Mixed-Income Transit-Oriented Development in the Bay Area

Transit-oriented developments (TODs) are fast becoming reality at major transit stations in the region. Along the BART system alone, eleven communities with stations have completed or approved TODs, and 25 projects are in planning or negotiation phases. Further, station area planning based on MTC’s new TOD policy (Resolution 3434) is underway along several proposed transit extensions or proposed new systems such as Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit District (SMART) and the Dumbarton Rail project. Land values near transit stations have increased at such a rapid pace that in many locations it may now be feasible to build market-rate housing (along with the requisite replacement parking). This confluence of the market and policy is promising for infill development and for increasing transit ridership — both important smart growth goals. Yet, the same economic conditions that are making TODs possible in the Bay Area’s weakest sub-markets are also raising housing prices and rents beyond reach for the region’s lower-income residents. As a result, there is a growing concern that TOD projects’ overall impacts will not benefit existing communities and will miss the opportunity to grow stable mixed-income communities. The most effective way to ensure that the benefits will extend to local communities is to nurture their visions from within and support local efforts with the necessary implementation and communication tools.

CCI is working with Reconnecting America and the Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California to frame and support the Great Communities Collaborative's work advocating mixed-income transit-oriented development in the Bay Area (initiated by The San Francisco Foundation). An initial framing paper made the case for why mixed-income housing must be a part of all transit-oriented development (TOD) and why transit is so important to mixed-income communities. Based on the paper, we coordinated a symposium in winter 2007 for planners and policymakers. As this project continues, we are providing technical assistance on an ongoing basis to many different Bay Area TODs as they try to provide affordable housing.