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With Square move on horizon, fintechs discover Oakland

Square’s expansion into Uptown Station underscores what fintech entrepreneurs have been saying for some time: Oakland is hot and only getting hotter.

Square’s new lease taking all of Oakland’s Uptown Station signals the growing popularity of the East Bay’s largest city for fintechs and other startups.

Fintech entrepreneurs say Square moving into the city in such a big way — the payments company plans to start moving in about 2,000 employees beginning later this year — means a lot more energy and talent will be drawn into Oakland.

Square’s move represents a tripling of Oakland’s fintech workforce, which the city estimates to be just under 1,000 people.

“We have a small but growing tech sector in Oakland,” said Marisa Raya, economic development specialist for the city of Oakland.

 

 

Read more at San Francisco Business Times

 

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

 

 

San Jose and Stockton mayors boost transit-housing plan

“Too many children go to bed at night without seeing parents who are stuck in crippling commutes.”

On Thursday, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo endorsed SB 50, the proposed new law that aims to create more dense housing near major transit lines in California, as did the mayor of Stockton, Michael Tubbs.

Introduced in December, the bill, written by SF-based State Sen. Scott Wiener, is a follow-up to the very similar but unsuccessful SB 827.

According to Wiener’s office, the bill “eliminates hyper-low-density zoning near transit and job centers.”

The text of the proposed law specifies that it applies to “sites within one-half mile of fixed rail and one-quarter mile of high-frequency bus stops and in job-rich areas.”

On Thursday, Liccardo praised the proposal as a potential antidote to long commutes.

“Too many children go to bed at night without seeing parents who are stuck in crippling commutes,” Liccardo said in an emailed statement.

The mayor predicts that “SB 50 will spur more affordable housing near transit and job centers so that people can live close to where they work.”

Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs endorsed the measure this week too, promoting it as a way to encourage more housing and keep prices down.

“As we force individuals to pay more for their rent, we also push them into poverty,” said Tubbs. “This is a policy failure that we must address.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, and the mayors of Sacramento and Los Angeles are also among those who endorsed the measure or “made positive statements regarding the direction of the bill” previously, according to Wiener’s office.

 

 

 

Read more at Curbed SF

 

 

Oakland may scrap owner-occupied rent control exemption

City Council will vote next month whether to allow rent control for owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes.

An exemption to the city’s rent control and tenant protection laws for owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes could get scrapped this year.

Currently, landlords who live in duplexes and triplexes and rent out the other units are exempt from rent control, as well as the tenant protection ordinance, which provides a procedure for tenants or the city attorney to sue landlords who harass them or fail to maintain the building.

Last week, city council members Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo introduced an ordinance that would remove the exemption. The ordinance will be presented at the Jan. 29 Community and Economic Development Committee, and the City Council is scheduled to vote on it the following Tuesday.

“The key here is we’re trying to make all of our rent laws consistent with each other and cover the same types of units,” Kalb said in an interview. “This is an effort to conform with Measure Y that was passed by voters last year.”

Measure Y removed the exemption from Oakland’s Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance for owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes. That ordinance prohibits landlords from evicting tenants without a legitimate reason.

When proposing the ballot measure, Kalb and Gallo noted that if it passed, they intended to introduce a parallel ordinance to remove the exemptions from rent control and tenant protection laws for owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes.

Kalb said he looked at other cities’ rent control laws and found that some had the exemption and some didn’t.

The ordinance is among the first tenants’ rights ordinances to be voted on by Oakland’s new City Council — three of the eight incumbent council members have been replaced. The new council members are Nikki Fortunato Bas, who represents District 2; Loren Taylor, who represents District 6; and Sheng Thao, who represents District 4.

 

 

Read more at the East Bay Times

 

 

Could anti-price gouging laws slow rising rents in California?

California lawmakers are exploring new ways to limit skyrocketing rents.

Crooning in the shower is not Chad Regeczi’s thing.

That’s why when he learned last year his monthly rent would go up $300 so the new owners of his La Mesa apartment in San Diego County could upgrade his bathroom with a sound system, he was bemused.

