Tassafaronga Village: Affordable Green, Gold and Platinum in East Oakland

Oakland, California’s Tassafaronga Village is a new mixed-income, green neighborhood development that is bringing a high degree of environmental excellence to a traditionally underserved portion of the city’s Elmhurst district. A federally assisted HOPE VI development built by the Oakland Housing Authority, Tassafaronga is replacing 87 deteriorated public housing units with 60 affordable apartments in a new, three-story building, an additional 77 in a section of new two- and three-story townhouses, and 20 more, along with a medical clinic, in an adapted building that formerly housed a pasta factory.

In addition, Habitat for Humanity is building 22 affordable, for-sale townhomes on the site. (Habitat has also constructed a nearby project that I really like in another portion of East Oakland.)

Tassafaronga has been certified by the LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot program at the gold level, and the individual homes, which incorporate solar power for the generation of electricity and hot water, are being built to platinum standards under the LEED-Homes program. The development has also won awards from the Pacific Coast Builders Conference as “best green sustainable community of the year” and “best infill, redevelopment, or rehab site plan.”

Site improvements include reconstructed streets with traffic calming, green stormwater infrastructure, and green roofs. In addition, the apartments are designed to hide a parking structure to their rear, and the Village includes a common public plaza as well as semi-private shared outdoor spaces within each of the three main clusters of housing. The Local Initiatives Support Corporation provided $25.3 million in equity financing with low income housing tax credits through its National Equity Fund.

There is an abundance of bus transit nearby, as well as a BART line to the Village’s southwest, though the nearest BART station is a longish walk from the edge of the site. Bus rapid transit is planned for the commercial corridor visible to the east. There are two elementary schools, a community center and a park bordering the site, as well as a pharmacy, hardware store, eateries and food markets within walking distance. The site’s Walk Score varies from 49 to 60, depending on where the measurement is taken; that is below average for Oakland, but one hopes that Tassafaronga can be a catalyst for further neighborhood improvements, including additional shops and services.

LISC characterizes Tassafaronga as a development that not only builds new homes, but also transforms an under-served, tough neighborhood, with “an example of how affordable housing can be built attractively and responsibly.” I agree, and congratulations to the sponsors for their well-earned awards.

I have lots more good photos and some additional commentary here for interested readers.

Kaid Benfield is director for sustainable communities and smart growth at The Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, DC. He has his own blog on land development and community issues and enjoys contributing here, too, since there is so much common ground.


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