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FRUITVALE BART TRANSIT VILLAGE CASE STUDY

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FRUITVALE BART TRANSIT VILLAGE The Fruitvale BART Transit Village is an example of community-based planning which responds to immobility by moving the services to the people who need them. The centerpiece of the plan is the Bay Area Rapid Transit District's (BART) commuter rail station located in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland. The Spanish Speaking Unity Council, a community development corporation serving the 51,000 people in this neighborhood, has taken the lead in the revitalization of the BART station area. It has proposed the Transit Village, which will link transportation with a mix of social services, retail, and residential uses. PROJECT HISTORY In 1991 BART proposed a multi-level, 600-space parking garage for its Fruitvale station. People in the surrounding community questioned the value of the garage to them, perceiving it as a wall separating the station from the neighborhood. Instead, they suggested that a planning process take place to capitalize on the presence of the station and connect it through pedestrian-friendly design to the adjacent commercial district. The Fruitvale neighborhood, so named for the fruit trees planted by its original German settlers in the nineteenth century, is now primarily a low-income area of Latino, African-American and Asian residents and businesses. According to the 1990 U.S. census, over 65% of all households in Fruitvale own either one or no private automobile. Whereas only 10% of employed residents in the county take public transit to work, 20% of Fruitvale residents do so. The average household size is 3.24 persons, above the county average of 2.66 persons. And almost one-fifGh of the residents lack basic English skills. Given this demographic profile, the Spanish Speaking Unity Council viewed the BART parking proposal as an opportunity to further economic redevelopment through a public-private partnership. The Unity Council is a major force in the fabric of the community, operating a large Headstart program, a senior center and senior congregate housing. It runs a Neighborhood Watch program against crime spearheads a Main Street improvement district, and advocates on behalf of the neighborhood for such amenities as underground utilities and open space expansion. Thus, it was natural for the Unity Council to take the lead as the planning and redevelopment agency for the Transit Village project. - _ ~ .. . . ~ .. . .. i_ .. . . . .. . . BART withdrew its parking proposal and agreed to participate in a broad- based planning process. A 1992 Community Development Block Grant of $186,000 from the City of Oakland allowed the Unity Council to begin its outreach and to plan a Design Symposium. According to the project director, "The receipt of this grant meant that the community had become politically empowered and had the ability to build on that success.") Five prominent Bay Area architectural firs, 1

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as follows: working at a nominal cost, presented different concepts to the 100 people in attendance on a Saturday in May, 1993. From the Design Symposium emerged a basic concept that could be used for funding requests, zoning changes, and preliminary environmental review. The concept has since been refined into a site plan suitable for a Request for Proposals (RFP) soliciting a private-sector partner. The REP indicates that the private developer should "have sufficient financial capacity to commit to investing their time and resources in pre-development activities for the project, provide or acquire required equity, secure investors for market rate projects, and obtain construction and permanent financing as needed." The expected ground-breaking is April 1, 1998. DESIGN FOR MOBILITY The central feature of the Fruilvale BART Transit Village is a large pedestrian plaza surrounded by small retail uses, multi-family dwellings, and public services. The plaza is meant to draw people from the neighborhood, as well as invite BART and bus riders to explore the shops and services at the station and the connecting commercial district. The proposed residential development wall provide "eyes on the street" to foster a safe environment within the Village. The design addresses immobility by clustering social services so that they are in a one- stop, centralized location. This will bring multiple services within walking distance of existing and new residents, senior citizens located nearby, and those arriving by transit. The community services planned for the 12-acre station and its environs are La Clinica de! La Raza, a health care center in the community which will relocate and expand; a Senior Citizens Center; housing for senior citizens, already under construction on an adjacent property; a child care center; a Community Resource Center, which will be new quarters for the Unity Council; and Oakland Public :Library's Latin American Branch located in the Community Resource Center. Development of the site is integrated with the transportation infrastructure. Besides the pedestrian plaza, funded by the Federal Highway Administration, the site will contain an Intermodal Transfer Facility built with a Federal Transit Administration grant. According to the General Manager of AC Transit, the Intermodal Facility will underscore the bus agency rich service in the neighborhood and its important contribution to the viability of the area. 2

