Nearly 500 affordable and market-rate housing units will be built around BART’s Lake Merritt station over the coming decade following the approval of the project by the transit agency’s Board of Directors on Thursday.
The development will include a pair of housing complexes as well as a publicly accessible plaza on what is currently the station’s parking lot.
One of the buildings will include 360 housing units, with the monthly rent for 10 percent of them capped at 120 percent of Alameda County’s area median income for a family of four, which is $142,800 in 2022 as calculated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Rent for the other building in the project, a 97-unit senior housing complex, will be capped at 100 percent of the county’s AMI.
The housing complexes make up the first of two phases aimed at developing the area surrounding the Lake Merritt station.
The second phase will include the construction of another 100-unit housing complex as well as a roughly 500,000-square-foot office building.
Construction on the first phase is expected to start in late 2023 or early 2024, while construction of the second phase will not start until 2026 at the earliest, according to BART officials.
The development has been discussed by BART officials since 2014, when the city of Oakland adopted the Lake Merritt Station Area Plan, which mapped out potential mixed-use housing and commercial development options for the area surrounding the station.
All nine members of the BART Board of Directors supported the housing development in a general sense, but the board only voted 6-2 in favor with one abstention due to concerns over the second phase and a proposal to extend the agency’s exclusive negotiating agreement with the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, which is co-developing the first phase of the project.
Director Debora Allen argued the board did not have enough information about the three-year extension to approve it in good conscience, particularly about the financial details of the agreement.
“It’s the responsibility of staff to provide this board with the appropriate information that we need to make good decisions on matters like hundreds of millions of dollars of development and destroying assets in lieu of building new assets to contribute to the housing industry,” Allen said.
BART officials argued the three-year extension would allow for pandemic-affected regional employment trends to settle and would give the agency flexibility to begin recruiting potential office tenants for the project’s second phase.
The extension also includes a pair of one-year options, according to BART officials.
As part of the larger development, BART plans to relocate the BART Police Department headquarters, which is currently located at the Lake Merritt station, to one of the Bay Fair, Castro Valley, El Cerrito Del Norte and North Concord/Martinez stations.
According to BART officials, a new police headquarters at any of the four stations would be built on their respective parking lots.
Director John McPartland, the other vote against the housing project, argued that moving the BART Police headquarters out of Oakland would put the transit agency at a disadvantage in the event of a natural disaster or terror attack.
“You’ve got to be close to where you can end up dispersing your resources,” McPartland said, using the examples of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm.
Director Robert Raburn, who represents much of Oakland including the Lake Merritt station, called the vote “a watershed day” after eight years of planning and argued that the affordable housing units will help prevent residents of nearby Chinatown from being displaced.
“I’m so proud that we are moving forward with what will be a transformative project for the Oakland Chinatown community,” he said.