316-Unit Development in Oakland to Seizes on Rare Opportunity to Provide Supportive Housing

By Meghan Hall

Ten years out from the Great Recession, the Bay Area has experienced a long, sustained period of growth, with unemployment dropping and—as developers have failed to keep up with housing demand—soaring rental prices. Many cities have implemented mandatory affordable housing requirements into planning documents in an effort to keep people at all income levels within the Bay Area, but few developers think to include supportive housing in their plans. Oakland, Calif., -based nonprofit housing developer EBALDC has teamed up with Abode Services, however, to propose 50 units of such residences as part of a greater 316-unit mixed-use development called The Phoenix located at 801 Pine St.

“The fact that EBALDC has joined up with Abode to bring forth this project is really exciting,” said Michele Byrd, director of housing and community development for the City of Oakland. “One of the things that we find is that a lot of people are in need of housing, but they are also in need of supportive services, so the ability to have the two looped together is great.”

In addition to the supportive housing, 51 units of affordable housing dedicated to those who earn less than 60 percent of AMI will be included in the development. The remaining 216 units will be market-rate housing, and all housing types will be broken down into a combination of studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartments. However, permanent supportive housing is different from affordable housing in that it provides vulnerable populations—such as those who are homeless or are suffering with mental illness—with both housing and medical, behavioral and mental resources to get people back on track. In addition to the housing proposed, EBALDC and Abode plan to include a 7,837 square foot administrative office for case workers, property managers and others who will work to reinforce the health and safety of the development’s residents.

The development will be broken into four separate buildings, of which the fourth building will also include a 27,501 square foot, one story maker space as a designated location for local artists to practice, ceramics, metalwork and sculpture. The space will also support other light industrial uses and custom manufacturing art media. Project plans also include 130 parking spaces for residents. In total, the project would be comprised of six buildings, covering 268,569 square feet.

It can be difficult for affordable housing projects—especially supportive housing proposals—to make their way through the pipeline because of a lack of funding. According to Byrd, projects are often competing for county Prop A1C funding that would allow projects to move forward. But there are more projects than there is funding available.

“There are a tremendous amount of projects vying for funding,” said Byrd. “I think that’s one of those frustrations of why it takes so long to do affordable housing projects, because the layering of the financing and the limited ability to be successful in financing on the first run.”

During the last funding cycle, the City of Oakland had two supportive housing proposals vying for county funds. Only one made it through on the first round to secure funding, although Byrd said the second followed close behind. In the case of The Phoenix project, the city has provided EBALDC and Abode with an over-the-counter grant for acquisition worth $600,000, which allows the development team to apply for A1 county dollars.

“We will be fortunate to see three permanent supportive housing projects moving forward with construction in the next one to two years, which is phenomenal because there has been a gap we need to bridge from transitional housing to permanent housing,” said Byrd of the proposals, which includes The Phoenix, if approved.

According to Oakland City officials, the site is well-poised for such development do to the diverse neighborhood in West Oakland in which it is situated.

“In general, it is an area that has a tremendous mixed-use,” said Bill Gilchrist, director of planning and building for the City of Oakland. “In a broad sense just given the overall urgency around housing in the City of Oakland, it seemed a good prospect to meet some of this demand and to do so around these market segments.”

801 Pine St. is located just off of Interstate 880 and 7th St., and it is also several blocks away from the West Oakland BART Station. Downtown Oakland is just about a 10 minute drive away.

The City of Oakland just completed its environmental analysis for the project, but EBALDC and Abode will still need to go through the permitting process before they can begin construction, which could take another year. Currently, the project site is vacant and undeveloped but has been undergoing a remediation process associated with former land uses, according to public documents. The development would be constructed in five phases, with the supportive and affordable housing components and their associated offices constructed in Phase One. Phase Two would include one of the residential buildings, followed by the maker space in Phase Three and the final two residential buildings in Phases Four and Five. Each phase is anticipated to take about a year.