David Baker Architects

Estuary Commons


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Image: All Bay Collective

View "Resilient Equity Hubs: Policy, Finance and Design in the Face of Sea Level Rise" here.

This webinar originally aired on 7/9/18 and was produced by the AIA Housing Knowledge Community and the Open Architecture Collaborative.

People and Place and a Path Forward
 

Estuary Commons is a product of a year of work by the All Bay Collective (ABC), one of ten multidisciplinary teams who were selected to participate in the 2018 Resilient By Design | Bay Area Challenge. Comprised of academics, engineers, scientists, designers, and others, All Bay Collective team was charged with developing a vision for a resilient, sustainable, and equitable future for San Leandro Bay, which encompasses portions of Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro.

ABC’s vision is deeply informed by the history of this estuarine environment, the urgent challenges facing the communities that surround it, and the longer-term infrastructure risks that are already becoming apparent. Designing for resilience requires us to think differently about how resources and places are shared, and we must recalibrate how communities, government agencies, and private entities co-create their socioeconomic and physical environments. Working together with stakeholders and community organizations through a process of learning and co-creation led us to Estuary Commons.

The idea of the Commons derives from a rich political and urban history. It joins people and place through shared management of resources for the benefit of all. A commons is at once the public process of governance and civic life and the spaces that bring us together. ABC envisions Estuary Commons as a network of communities joined in mutual obligation to share and manage the resources of a working urban landscape. Locals have been referring to San Leandro Bay as “The Estuary” for years, and Estuary Commons reaffirms this community-conceived identity and speaks to the shared place, process, and path forward that will drive resilient outcomes for generations.

Enlarged Site Plan at Tidal Cities. Image: All Bay Collective

Housing Affordability
 

David Baker Architects was specifically engaged for our housing design expertise, our experience working in East Oakland, and our focus on addressing complex social and ecological challenges through housing design. In addition to future vulnerabilities associated with climate change and sea level rise, housing affordability is perhaps the greatest threat to the diverse communities that ring San Leandro Bay. As cost of living rises astronomically, unprecedented pressures on individuals and families have the power unravel the fabric of neighborhoods. Social resilience is, at its core, about cohesion of community. This form of resilience is rooted in the bonds of people and place that develop slowly over time.

The ABC team realized early on that any proposal to foster resilience along the San Leandro Bay must confront the the challenges of gentrification and displacement through a robust approach to housing affordability. We proposed four strategies for ensuring that at least fifty percent of all new housing is affordable to Moderate, Low-income and Very-Low Income Households: streamlining development of accessory dwelling units, dedicating vacant parcels to 100% affordable housing, incentivizing the provision of below market rate units in new development and engaging the community land trust model to provide opportunities for affordable ownership.

Shorter term affordability housing strategies include incentive zoning for inclusionary housing, rezoning vacant parcels for 100% affordable development, community land trusts, and accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Image: All Bay Collective

For immediate impact, we looked to Accessory Dwelling Units, also known as ADUs, as a method of quickly increasing housing supply and density in a granular, bottom-up fashion that provides additional income to existing landowners in the community at a scale compatible with the existing neighborhood character. The cities of Oakland, San Leandro, and Alameda all allow ADUs on single family lots. However, ADU implementation is not as widespread as possible. This is due to a number of reasons including the extremely high cost of construction locally, and lack of knowledge about the legality of ADUs. We encourage the cities of Oakland, San Leandro, and Alameda raise awareness about the legality of ADUs, as well as minimize permitting fees, streamline the approval process.

We also developed a new type of ADU, which we call a Resilient ADU, to be built in areas that are vulnerable to future groundwater rise. These Resilient ADUs would be constructed above flood levels or in another manner that addresses the ground water threat. We propose that, if homeowners in these areas are allowed to charge market rents for their ADUs, they will be required to use a portion of the revenue to upgrade their existing homes to be fortified, as well. Over time, this bottom-up approach has the potential to retrofit a portion of the existing housing stock to be more resilient, while at the same time increasing housing supply.

Second, we propose setting aside and rezoning significant areas of underused land for 100% affordable housing developments. This includes existing vacant parcels or groups of existing vacant parcels large enough to support 100% affordable housing development. It also includes transit oriented development zones, also known as TODs. In the early phases, we would focus the International Boulevard TOD catalyst zones, which have been identified as part of the planning process for the new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. In later phases, this would include parcels located on top of the relocated, underground 880 corridor, between San Leandro Street and Amtrak. It would also include a percentage of the higher density parcels in the Tidal Cities.

