The Last Mile
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Destination Stations, continued...
Jeff Pace, Vice President of the
Council which manages the Village, says that it was one of the
very first to be envisioned in terms of a revitalization of a neighborhood
that needed some substantial improvements and investments. "In the early
90s, TOD wasn't a catch phrase," he says. "Now it is, mainly because of
the work done here. It really was envisioned as a completely different
kind of development that would put services and amenities all in the same
place next to mass transit." The second phase at Fruitvale will provide
450 units of condominiums and town homes. Unity will provide down payment
assistance up to $150,000 and will expand that with additional resources.
Transit villages promote sustainability by definition, but what about
adding energy efficiency and green building components? Says Pace, "We
think that we could have taken more opportunities to do more green
building in phase one. But things like building materials, smart systems,
water runoff, we are looking at those opportunities in phase two. We're
looking at roof lawns and solar and low emission paints and all the things
being done in green construction. To the extent those are palatable for
the overall development, that would be a selling point. There are people
who will self-select to be in a healthy and sustainable development."
Upcoming TODs will be bigger, braver ventures. An example is
Pleasant Hill, a TOD around a BART station that broke ground in
Contra Costa County in 2006. BART is part of a joint powers authority (JPA),
along with the county and the county redevelopment agency. There will be
40,000 square feet of retail and community space and 290,000 square feet
of office space, a child care facility and conference center. This is
already near a very large industrial complex. Another development within a
half mile is 1.2 million square feet of office space, 1,242 residential
units and two hotels. "We'd love to have transit oriented development at
every BART station where it's feasible," says BART's Martindale. Indeed,
according to the California Department of Transportation, TODs increase
the use of public transportation by 20 to 40 percent.
A sprawling office and housing complex like Pleasant Hill is just what
Steve Raney of the nonprofit
21 organization sees as the landscape above which would run a
personal rapid transit cars
on monorails. Each
station would be off the main track, so cars holding from one to four
passengers could race along to their destinations without stopping.
Heathrow Airport in London is putting in the first PRT's, and Raney is
sure that when developers and government agencies see the working systems,
they will be in a race to build them into their TODs.
Jeff Hobson is policy director for the
Transportation and Land Use Coalition
(TALC), a Bay Area
nonprofit that tracks TODs and transit villages. He cites a study by
Reconnecting America's Center for Transit Oriented Development
which shows that demand for compact housing near transit is likely to more
than double by 2025.
"There is a lot of planning going on right now for new transit villages in
the SF Bay area," says Hobson. "More than 30 planning processes are
underway or recently completed. There are another 40-50 new developments
near transit stations expected to be built." Energy efficiency and green
building are coming into play. "A lot of these places are looking for
(Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)
certification for individual buildings," says Hobson, "and some, I
believe, are looking for LEED's new
neighborhood development certification.
They are certainly
going for the full gamut of environmental sustainability issues."
site, previously an ammunitions manufacturing facility in downtown
Hercules , is set to be converted into a transit village. It's
urban design project
that will provide a mixed-use development
of live-work units and waterfront promenades. Residents will choose from
trains, ferries, buses, and a light-rail BART to get around. Steve Lawton,
director for community development in this Contra Costa town says the
village is in planning stages, with 600 housing units already constructed
and lived in.
The town has re-planned itself with a whole new set of rules about
building suburbs. "We're the first city in California to adopt a
form-based code that prescribes building types and dimensions of streets
as part of the zoning," explains Lawton. "What that does is set a new
direction for cities to grow sustainably…to be able to have a rational
discussion about transportation, energy and land use in a city.
"The idea is you build housing and office uses around transit and have
transit be part of the fabric of the community and not something that's
glued on later with big parking lots around it. If we're going to really
effect, in any kind of scalable and significant way, energy consumption in
this country, we have to change the fundamental ways in which we live.
Those are fighting words to many people, but what we're doing here is
demonstrating what that actually means. The challenge we have in city
government is feeding the development as fast as they want it. Instead of
opposing development, we actually have citizens asking for more. This is
very rare in California coastal government."
Transit villages are not exclusively a northern California phenomenon. The
which has experienced an unprecedented revitalization of
its downtown areas in the last decade, is home to
a "vertically mixed" TOD. A light rail trolley
stop is built directly into a 34-story office building and the
Diego Museum of Contemporary Art.
A development company put up
$5.2 million of the financing and $1.2 million came from the city's
Metropolitan Transportation Development Board.
Since the TOD
was completed, thousands of high rise housing units have been built
residents waged a long and contentious battle over a
light rail line that runs from downtown Los Angeles through upscale
residential neighborhoods to the
Memorial Park METRO light rail station.
According to Laura
Dahl, senior planner for the city, the development was completed eight
years before the light rail opened, because the rail project was delayed
due to community objections. It consists of around 300 units, 20 percent
of it affordable housing.
Actually, says Dahl, the city of Pasadena is like one big transit village.
"Over the past 15 years we have built close to 4,000 units in our
downtown," she says. "Everything is in walking distance to one of our
three rail stations, even if it's not built right at the transit lines."
Michael Dieden is the founder and president of
Creative Housing Associates.
An urban infill and transit
village community developer, he has worked on dozens of transit villages.
CHA is currently developing transit villages in South Pasadena, Oakland,
Riverside and San Diego. "We're planning one in
Rosa to be the first high level LEED rated TOD,"
he says. Right
now, CHA is part of a public-private partnership in the city of South
Pasadena with the Metropolitan Transit Authority and
a transit village on the Gold Line. "It took eight years. The biggest
challenge was convincing investors and banks that people really wanted to
live near transit and were willing to give up a car and use it. We sold
all the houses in one month with no marketing.
"Working with government entities was great," he says. "The city staffs
and MTA people were fantastic. They were enlightened and can-do people and
wanted to make sure this would get built. They were as undeterred as I
was." A futurist, Dieden feels that at some point soon there will be no
more greenfield development in California. "The only things will be
downtowns, where there is transit. The automobile is rapidly becoming an
obsolete form of transportation. We can't sustain it.
"Global events are really shaping how we need to reshape our lives. I
foresee in our lifetime that freeways will be peeled up in California.
There will be a time when freeways won't come into cities and bifurcate
them. Not only will the air quality and sanity come back, but those
corridors that have been very depressed will come back in very thriving
neighborhoods. We'll no longer be dependent on going to the supermarket
and parking in a nine-acre parking lot to get a loaf of bread."
Takes a Transit Village"