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Two four-story BART parking garages will be located behind the buildings lining the pedestrian plaza. Continuing the pedestrian-friendly concept, the City of Oakland will narrow a street bisecting the site from its current five lanes to two lanes with parking. Oakland also adopted a new Transit Village zoning category to support developments such as this, which capitalize on good transit access. The Transit Village zone specifically encourages high-density, mixed use developments and requires no new parking for commercial uses and only one-half parking space per residential unit. Negotiations are underway with Union Pacific Railroad to incorporate its abandoned right-of-way into the BART site, where a bike path may be constructed to connect with downtown Oakland. BARRIERS ENCOUNTERED Overcoming the attitudes of unbelievers was the biggest barrier to gaining support for the Transit Village, according to the Chief Executive Officer of the Spanish Speaking Unity Council. She said that the primary obstacle was disbelief that infill development in the inner city is feasible for private developers. There was also skepticism that federal funding for the transportation elements could be secured and a concern at BART that it should not stray from its core mission of running trains. But when the Unity Council was awarded a $470,00 planning grant from the Federal Transit Administration, she reports that the unbelievers said, "Wow! Then maybe it is possible." According to then Secretary of Transportation Federico Pena, the grant would be used to serve as "an example of how to blend rail transit stations with the communities they serve."2 The Unity Council's Chief Executive Officer admits that it takes an enormous government subsidy to make a project such as the Transit Village attractive to private developers. For example, preliminary estimates for toxic remediation range from $500,000 to $1,600,000. A private developer would not want to take on these costs if the company could instead build on raw land. Therefore, the Unity Council is seeking a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to cover these costs, and BART has agreed to take on some of the risk after a more detailed toxic assessment is performed. Because of the government subsidies needed, the Find raising burden is very high. This requires consummate grantsm~nship and an ability to maneuver through a labyrinth of bureaucratic rules and regulations. As an example of grant restrictions that the Unity Council could not overcome, the Chief Executive Officer cited their desire to build the senior housing over the senior center. A $7 million grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the City of Oakland is funding the 68-unit senior housing project on land adjacent to BART. A separate grant of $2.6 million from a local bond measure in the City of Oakland will be used for the senior center. Although HUD's money can be used for land payments, Oakland's bond money cannot. Because they were unable to divide the facility into condominium ownerships, the Unity Council will build each separately. 4

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Gaining the Transit Village zoning change was also a long process. The original zoning on the property would not have permitted mixed use development due to building height restrictions. Besides this change, the new zoning allows for high density housing and an increase in nonresidential floor area ratios. Another difficulty for the non-profit Unity Council members was to learn about an industry with which they had little previous interaction. They needed to acquaint themselves with the transportation industry's key players, turf issues, funding opportunities, terminology, and acronyms. This required building new relationships and trust. The Executive Officer describes the Unity Council as "a gnat" compared to the large transportation agencies and funders involved in this project. Yet, having the community-based organization as leader of a $100 million project is evidence of their success in forming industry partnerships. Further evidence of their success occurred in 1994 when BART signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOW) with the Unity Council "to cooperatively pursue the planning and development of the Fruitvale Transit Village Project." And in 1996, BART executed an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement giving the Unity Council site control. FUNDING One of the most impressive aspects of the Transit Village Project is the package of public funding that has been assembled by the Unity Council. As mentioned earlier, funds have already been identified from: . . from: the Federal Highway Administration; the Federal Transit Administration; a City of Oakland Community Development Block Grant; a City of Oakland bond measure; the Department of Housing and Urban Development; and the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, the City of Oakland has already or is expected to commit funds its Enhanced Enterprise Community Fund; and tax increments from the Coliseum Redevelopment Area. The Unity Council is pursuing or has secured additional financing from: loans and lines of credit; the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency; the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Assistance Program; the Ford Foundation; and the Hewlitt Foundation. 5