Third, we recommend that any new market rate housing development be incentivized to provide a percentage of below market rate (BMR) housing. In TOD zones along International Boulevard and San Leandro Street, higher density makes sense economically and environmentally, so offering additional height is an appropriate means to incentivize additional affordable units in these zones. This would yield greater density and housing supply in transit-rich neighborhoods, while at the same time ensuring that a significant portion of that housing is set aside for families and individuals with below area median income levels. Both affordable and market rate TOD developments provide opportunities for mixed use projects, that would include opportunities for community amenities, local businesses and resilience infrastructure.

Value transfer to the existing neighborhoods can begin on day one by earmarking future income generated by new TOD zones along International Boulevard and BART. Image: All Bay Collective

Fourth, we propose a Community Land Trust (CLT) model for the the development of new Tidal Cities housing and within existing neighborhoods, where CLTs can ease the transition towards waterproofing homes and constructing infill housing on vacant land. CLT residents own buildings individually and their land collectively. When a new resident buys a home with the land trust, they pay a below-market price set by the CLT, then lease the space for the house from the CLT. When a resident sells his or her house, it is at a price set by the CLT, which provides some gains from the value increase of their home, while maintaining long term affordability. This model ensures that housing within the CLT stays affordable in the long term while fostering a sense of community and ownership. A communal ownership model also encourages the development of shared amenities and spaces that promote social resilience.

In addition, we sought to increase affordable ownership in Tidal Cities is by encouraging live-aboard boats. Purchasing a boat is a substantially lower investment than conventional real estate, and boats provide a source of diverse and inherently resilient housing on the water. Boat slips located along docks owned by the CLTs can be rented out to boat owners.

Resilient Equity Hubs (REHBS)
 

One of the key pillars of our team’s approach was a concept we called, “Quadruple Bottom Line,” which refers to a broader interpretation of resilience to encompass the social, ecological, economic, and governance realms. REHBS is a part of the Estuary Commons proposal that seeks to realize the quadruple bottom line throughout the San Leandro Bay, starting on day one. DBA developed a mechanism transfer of value created by infrastructural improvements outlined in our proposal to implement neighborhood benefits such as microgrid PV installations, Green Streets, community buildings, and open space improvements.

Long-term affordability strategies include community land trusts within the new Tidal Cities neighborhood sand new 100% affordable and inclusionary development atop a new high-density corridor between BART and Amtrak. Image: All Bay Collective

Tidal Cities Urban Design
 

David Baker Architects was charged with developing the urban design vision for a key component of the Estuary Commons proposal, called Tidal Cities. Tidal Cities envisions a new way of living with flooding through localized excavation and berming to buffer the combined impact of both rising tides and groundwater. This dynamic shoreline landscape combines landforms, living levees, and tidal ponds with floating, mixed-use urban neighborhoods. These neighborhoods will be adaptable to future flooding, isolate contaminated soils, and be more resilient to earthquakes. Tidal ponds provide an ideal location to build floating neighborhoods made from prefabricated units craned onto shared decking and supported by pontoons. Floating buildings are less susceptible to liquefaction. Excavating and containing old industrial soils safely sequesters contaminants before they are mobilized in rising groundwater. Housing densities could be as high as 50-100 units per acre.

Tidal Cities is a new mixed-use urban district designed to embrace future water-level rise. Image: All Bay Collective

Enlarged Site Plan at Tidal Cities. Image: All Bay Collective

Tidal Cities pondscape with two- and three-story walk-up floating housing connected by pontoons. Higher density mixed-use development is located on the berms beyond. Image: All Bay Collective

Image: All Bay Collective

Image: All Bay Collective

Shorter term affordability housing strategies include incentive zoning for inclusionary housing, rezoning vacant parcels for 100% affordable development, community land trusts, and accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Image: All Bay Collective

Value transfer to the existing neighborhoods can begin on day one by earmarking future income generated by new TOD zones along International Boulevard and BART. Image: All Bay Collective

Long-term affordability strategies include community land trusts within the new Tidal Cities neighborhood sand new 100% affordable and inclusionary development atop a new high-density corridor between BART and Amtrak. Image: All Bay Collective

A Community Land Trust with a shared community building in foreground. Image: All Bay Collective

Tidal Cities is a new mixed-use urban district designed to embrace future water-level rise. Image: All Bay Collective

Enlarged Site Plan at Tidal Cities. Image: All Bay Collective

Tidal Cities pondscape with two- and three-story walk-up floating housing connected by pontoons. Higher density mixed-use development is located on the berms beyond. Image: All Bay Collective

awards

Best of Design Award Editor's Pick—Unbuilt Master Plan
The Architect's Newspaper

project details

Category

Affordable Housing, All Projects, DBA_Lab, Unbuilt , Urban Design

​Location

San Leandro, CA

Master Planner

AECOM

Architect

David Baker Architects

Landscape Architect

CMG Landscape Architects

Permalink

www.dbarchitect.com/EstuaryCommons