the Coliseum.

While Howard Terminal needs environmental review and has access issues, an environmental review for the Coliseum is already completed. It’s also favored for its proximity to BART, Interstate 880 and the Oakland International Airport.

 

 

Read more from East Bay Times

 

 

Housing high-rise breaks ground outside Oakland’s MacArthur BART station

The tallest building of BART’s biggest residential development broke ground Wednesday in Oakland, promising to house hundreds of families feet from the MacArthur station when it opens in 2020.

The 24-story, 402-unit high-rise dubbed Skylyne will be one of the largest apartment buildings in the city. It had been in the making for more than a decade, and developers in recent years sought to more than double the tower’s height as demand for housing surged.

The neighborhood’s zoning doesn’t allow buildings above 90 feet, but developers McGrath Properties and Boston Properties got an exemption for setting aside 45 units for affordable housing and making investments in local parks and community programs. At 260 feet tall, the building will include 13,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor.

“Unleash the mammoth!” developer Terry McGrath said at a groundbreaking ceremony.

 

Read more from SFGate

 

 

Housing for North Berkeley BART?

BART and city leaders recently took the first steps toward a mixed-use housing development on the station’s parking lots, but there’s still a long road ahead.

In its early days, BART bulldozed houses to build massive parking lots for commuters to San Francisco, devastating several low-income communities in the East Bay. But then in the mid-1990s, the transit agency started a shift toward building housing, office, and retail around its stations instead. And during the past 15 years or so, the agency has been planning developments at most of its stations with surface parking lots — including projects at Ashby station in Berkeley and at most of its above-ground Oakland stations.

But the stations surrounding some of BART’s most desirable real estate have been excluded from development planning so far. For example, despite high home prices around the Rockridge BART station in North Oakland and the fact that it’s only a 20-minute ride to downtown San Francisco, BART has produced no development plans for the area to date.

For North Berkeley, a 25-minute ride from San Francisco, BART has at least considered building on the land. An overview of BART’s transit-oriented development strategy provided to this reporter last year included a map of existing, planned, and future development. North Berkeley was listed as a site for potential future development with 100-percent affordable housing, but BART had no more specific plans than that.

Read more from East Bay Express