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Transit-oriented development changing how Oakland grows

When it comes to the future of Oakland, a good amount of the development that will change the city has one thing in common: the transit station nearby. 

Bay Area Rapid Transit has committed to an ambitious plan to build mixed-use transit-oriented developments around its stations throughout the Bay Area, and a number of those projects will be in Oakland.

Already, the transit authority has started to transform land around MacArthur Station in the northern part of the city as well as Fruitvale Station to the southeast. Construction is underway on Coliseum Transit Village from UrbanCore Development and Oakland Economic Development Corp.

Future plans call for continued development on those sites and projects to go up around downtown BART stations.

BART’s transit-oriented development policy states that the agency will only move forward with future developments in cities that have adopted station area plans, and Oakland has been at the forefront, BART’s Sean Brooks said. Brooks, the department manager of real estate and property development for BART, will speak about TODs at Bisnow’s The Evolution of Downtown Oakland March 13.

Projects already underway have required upzoning, and the city also has been progressive about parking requirements, Brooks said.

“The city has kind of bent over backwards to help and advance some of these projects,” he said.

Case in point: the planned development for West Oakland, which got through the planning commission in record time, he said. The project was helped along in no small part because of the affordable housing it is bringing to the city.

 

Read more at Bisnow Oakland

 

A’s Dave Kaval unveils gondola plan to link BART, Howard Terminal

The A’s unveiled plans for a gondola to run from BART to their proposed Howard Terminal site, including a tower above Washington Street.

London, New York, Portland, Ore., and Mexico City are among the urban centers making good use of gondolas, a transportation trend popping up worldwide, and A’s President Dave Kaval sees his team fitting right into that niche.

Kaval has mentioned the potential for a gondola to ferry fans from BART to the team’s proposed stadium at Howard Terminal, just north of Jack London Square, and Saturday morning he unveiled artist renderings and a video simulation of the project.

The gondola would ferry about 6,000 people per hour; cabs with a capacity of 30-35 would make a three-minute trip of less than a mile along Washington Street in Oakland, linking the BART station at 12th and Washington to Jack London Square. The gondola would transport an estimated 1 million people per year, Kaval said.

Read more at the San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

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 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