Despite Oakland’s current residential building boom, many low-income — and, increasingly, moderate-income — families and individuals face displacement and homelessness due to rising rents and a lack of affordable supply. As part of the annual Low-Income Housing Challenge run by Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, a team of CED students devised an innovative proposal designed to take advantage of a recent executive order by Governor Newsom encouraging the usage of publicly-owned lands for public good.
According to team member Matt Fairris, the governor’s order “opened up a new inventory of sites that could be leveraged for future housing development. We began digging into the state-owned inventory and identified our site at 1225 4th Avenue in Oakland that met all of the criteria for maximizing the impact of affordable housing, given its close proximity to schools, transit, and job centers, in an area with an extensive network of existing community organizations and support for affordable housing development,” he shared. Their proposed 3-building development, “Gateway Village,” is situated within the Eastlake neighborhood directly southeast of Lake Merritt.
The winning competition team was comprised of six students from the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design. Members Frankie Arias (MRED+D ‘19), Caroline Chen (M.Arch. ‘20), Matt Fairris (M.C.P. ‘19), Jenna Frowein (M.Arch. ‘20), Julie Mendel (M.C.P. ‘19), James Perez (M.C.P. ‘19) worked with advisors Carol Galante, Brad Wiblin and Michael Pyatok to craft a 85-page proposal detailing the project’s historical and geographical context, market demographics, site and entitlement overviews, design concept, community partnerships, funding sources and financial strategies.
The Cal Housing Associates Team presented their final projects to a jury with expertise ranging from affordable-housing development to architecture and finance. This win marks the 17th time UC Berkeley was awarded first place since the challenge commenced in 1992. The challenge was first conceived as a business plan competition for undergraduate and graduate student to inform, educate, and attract the next generation of affordable housing professionals.
Lead Photo (l-r): Cal Housing Associates Team James Perez (M.C.P. ‘19), Julie Mendel (M.C.P. ‘19), Caroline Chen (M.Arch. ‘20), Matt Fairris (M.C.P. ‘19), Jenna Frowein (M.Arch. ‘20) and Frankie Arias (MRED+D ‘19)
Location and Resident Analysis
When conducting site analysis for the project, the team discovered a strong desire among residents for a wholly affordable housing development. Eastlake has been a site of tension among Oaklanders regarding responses to the region’s housing crisis. In 2016, neighborhood residents came together to vehemently oppose the sale of a publicly-owned remainder parcel on 12th Street, near Lake Merritt, to a private developer without any affordable housing requirement. After much public protest, the city agreed to halt the sale and solicit other public proposals for developments that included affordable units. Though the community-generated proposal for a 100% affordable housing development ultimately failed to secure the city’s support, the experience illustrates how deeply felt the housing crisis is among Eastlake residents.
More than 83% of residents in Eastlake are renters, and about 45% of this group falls below 60% of the area mean income – a figure higher than much of Oakland and significantly higher than Alameda County averages.
According to data published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, approximately 70% of Oakland’s low-income renters are cost burdened, with the large majority paying more than 50% of their income towards housing.
Forthcoming 12th Street transit improvements and pedestrian and bicycle-first developments made the site location particularly appealing. The site is also located within a half-mile of many amenities, including two preschools, an elementary school, two high schools, the downtown Oakland Public Library, Oakland Museum of California, Laney College and Lake Merritt. Also noteworthy are the various community service providers nearby, many of which reflect the rich history of Southeast Asian immigrants in the neighborhood.
About Gateway Village
Gateway Village is a 100% affordable rental development offering 298 units across three buildings, linked by open-space terraces, courtyards, and a mid-block crossing. Named for its location between downtown Oakland and East Oakland, Gateway Village relies on a bold mix of financing sources and an innovative phased development plan to build a community where kids, teens, and adults can reach their full potential. In sum, the proposal included:
- A 154-unit building (in the shape of a U) for low-income families and individuals (including studios for Transitional Age Youth ) at 80% area median income (AMI) and below — targeted 1 completion Q2 2023
- A 60-unit building (in the shape of an L) for low-income and formerly homeless families at 60% (AMI) and below — targeted completion Q4 2024
- An 84-unit third building (in the shape of an I) for low-to-moderate income households between 60% and 120% AMI — targeted completion Q4 2024
According to Fairris, the 3-building design allowed, “a more interesting design and ultimately allowed our team to provide an at-grade courtyard open to the public, something community stakeholders saw as a big benefit to the community. Comparable sites of this size typically phase the overall development, but very few projects of this scale are able to achieve a 100% affordable project, given financing challenges. Given the governor's executive order, the land will be provided at a low-cost, allowing us to reach the deeper affordability levels and provide all units at below market rents,” he said.
The project features a diversity of units to accommodate for the different populations ranging from large families to transitional-aged youth. Each unit was designed to maximize space and provide daylighting within each room. Family units were designed to cluster bedrooms together to ensure the ability for parents to easily supervise their children within the unit.
Though the spirit and intention of the project is endorsed by the City of Oakland and various nonprofit and community groups, the proposal is currently an academic exercise only. Read about the history of the challenge on the Bank of America Merrill Lynch website.