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FACTORS AFFECTING TRl\NSFERl\BILITY TO OTEIE:R AGENCIES Bringing services to the people who need them and, therefore, eliminating the need to travel is one strategy to reduce the social, economic, and Herman costs of immobility. Clustering these services around a transit hub and removing the need to travel to multiple or difficult to reach locations is a complementary strategy. The design for the Fruitvale BART Transit Village incorporates both these strategies. This research has identified key factors which are transferable to other cities and transportation organizations interested in pursuing these strategies. 1. Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Communities Principles The Fruitvale area is included in Oakland's Enhanced Enterprise Community boundaries. However, independent of that federal effort, the community had developed a Vision Statement through its planning process: "The Fruitvale will be a welcoming, diverse, clean and safe neighborhood with a high quality of life that will nurture strong families, provide economic opportunity, and promote a solid sense of community."3 This Vision Statement for the Fruitvale BART Transit Village, and the design concepts that emerged from it, manifests the principles underlying the federal Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Communities Initiative: Economic Opportunity Sustainable Community Development Community-Based Partnerships Strategic Vision for Changed Adopting these principles can be a framework for similar efforts to establish Transit Villages in other communities. 2. Leadership The above principles are, in fact, just a framework; they are useless without the leadership to carry them forward into a concrete plan. The earlier section on barriers describes the tremendous hurdles that the ambitious Transit Village concept faced. Without the leadership of the Spanish Speaking Unity Council, the vision would have withered. Similar projects will need a champion with an unwavering belief in the project and the diligence and perseverance to overcome all naysayers. Leadership must be combined with certain skills. The Unity Council's Chief Executive Officer possesses the political acumen necessary to successfully enter the unfamiliar arena of transportation. She was able to use her personal contacts with the Mayor of Oakland, the BART director representing the Fruitvale district, 6

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and federal officials to bring the Transit Village project to their attention. In addition, her ability to tailor grants to the interests of donors was essential to win crucial funding for implementation. 3. Community Support In the document Market Opportunities arid Barriers to Transit-Based Developmerz~ irz California, the authors cite localism and NIMBYism "as the biggest political hurdles to developing transit villages and building transit-based housing."5 Localism is defined by the authors as "the legal separation between control of a transit system and the control of abutting land uses." In other words, transit agencies cannot develop transit villages independently because cities have supremacy over land uses within their boundaries. NIMBYism is the "Not in My Backyard" opposition of residents to high-density development and mixed uses in their neighborhoods. The long-standing presence of the Spanish Speaking Unity Council earned them the neighborhood's trust. Beginning with the Design Symposium in 1993, the Unity Council involved the community from the outset in planning for the Transit Village. A series of workshops was held in 1995 to identif y issues and receive suggestions from the community. Through other initiatives such as the Main Street improvement district, the Unity Council worked with adjacent merchants. Using these proactive measures, the Unity Council was able to avoid NIMBYism. Even before its designation as an Enhanced Enterprise Community, the City of Oakland was committed to helping bridge the separation of land use and transportation authority of this project. The Frui~vale effort fit in well with the efforts of the City's Community and Economic Development Department to revitalize inner city neighborhoods. The City designated money for the project, changed the zoning to accommodate the Transit Village, and intends to build a city-owned senior center on the site. At BART, the director elected from the Fruilvale area has nudged some of her reluctant fellow board members into support. To combat "localism," the MOU between BART and the Unity Center established a Policy Committee to oversee the joint planning process. The Committee is comprised of the BAEtT director representing Fruilvale and another BART board member, the Mayor and a councilmember, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Unity Council and a board member. An important lesson from this case study is how developing mechanisms for community and political buy-in can effectively prevent localism and NIMBYism. Without such mechanisms, previous research indicates that those wishing to implement a Transit Village can be stopped in their tracks. 7

