Planning Process Started: 2011
Plan and EIR Scheduled for Adoption: Late Spring/Early Summer 2014
Campaign Team: TransForm, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Asian Health Services, East Bay Asian Local Development Corportation
Location on Transit Line: Fremont / Dublin / Pleasanton / San Francisco / Milbrae BART line
The Great Communities Collaborative (GCC) funds TransForm, a transportation equity organization dedicated to creating world-class public transportation, walkable and bikeable communities; the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN, which is a social and environmental justice organization focused on Asian and Pacific Islander communities engaging underrepresented residents and stakeholders in key decision making processes that affects their quality of life); Asian Health Services ( which serves and advocates for the medically underserved, including the immigrant and refugee Asian community, and to assure equal access to health care services regardless of income, insurance status, language, or culture, located in Chinatown), and the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (or “EBALDC”), which is a nonprofit development corporation that works with and for all the diverse populations of the East Bay to build healthy, vibrant and safe neighborhoods through community development.
The Lake Merritt BART Station is located in Oakland, adjacent to Oakland’s Chinatown, Jack London Square, Downtown Oakland and Laney Community College. It is a station used by both local residents and by people who come to the station area from throughout the region to visit the museums, county courthouse and government building, as well as the unique shops and services available in Chinatown.
Despite a relatively high level of activity surrounding the station area during the daytime hours, the station area itself is under-utilized, containing empty lots, poor pedestrian conditions, and limited amounts of commercial and residential opportunities. The Lake Merritt BART Station Area Plan process represents an opportunity to plan for a better use of the underutilized parcels in and around the BART station, attracting investment and transforming the station area into a thriving, mixed use neighborhood that complements and enhances the existing communities that surround the station area.
For more background, please visit TransForm’s webpage: The Lake Merritt BART Station Area Campaign webpage
The GCC LMSAP Campaign
The common platform from TransForm, APEN, East Bay Asian Local Development Center, Asian Health Services, and other allies within the Oakland Chinatown Coalition and beyond is as follows:
Make the Final Plan reflect the current diversity of incomes in the neighborhood
- Require policies for heights and density to provide community benefits, such as a requirement to include the construction of affordable housing along with any new market-rate construction.;
- Create a requirement in the Plan where 30% of new units developed on publicly owned land are made affordable (including for extremely low and very low-income families) through a housing overlay zone (such as increased density, increased height, reduced parking requirements, unbundled parking, etc., in exchange for affordable housing).
Development should strengthen and enhance the existing community
- Chinatown is a vibrant neighborhood that is desirable and transit-rich, but development should not be done at the expense of the existing community. Community members have prioritized mixed-income & family housing, two-way streets, support for small businesses, additional active park space, new community / youth centers, and strategies to address air pollution from car traffic (such as the creation of a Parking Benefits District in Chinatown).
- There are successful cities and neighborhoods around the country, such as Berkeley, San Leandro, San Diego and Seattle, which have adopted policies for heights and density to provide critical community benefits.
Oakland and the region benefits from mixed-income housing for working families
- While market-priced housing makes up 70% of the housing in the neighborhood now, affordable housing represents 30%. The plan should include mechanisms to preserve this ratio that supports current small businesses and allows workers to live close to their jobs.
- Almost 90% of families in the neighborhood earn less than $75,000, which would qualify them for affordable housing. An astounding two-thirds of Oakland residents are earning less than $75,000 and would not be able to live in this neighborhood without affordable housing.
- Currently, a majority of workers within the planning area are in the service employment and retail sectors, and typically cannot afford market-rate housing. With most job creation in the planning area anticipated to be office and retail, housing needs to be made affordable for these future workers, whether they are waiting on tables, cleaning offices, or selling merchandise.
Chinatown is a vibrant neighborhood that must be protected, not displaced and destroyed
- More than 80% of the neighborhood’s residents are renters, who are highly susceptible to in-direct displacement (through gradual market-rate rental increases) if affordable housing is not preserved and developed. Almost all rental apartments that are not subsidized or are exempt from the city’s rent control ordinance are near the BART station, the area most likely to see the greatest price appreciation as a result of development on the blocks adjacent to the BART station.
- There is already a mismatch between the low incomes of neighborhood residents and the average cost of existing housing. A significant need for more affordable housing already exists in the area now, even before more growth occurs in the area.
Oakland doesn’t achieve environmental sustainability without affordable housing near transit
- Oakland has adopted a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 36% by 2020 and 85% by 2050. One strategy for the City to achieve both its greenhouse gas reduction and housing goals is to maximize the number of affordable housing units in transit-oriented development.
- Low-income households are more likely to engage in practices that promote sustainability – they are less likely to own a car, more likely to carpool or take transit, more likely to walk, and generally make shorter trips than households of middle to high-income levels. Locating housing for people of lower incomes closer to transit doesn’t just make economic sense, but is more environmentally sustainable by facilitating greater transit use.
- Development targeted to high-income households means core transit users, such as renters and low-income households, can be in-directly displaced by higher income, car-owning, non-transit riders, defeating the goal of transit-oriented development.
Without affordable housing and anti-displacement policies, regional funding is at risk
- MTC and ABAG have adopted a goal to “House 100% of the region’s projected 25-year growth by income level (very-low, low, moderate, above-moderate) without displacing current low-income residents.”
- As part of the regional Sustainable Communities Strategy, the Lake Merritt BART Station Area has been designated a “Priority Development Area” (PDA). Regional agencies are calling for affordable housing and other anti-displacement policies as a criteria for securing regional transportation investment and funding. Ensuring affordable housing in the Lake Merritt Station Area Plan will help to acquire that funding for the area.
Current projects and status of the plan area:
Currently, there are no major projects underway in the area right now. Several developers have expressed an interest in the area, but have since changed their minds on account of various challenges, including the overall strength of the local economy, engineering challenges with developing over the BART station, and attaining a level certainty of requirements to be asked of development in exchange for entitlements to develop.
However, one affordable housing developer (EBALDC, who also happens to be a GCC partner) is currently in the process of designing and financing a 100+ unit development at 11th and Jackson Streets, within the project area.
GCC partners are currently working with City staff, key stakeholders and allies on finalizing the plan. Our main concern of the plan not including a mechanism to achieve neither community benefits nor affordable housing remains. City staff is responding to this by developing a broader “development incentive program” (or “DIP”) which will allow for density bonuses to be given to developers in exchange for the provision of community benefits (to be determined). GCC partners acknowledge the need for this community benefits program, but are concerned that the mechanism while not prove to be a viable way to win the construction of affordable housing (which is expensive and for which many feel there is no nexus to the development of market rate housing).
Current Timeline for Lake Merritt BART Station Area Plan adoption:
November 2013 – Draft EIR release
Winter 2013 / Spring 2014 – Draft EIR public hearings
Summer 2014 – Final plan adoption