“300 bucks!” he said. “I mean an iPod costs less than that. Everybody has got a phone now. Who needs a Bluetooth speaker in a bathroom apartment? It’s just weird.”

Regeczi, a VA employee, said the 30 percent rent increase didn’t match the condition of his apartment. But he felt powerless to challenge his landlords on the hike.

“Who’s gonna tell them no?” he asked. “There are no rules to how much your rent can go up.”

That may change. Talk is underway about putting a law on the books that would bar California landlords from raising rent beyond a certain percentage.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in November the rule would mimic limits on what businesses can charge during natural disasters.

“When there’s a fire, you pass an anti-rent gouging ordinance,” Schaaf said. “The state has a fire. It’s called the housing crisis.”

Rents are surging in some California cities where there is no rent control by double, even triple digits, according to mayors and tenants rights advocates.

And more than half of the state’s renters pay more than a third of their income on housing, according to the California Budget & Policy Center. And a third of renters spend more than half of their paycheck on a place to live. The real estate firm Zillow reported last month that communities where people pay more than a third of their salary on rent, see a faster rise in homelessness.

 

Read more on East Bay Times

 

 

Downtown San Jose, Oakland opportunity zones attract investors, spur development plans amid Google effect

Developers eye projects in downtown San Jose and parts of Oakland, bolstered by tax incentives keyed to opportunity zone.

Developers and a new crop of investors are eyeing projects in downtown San Jose and parts of Oakland, bolstered by opportunity zones enabled by President Donald Trump’s tax-cut initiative.

Potentially the first project in a local opportunity zone would be development of a brand-new office and retail complex on South First Street in downtown San Jose at the site of the old Lido night club, said Erik Hayden, president of Urban Catalyst, a company that as formed an opportunity fund that would provide cash for selected developments in designated areas.

“These opportunity zones are ways to create greater economic activity in lower-income areas,” Hayden said. “They were originally presented to the Obama Administration but didn’t get a lot of traction. Then they became part of President Trump’s tax cuts and jobs act. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo very successfully lobbied Gov. Jerry Brown to get downtown San Jose included.”

Investors who plunk down cash for an opportunity fund can “defer or eliminate federal taxes on capital gains,” according to information on the state’s Department of Finance site.

The Lido night club site, currently a two-story building at 26 and 30 S. First St., is now owned by a partnership led by Gary Dillabough, who has emerged as one of downtown San Jose’s most active realty investors and developers. Among the properties Dillabough-headed groups have bought: the nearby Bank of Italy building, a historic office tower at the corner of South First and East Santa Clara streets.

 

 

 

Read more on The Mercury News

 

 

 

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

 

 

Square takes over enormous Oakland building

Uptown Station, once meant to be Uber’s Oakland HQ, nets a new tech tenant.

Not too long ago, the circa 1929 Beaux-Arts building in Oakland now known as Uptown Station was meant to be the East Bay home of Uber, which had ambitious plans for the historic and recently refurbished locale.

But Uber sold the building almost exactly a year ago, netting $175 million from Oakland-based investment firm CIM Group but leaving the future of the sometimes neglected unofficial landmark up in the air.

On Thursday, CIM and Square announced that the SF-based payment app company owned by Twitter CEO (and Benioff antagonist) Jack Dorsey will lease much of the building, completing the locale’s long transition into an East Bay tech hub.

“Square has signed a lease for the entire office space in the iconic Uptown Station building,” according to a Thursday press release from both companies, a deal covering more than 350,000 square feet.

The building at 1955 Broadway first opened as an HC Capwell department store in the ‘20s, at the time apparently a very big ticket for Oakland as thousands showed up to see the mayor overturn the first shovelful of dirt on the future shopping hub.

Eventually, the building transitioned into being a Sears store instead, and for many years now has laid mostly dormant.

Developer Lane Partners spearheaded efforts to turn the disused retail Mecca into a new mixed-use office building before selling to Uber in 2016.

Square won’t actually move in until the end of 2019, possibly because CIM Group is still overseeing work that’s being done on the nearly century-old building.

“Oakland is committed to attracting businesses whose values align with our community. […] I believe Square can be that company,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said Thursday.

 

 

Read more on Curbed SF

 

 

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