San Leandro Housing Development Meets The New Realities Of The Post-RDA Era

April 9, 2012 | A poor economy coupled with the end of redevelopment agencies has transformed a once-hyped downtown housing strategy in San Leandro into an opportunity for a local tech company to expand its footprint beside the San Leandro BART station.

The San Leandro City Council, in a work session Monday night, will hear proposed changes to the San Leandro Crossings project, once hailed in good economic times as a centerpiece in its transit-oriented development push linking the BART station to East 14 Street. The project was put on hold in 2010 when a key part of the developers’ consortium dropped out of the project citing the poor economy. The loss of tax credits from the state and insuffienct guarantees the development would be built also put the entire plan in limbo.

The vastly scaled down plan to be presented by the community development office will replace a large chunk of the currently undeveloped land west of the BART tracks with a 100,000 sq. ft. expansion of the nearby OSIsoft building on Davis Street. Included will be additional parking lots in the foot print of what was originally over 200 affordable housing units.

Former Crossings plan featuring
additional housing west of BART.

The inclusion of OSIsoft, which also partnered recently with the city in financing a fiber-optics loop around the downtown, has been known since last fall. Luke Sims, the director of community development, told the council in October that changes to the Crossing project were imminent. “The project is stalled, but I wouldn’t say it is dead,” he said. “We will go forward, albeit, perhaps in a little bit different way.”

True to those words, the proposal tonight will highlight a switch in developers for the portion of the project known as “The Cornerstone” on the east side of the San Leandro BART station. The developer Bridge Housing will take over the proposed 200 units set aside for very low and low income families from the developer Westlake. No changes to that portion of the new plan differs from the old concept, according to the staff report.

The changes may be one of the most discernible new realities of life without redevelopment dollars where public/private partnerships reign and difficult compromises are needed to keep state and federal tax subsidies flowing. The revamped Crossings projects appears to hold true to both of those new ideals. It bolsters the city’s relationship with OSIsoft while continuing to angle for affordable housing credits. Unfortunately, it also edges out a third component of the original vision–market-rate homes and the city’s quickly deteriorating objective for fostering walkable, downtown living in the future.

The stretch of land potentially destined to become part of the OSIsoft campus and additional parking lots, under the old plan was to featured over 100 low income housing units along with a four-story parking garage. The project, formerly known as “The Alameda,” is deemed by the staff report as “no longer viable.” Much of The Alameda plan will be moved to eastern Cornerstone plot and significantly transforming the original concept of the downtown experience.