.Town Business: Developer Wants to Stick MacArthur BART Tower’s Affordable Units Entirely in Bottom Quarter of Building

The Oakland City Council will vote on Tuesday night whether or not to give final approval for construction of a 24-story apartment tower adjacent to the MacArthur BART station.

The developer agreed to a number of valuable community benefits to gain original approval for the project in 2008. But the building increased in size since then, so now Councilmember Dan Kalb is asking his colleagues to require about a million dollars in total neighborhood improvements.

Kalb is also asking the developer to not cram all the affordable units into the building’s bottom quarter, as is currently proposed.

The tower would include 402 apartments and ground floor retail. Per the original agreement for the project back in 2008, 45 of the apartments would be priced below market-rate.

The existing terms also require the developer, McGrath Properties, to sign a project labor agreement that includes a 50 percent local hire requirement.

At the Oakland Planning Commission’s February 1 meeting, the commission added that the developer has to ensure jobs in the retail spaces of the building, and custodial and other contract jobs maintaining the building, pay Oakland’s living wage. There will also be a ban-the-box policy to prevent employees with criminal conviction histories from automatically being screened out of employment.

Kalb and city planning staff also want several more meetings between the developer and the community to shape the project’s final design. And the following;
  • $250,000 to build a new recreation center at Mosswood Park. The old center was destroyed by fire last November;
  • $350,000 for “beautification” of West MacArthur Boulevard where it passes under the freeway and connects to Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. This could be fancy lights and/or a mural;
  • $15,000 worth of new trees planted around the neighborhood;
  • $25,000 paid by the developer into the neighborhood’s residential parking permit program;
  • Ten years of subsidized transit passes for residents of the building’s affordable units, costing about $110,000;

  • And a $50,000 donation to an Oakland NGO.
But the placement of the affordable units has become an issue too.

Kalb wants to make sure the developer doesn’t stick all of the building’s lower-income residents on the lowest floors, with the top floors and splendid bay views reserved only for the elite.

Currently, according to a city staff report, the developer is proposing to jam all the affordable units in the bottom quarter of the building. Kalb wants some of these units higher up. However, he’s not proposing that any be put in the building’s top half.

Correction: the original version of this story incorrectly identified the $350,000 as money that would be used to beautify 40th Street. It will be applied to West MacArthur Boulevard instead.


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