Ever since leading tech companies Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google all landed on the West Siiiide (did you say that in your best Tupac voice?), affordable housing has been nearly impossible to find. Recently these companies vowed to find solutions to this issue in their local communities. But are their efforts enough? Some say nah.
Despite the billions of dollars they've pledged and initiatives they've started (Amazon literally opened a homeless shelter on their downtown campus), many folks feel that it might be too little too late. With homelessness rising and diversity dwindling in these communities, a lot of people believe that the money being thrown at the problem just isn't enough. Is there a better solution? That’s yet to be seen. But hey, this is a start.
A few months ago, health insurance company Blue Shield of California moved 1,200 of their employees from their old building in San Francisco to a 24-story high rise a few blocks away from the Oakland City Center BART Station. And it appears this is just the beginning. There's a whole movement happening—companies want to be based in Oakland.
Kaiser Permanente plans to build a $900 million headquarters, BART plans to create a new headquarters, and tech companies Square and Credit Karma have already signed major plans to expand their SF-based offices to The Town. And let's not forget to mention the most important development of all: FOOD. The new launch of Oakland Assembly, a 14,000 square foot, two-level market hall located at Jack London's waterfront will bring in star chefs who will be sure to fill your bellies while emptying your wallets.
All of these developments have made one thing abundantly clear: Downtown Oakland is about to see one of its biggest building booms in decades, and I'm here for it.
To help remedy the housing shortage, a rush of proposals for new Oakland towers have been submitted. It will potentially add over 3,000 residential units to downtown, becoming one of the largest building booms in the city's history. The projects would transform lowrise buildings and parking lots into a fancy glass, steel and concrete skyline.
When asked about her hopes and dreams for Oakland, Mayor Libby Schaaf said, "I like tall buildings, especially near transit." In other words, she supports denser housing downtown and hopes to see 17,000 units of new housing built in Oakland within the next 8 years.
See map below for the downtown highrise pipeline:
Developers have figured out how to spot early signs of gentrifying neighborhoods. While we often think gentrification is organically fueled by regular people (i.e. the artist, the boutique shop owner, the tech startup), much of the gentrification process is created by the irregular people too (i.e. the developers and financiers).
These deep-pocketed people are looking for a coffeehouse, a sandwich shop, enough different variety of retail establishments that it creates a key center of gravity for that community. The initial coffee shops signal to investors that the neighborhood is now open for business in a way that it wasn't before. As soon as developers detect these early signs of gentrification, they begin to empty their pockets into the neighborhood. As the Bay Area has seen, what tends to follow are the hipster bars, fancy pizza, and ridiculously overpriced ethnic food disguised as fusion something or other.
Recently, in Harlem, real estate brokers even went as far as to band together to open coffee shops in areas where they were trying to sell or lease apartments, knowing that it would be a huge draw for hipsters and businessmen alike.
All things real estate.