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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

 

City begins Transit Center repairs but won’t set reopening date

“Repairs are scheduled to be complete by the first week of June 2019.”

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) announced Friday that repairs will finally begin on the Transbay Transit Center, more than four months after mysteriously cracked support beams shuttered the barely-used, $2.2 billion downtown facility.

According to Friday’s statement:

Early morning Saturday, February 2, 2019 , crews will replace the hydraulic jacks on First Street with a shoring system to allow the TJPA to reinforce the girders on the bus deck above First Street.

[…] Steel plates are currently being fabricated offsite and will be delivered to the transit center in March for installation. Repairs are scheduled to be complete by the first week of June 2019 and then the shoring systems at both Fremont and First streets will be removed.

 

Read more at Curbed SF

 

 

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

 

 

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 Richmond ferry draws developers and businesses to long-struggling city

A new ferry terminal has spurred development and optimism in Richmond.

Keba Konte hopes a new ferry in Richmond will bring his business scores of new customers.

Konte’s Red Bay Coffee, which currently operates three locations in Oakland, will cater to Richmond’s first ferry commuters in over two decades when the city opens its new $21 million ferry terminal on Jan. 10. He plans to park his coffee truck near the waterfront Craneway Pavilion.

“Richmond interests us because it shares the same spirit as the city of Oakland, a working-class city that has often been viewed as the underdog. It’s a developing city and we strive to be a part of that story,” Konte said.

The ferry terminal has spurred other businesses and developers to want to be a part of Richmond’s story as well. They’re attracted to the idea of a high-density waterfront community, a 35-minute commute to San Francisco and increased foot traffic to businesses and restaurants along the waterfront and downtown. Already, there are over 2,000 housing units slated to be built within five miles of the terminal, said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt.

“The waterfront is our biggest opportunity to promote Richmond,” Butt said. “The ferry service is going to accelerate some of these projects in the pipeline because a l lot of people are really anticipating that ferry. A lot of people commute to San Francisco from Richmond and areas around it. It’s going to be popular.

 

 

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Times

 

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

 

 

 

Google is gearing up to buy prime San Jose land for a new tech campus. What now?

As the city of San Jose gets ready to release long-anticipated documents related to the sale of 20 acres of land near downtown, the question on the minds of both boosters of the Google expansion and skeptics is “what now?”

The city of San Jose is on the verge of releasing details of a controversial 17-month negotiation to sell 20 acres of publicly owned land to tech giant Google for a massive new campus near downtown.

Those details, set to be released Friday, are a key milestone, but only the first step of making the Bay Area’s largest city one of the next expansion points for Alphabete Inc.-owned Google, a plan that has been met by community members with both excitement, deep disdain, and as of this week, a lawsuit over transparency.

Now, as the release date of the long-anticipated land sale documents near, the question on the minds of both boosters of the Google expansion and skeptics is “what now?”

First, the end goal: Google has said it wants to build a mixed-use campus that could span as large as 8 million square feet and would include housing, retail, and office space next to transit. Somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 workers could show up each day at the campus if built out fully.

 

 

Read more on Silicon Valley Business Journal

 

 

 

How Salesforce Transit Center helped transform a blighted neighborhood

At the start of the economic recovery, San Francisco’s Transbay District was speckled with underused parking lots and very few options for housing and offices.

Now, the neighborhood holds the city’s largest office and mixed-use towers, residential high-rises and 100K SF of retail at the $2.4B Salesforce Transit Center that will soon open.

“Salesforce Transit Center has become a reality that generated a building boom in that area,” Transbay Joint Powers Authority Executive Director Mark Zabaneh said. “The minute the developers saw the transit center under construction, they started developing the parcels.”

The Aug. 11 opening of the transit center’s rooftop park, Salesforce Park, marks the end of the center’s initial transformation. The bus terminal will open to full operations on Aug. 12.

“It’s going to be a really significant achievement that surpassed expectations,” Zabaneh said. “The park is a big attraction. There is very limited quality public space and the park provides 5.4 acres of really quality public space.”

He said there has been a lot of enthusiasm for the rooftop park and the most-asked question has been about the park’s opening date.

 

 

Read more on Bisnow SF

 

 

 

 

 

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