Letter From the Executive Director - Our Partnership with UrbanCore

Dec 1, 2015

 

Dear Friends,

Our organization recently decided to partner with UrbanCore Development to build affordable housing at the City-owned East 12th Street site near Lake Merritt in Oakland.  We are thankful for the work Eastlake United for Justice (EUJ) has done to ensure that this portion of public land includes affordable housing.  Without their tireless volunteerism and advocacy, the City’s original requirement that the site be limited to market rate housing would have proceeded.  With that in mind, we are motivated by several factors in entering a partnership with UrbanCore:

  1. Mixed Income Neighborhoods:  We believe that mixed-income neighborhoods provide more opportunities for all residents than neighborhoods that are not mixed.
  2. BART Area Planning: For over six years, EBALDC worked closely with a Coalition of Chinatown non-profit organizations, churches, residents and business owners as part of the Lake Merritt BART Station Area planning process.  The plan covered a half mile radius around the BART station that included the East 12th Street site.  Our East 12th proposal conforms to the Chinatown Coalition’s guiding principles, and is a model of the mixed-income housing that the Coalition advocated for.
  3. Financing: When Redevelopment Agencies were eliminated by the State, Oakland lost a major funding source for community improvement.   Our work with UrbanCore demonstrates that new development can help to pay for affordable housing and other community benefits needed by existing residents.  In our proposal, there are no City funds required to build 90 units of affordable housing and the market rate development will pay for a range of community benefits that include much needed funding for tenant counselling.  City funds will thus be available for other affordable housing developments.

UrbanCore approached EBALDC with the goal of incorporating a meaningful affordable housing component as part of their development.  We partnered with them to incorporate the maximum feasible number of affordable housing units, and to accomplish a number of other goals identified by the community, both within the project and in the neighborhood.  The outcome of this partnership will be more affordable housing, units for larger sized households, a market-rate building that targets a range of incomes-  including those accessible to working families, and community gathering space to benefit all residents. More specifically: 

  • Design for Mixed Income: UrbanCore agreed to reduce the bulk of their previous design in order to add a smaller mid-rise building for affordable family homes on the same parcel. The value of the market-rate building will pay for the affordable housing.
  • Community Participation: EBALDC will incorporate an inclusive community design process, as we have done with the design of all of our new buildings.
  • Workforce Housing: We saw an opportunity to create a mixed income, multi-family community that reflects the diversity of Oakland. Our homes will be available to  90 households between 30% and 60% AMI, a range affordable to families in such professions as teachers, caregivers, security guards, receptionists, construction laborers, and non-profit workers—a population of the workforce that needs affordable home options in Oakland more than ever.  
  • Family Gatherings & Programs: We are designing shared ground floor space and programming to bring together residents from the buildings and the broader neighborhood. By having the affordable housing and market rate housing share a single civic space as an entrance, along with shared amenities for everyone in the complex, we see the East 12th Street site as an opportunity to demonstrate the viability of mixed-income developments in Oakland.
  • Tenant Protections: We are committed to continuing our work with the community to support enforcement of rent controlled-land and other tenant protections.
  • Neighborhood Stabilization: We will also leverage our own organizational equity/experience to ensure that other existing apartment buildings in the neighborhood remain available as affordable, stabilizing resources for the community, regardless of future over-heated market conditions.

EBALDC is focused on helping to build the community assets, partnerships, and programs that create healthy neighborhoods. We strongly believe that mixed-income neighborhoods are healthier places that provide more opportunities for residents.  By providing spaces and activities that bring people together to share traditions, culture and creativity, residents can connect to provide opportunities for youth and low-income people to thrive. 

It is not unusual to have some people pushing us to build fewer affordable homes and others pushing us to build more. As a community development corporation, we welcome robust and positive conversations that lead to developments that make neighborhoods more inclusive, resilient, stable, and healthier places for all of us.

The City is in the process of reviewing five proposals for the site, including ours.  As the process continues, we look forward to keeping you updated and hearing your thoughts. Thank you for your support.

Sincerely,

Joshua Simon

Executive Director