12 March 2010


I like local architect David Baker: he runs a cool firm, supports good orgs and causes, bikes everywhere, and has designed a lot of in-fill, multi-family projects around the Bay in recent years, with a lot more on the drawing boards.

And I'm a big supporter of SPUR--the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association--and their work and programming, which until recently was headed by the amazing Jim Chappell.

But two recent SPUR events were billed as tours of new green, *transit-oriented development (TOD) projects designed by Baker: Ironhorse in West Oakland and Tassafaronga Village in East Oakland. And I would venture that ultimately, because of where they are and how unconnected they are, they are definitely not TOD, and ultimately not green.

Ironhorse is one of the new developments around the historic, but still abandoned, Central Station in West Oakland. The tour included a twenty-five minute walk through blocks of empty lots, warehouses, and manufacturing from the West Oakland BART station--how is that TOD? We know there are few places to build new, affordable housing in the Bay Area, and I believe fervently in brownfield remediation, but how green is it--in fact how healthy is it--to build new housing between manufacturing, the Nimitz Freeway, and the Bay Area's major shipping port?

It's nice to see that the tour of Tassafaronga Village involved getting SPUR members out on their bikes, but that's probably because again, it's a twenty-five minute walk through warehouses, empty lots, manufacturing, and major trucking routes to the Coliseum BART station.

I'm not saying that these are not worthwhile, well-designed, and much-needed affordable housing developments; but they are not TOD; and I think we need to have more thought and discussion about the inaccessible, unhealthy places we build new affordable housing in the Bay Area, and that ultimately, 'affordable' housing where residents need to own cars isn't even affordable housing.

And in case you've never seen the inside of Central Station, abandoned since rail service was discontinued in the 70s, here are some pictures from a recent event I attended there--pretty amazing:


  1. wow those substation pics are really cool.

    and i love that you're talking about how just building a "green" building -- if it's built somewhere totally inaccessible and isolated -- doesn't do the trick! the folks living there won't be living green lives!

  2. or affordable: residents will have to keep a car instead of walking, biking, or taking mass transit


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