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4. New Measures of Success Increasing system ridership is one of BARTH development objectives in the Fruilvale BART Transit Village project. However, the quantifiable results of the Transit Village on travel behavior will not be fully known for years or even decades as the retail and housing components are built out. Yet, past research implies that this Transit Village strategy can be effective in meeting ridership goals. Robert Cervero reports that "Overall, residences and offices closest to California rail stations were found to average higher transit modal splits than places farther away. Thus, proximity was confirmed as an important factor in shaping the travel choices among station-area residents and workers."6 However, the problem statement for this TORE research suggests that there are broader measures of success than the traditional performance indicators, such as ridership, used by transit agencies. Reducing the costs of "higher unemployment, reduced tax revenue, greater welfare and medical costs, and limited social potential" is a role the problem statement envisions for transit through improvements in mobility. BART adopted five other objectives for the Transit Village project, in addition to ridership, which illustrate nontraditional measures for success: "Obtain a reasonable return on its asset and any project investments. Increase the long-term value of its existing assets. Add more activity at station areas to improve safety. Improve the physical connection between BART stations and their surrounding communities. Provide opportunities for patrons to purchase goods and services at station areas."7 Clearly, the last three objectives exhibit BARTH acceptance of a new role which links transportation and land use. Like BART, transportation organizations taking on this new role will need to develop performance measures which demonstrate how their services are integrated comprehensively into the social and economic fabric of the communities they serve. 5. Partnerships and the Bandwagon Effect At Fruilvale, the community-based organization has partnerships with both the bus and rail transit agencies, local and federal governments, small merchants, and large developers. These partnerships have been a mode} for other projects in Oakland: Stab at the City of Oakland indicate that the exceptional progress made by the Unity Council at the Fruilvale BART station has inspired planning at two other BART stations in Oakland. Although there had been preliminary interest at the MacArthur and Coliseum stations, the Frui~vale BART experience has energized community leaders and 8

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elected officials in these other neighborhoods. For example, the Coliseum station serves the Oakland Coliseum, where basketball games, rock music concerts, and other events take place. Developing the station area into a complementary entertainment village is one idea that is being discussed. The City of Oakland can supply planning tools and some funding. However, community leaders now see that their participation can leverage Oakland's support into additional funding, since community-based organizations are eligible for funding that the City is not. . AC Transit's partnership in the Fruilvale Intermodal Facility has also spawned new ideas, according to the General Manager. The Board of Directors has talked about a Livable Corridor along a major line in the system. San Pablo Avenue begins in downtown Oakland and runs through every city northward in the District. The Corridor would be "a big Fruilvale project," she says, capitalizing on good bus transportation to stimulate redevelopment with appropriate land uses. The Fru~tvale BART Transit Village process illustrates the "bandwagon" effect--where everybody wants to get on board. When transit agencies are willing to undertake innovative partnerships: One agency can supplement the strengths of another. One good idea can spin off into many. One leader can be the mode! for others who follow. Transportation organizations need to be open to participation in all kinds of partnerships--with giants, such as the federal government, and with "gnats," such as community-based organizations. Even a "gnat," as the Unity Council's Chief Executive Officer points out, can be an invaluable resource in helping transit meet its goal of increased mobility. 9

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REFERENCES Olson, :Laura, Mobility Partners Case Study: Fruitvale BAR T Community Redevelopment Project. 3. 5. 6. 7. Development Team Request for Proposals, January 1997 Development Team Request for Proposals, January 1997 Building Communities: Together, HUD, January 1994. Cervero, Bernick, and Gilbert, University of California Transportation Center Working Paper, August 1994. Ridership Impacts of Transit-Focused Development in California, November 1993. Development Team Request for Proposals, January 1997. 10