It’s no secret that the Bay Area is experiencing (and has been for quite some time now) an affordable housing crisis. This coupled with worsening climate impacts has many feeling exacerbated. At Greenbelt Alliance, we see these two crises as problems that can be tackled together. How? By building climate SMART—Sustainable, Mixed, Affordable, Resilient, Transit-Oriented—development within existing urban areas while protecting the region’s precious open space lands that provide nature-based solutions we desperately need to preserve in the face of a changing climate.
An Example of Climate SMART Development
Oakland’s Broadway Valdez District is a prime example of climate SMART development. Unanimously approved by the City Council in 2014, the Broadway Valdez District Specific Plan is well underway to bring over 3,500 new homes to the city. Greenbelt Alliance and East Bay housing organizations spent six years working with the local community, city staff, and our Better Broadway Coalition partners to ensure the plan that was passed was one that would revitalize the neighborhood with independent and national retail, affordable homes, better transit options, walkable streets, and sustainable design. Since 2014, 1,605 homes have been built, a great step in the right direction to bring more SMART homes to the Bay Area
To get a better idea of what it’s like to live in this area, we talked to Paris Badat, a resident who lives in an apartment building that was constructed as part of the Broadway Valdez District Specific Plan.
Living in the Broadway Valdez District
For many young people living in the Bay Area, finding a place that’s affordable that’s either close to work or close to transit can be a huge challenge. That was certainly the case for Paris Badat and her partner Simon. “We moved from a small studio apartment in San Francisco and were ready for more space, which we knew meant a commute,” Paris explains. “When we came across the apartment on Broadway Valdez we loved its proximity to BART and the neighborhood’s walkability to so many great places in Oakland. Plus we couldn’t beat the affordability!” she continued. In fact, 22% of the apartments in this specific building on Broadway Valdez are designated as affordable.
When Paris and Simon moved over to Broadway Valdez, they got a brand new apartment in a building that offered them a whole new lifestyle with amenities like roof access, a pool, gym, game room, co-working space, and secure bike storage. And for those who don’t own a bike, the building also has bikes residents can borrow. “I love that we have two outdoor spaces here where we can BBQ and sit around a fire with friends,” says Paris. These indoor and outdoor amenities are a great incentive for people to live within urban areas instead of moving to the outskirts of the region where they are then forced to spend hours in traffic, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, a huge driver of climate change.
As Paris mentioned, one of the main selling points for the Broadway Valdez District is its proximity to public transportation. “From our apartment, it’s a 5-minute walk to the 19th Street BART Station. This allows us to get to work easily or go to downtown Oakland or over Lake Merritt within minutes.” Paris goes on to say that, “I haven’t owned a car in over seven years so finding a place to live where a car wasn’t a necessity was essential. Broadway Valdez is super walkable with great restaurants, bars, and shops and it’s also close to nature, which was also really important to me and Simon.”
“When we came across the apartment on Broadway Valdez we loved its proximity to BART and the neighborhood’s walkability to so many great places in Oakland. Plus we couldn’t beat the affordability!”
Before the Specific Plan was approved in 2014, the Broadway Valdez District was made up of old car mechanic shops and dealerships. The re-development that has since taken place has built new homes, businesses, and retail opportunities for Bay Area residents across the income spectrum. “The neighborhood is definitely diverse, which is great to see given Oakland’s cultural history.” This method of infill development—the development of vacant land (usually individual lots or leftover properties) within areas that are already largely developed—is not only a great way to provide homes close to jobs and services, but it also revitalizes struggling neighborhoods with shops and foot-traffic that boost the local economy.
“I really do love the Broadway Valdez area,” Paris concludes, adding “I hope cities around the Bay Area can commit to building this type of development so that people can afford to stay in this amazing place I’m lucky to call home.”
Our Climate SMART Development Program
We couldn’t agree more with Paris—the Bay Area must invest in climate SMART development to tackle the affordable housing crisis in a way that’s equitable and sustainable. Learn more about the work we’re doing at Greenbelt Alliance to create SMART communities in balance with nature for current and future residents today!