February 2, 2015 Housing Action Coalition

Oakland is Open for Business

A large group of folks from the SF Housing Action Coalition and the Bay Area Council spent last Thursday exploring Oakland’s development potential on a bus tour hosted by our two organizations.

Mayor Libby Schaaf kicked off the day at Oakland City Hall with an rousing welcome, highlighting why it’s a great time to invest in Oakland. “Oakland is open for business!” was the theme that ran through her greeting. “Oakland has done the hard work. We’ve talked to our communities and have done our homework for you. We now have a roadmap so you know what we want and where,” referring to five area plans Oakland recently completed. She wrapped up her Q&A time with an invitation, “Come be part of this incredible Oakland story that’s happening right now!” It set the tone for the rest of the day.

The 80 folks on the bus got a guided tour from Oakland’s Planning Director, Rachel Flynn. She pointed out sites along various major commercial and transit corridors that are for sale, are planned for development, or have been recently developed. She noted that Oakland is beginning a nexus study to analyze future developer impact fees to address affordable housing, infrastructure and transit. It’ll likely be completed by the end of 2015.

Our first stop was Signature Development’s The Hive. It’s part of the Broadway Valdez Plan, which envisions mixed-use development along Broadway, between 23rd Street and I- 580. The Hive consists of a 100,000 sq ft retail and office space. Their first tenant, The Impact Hub, a 16,000 sq ft co-working space, which has brought badly-needed energy to Broadway Avenue. Signature Development will also add 105 market-rate LEED gold apartments at the site.

Around the corner, we saw three adjacent surface parking lots that Oakland has primed for development. Brian Pianca of Woods Partners told us about their plans for a five-story building consisting of 196 homes with a 0.75 parking-space-to-unit ratio. Although they’re early in their community outreach process, some of the neighborhood response has been, “Why aren’t you building taller?”

We ended our tour at the 29-acre Central Train Station on Wood Street, currently owned by BRIDGE Housing. This beautiful, historic station is part of a decade-old master plan that calls for 1,200-1,500 new homes mixed with retail. Adhi Nagraj, from BRIDGE, shared their vision for the rehabilitation and adaptive re-use of the train station. He noted it has received some interest from Orton Development, the prominent historic preservation developer best known for its work on Pier 70 and the Ford Point in Richmond CA. Despite the need for massive structural work and a lack of redevelopment funding, their plans do not include tearing it down. Kevin Brown, of Holliday Development, described their work, beginning in 2008, on the Cannery Lofts on another part of the train station site. Molly Maybrum, at City Ventures, shared their plans for a six-acre development of 170 two- and three-bedroom townhomes, as well as 1,400 square feet of retail. Townhomes are estimated to cost about $450,000, including parking.

The group ended with a lunch, hosted by Wendel, Rosen Black & Dean LLP, where the conversation and networking continued. In his remarks, Gregory McConnell, from the Jobs and Housing Coalition, noted, “We have failed miserably to building the housing we need. And those that say yes to housing have the greatest impact on urban affordability.” Greg made the best observation in a comment that encourages us to look at our housing challenge regionally when he said, “Oakland and San Francisco are just one downtown divided by a bridge.”

Heartfelt thanks to Mayor Libby Schaaf, Planning Director Flynn, Office of Wendel, Rosen Black & Dean LLP, Bauer Transportation and the Bay Area Council for organizing and co-hosting a very successful tour.

Events like our Oakland development bus tour are one of the great perks of SFHAC Membership. Join us to jump on the dozens of tours we offer every year.

 See more pictures from the tour here.

Housing Action Coalition

The Housing Action Coalition is a member-supported non-profit that advocates for the creation of well designed, well-located housing at all levels of affordability. We believe more housing means more choices and better solutions.

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