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Latest Groundbreaking Of Project On BART Land Breeds Hope For Future BART Development

Rendering of Casa Arabella Phase 2 near the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland

Construction is underway for an affordable housing project over a decade in the making near the Fruitvale Bay Area Rapid Transit station in Oakland. Developers Unity Council and the East Bay Asian Local Development Corp. will build a 94-unit affordable housing complex on a BART surface parking lot, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Casa Arabella will provide housing for extremely low and very-low income levels and 20 units will be designated to formerly homeless veterans. Unity Council plans to build another 181 units during the third phase of the project, which is expected to start construction in 2019.

The second phase of the project was originally expected to be done by 2008, but resistance from BART commuters and community groups and the economic downturn led two developers to walk away from the project. The initial 47 units built during the first phase opened 14 years ago.

BART’s board of directors is hoping to expedite projects built on agency-owned land and has adopted a policy to build over 20,000 units around its stations by 2040. BART owns about 200 acres across its 46 stations, but many projects have stalled due to opposition from commuters and residents opposed to the lack of parking, shadows cast by buildings and traffic related to increased density. Projects in Walnut Creek, North Berkeley and San Francisco’s Glen Park have faced significant resistance.

California Assemblyman David Chiu has drafted legislation to create new zoning standards for transit-oriented development on BART land that would require local governments to update zoning to meet BART standards. Projects meeting zoning standards would undergo a streamlined environmental review process. State Sen. Scott Weiner has proposed Senate Bill 827 to override single-family zoning and to allow for taller buildings near transit throughout California.  

Developers and cities have been increasingly pushing for more transit-oriented development to decrease traffic and build housing near where people work. A transit village is being built near a future Milpitas BART station and developers in Fremont are developing within a transit-oriented mixed-use master plan near the Warms Springs BART station. Additional housing is being built near the West Oakland BART, Union City BART stationMacArthur BART station and planned near the El Cerrito Del Norte station.