Transit Oriented Development
Case Study – Richmond Transit Village: Partnerships in building housing
The Richmond Transit Village in Contra Costa County is a mixed-use, transit-oriented infill project spanning nearly 17 acres. The project is located at the City of Richmond’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Amtrak Stations to provide high density housing within walking distance of public transit. The main goal of the project is to work proactively with the city, local businesses and residents, the developers, transit agencies, and government partners to plan for the continued economic revitalization of the station and the station area, primarily along Macdonald Avenue.
The transit village project was facilitated by an innovative approach taken by BART and the Richmond Redevelopment Agency to use the existing station property for new residential development instead of surface parking. The transit village contains 231 units of ownership housing; 27,250 square feet of retail space; a 3,700 square feet intermodal transit station which houses facilities for transit operators; a five-story, 800-space parking garage for BART with 9,000 square feet of ground-floor retail; and multiple townhouses and live-work units. The project also provides 50% of the homes to moderate income buyers. BART approved a new five-level garage to cater to BART parking demands, as well as neighboring retail and civic uses.
Richmond Intermodal Transit Plaza
Policies/Ordinances that Contributed to Project Success
Richmond Transit Village has successfully transformed underutilized land while promoting transit ridership and home ownership. Despite the increase in the overall production of affordable housing, the City would like to see more affordable units incorporated into market-rate housing projects. To do so, the City amended its Zoning Ordinance to incorporate changes in the State’s housing density bonus law that provides incentives for projects receiving a density bonus.
To date, about 800-900 housing units in the downtown area have been approved, mostly on vacant land, including 200 market rate units, 80 for very low-income seniors (built with reduced parking), plus two projects for 206 affordable units. Another 97-unit for sale project was approved with a 20% inclusionary housing requirement.
The plan will add an estimated 1,240 new transit trips daily and increase pedestrian and bicycle activity, but additional traffic congestion at certain intersections may require mitigation. The plan’s traffic impact analysis was conducted using the LOS (level of service) methodology focusing on automobile traffic and vehicle delay while considering the effect of the transit investments and bike/pedestrian features in the plan on reducing automobile trips.
Challenges and Lessons Learned
At each phase, new guidelines, ordinances and laws have been created to address challenges that arise. Currently, most of the developers elect to pay in-lieu fees as an alternative to providing the affordable units required under the City’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance. However, the City’s Density Bonus Ordinance does not specify the amount of parking reductions.
As part of the Zoning Ordinance Update, adopted on November 15, 2016, the city evaluated potential incentives. The goal of these incentives was to ensure adequate provision of affordable housing as mandated in Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) 2014–2022 Regional Housing Needs Allocation. In their findings, ABAG found that most residents in Richmond are spending more than 30% of their income on rent, which is why the city adopted in-lieu fees and density bonuses into their updated zoning ordinance. The city has “a total need of 2,435 units through the year 2022, out of which just over 29% is for low and moderate-income households and another 18% is for very low and extremely low-income households.”
Another challenge that the city is experiencing is attracting more mixed-use developments. Funding available for market rate financing is very limited, and the city and developers have not qualified for new markets tax credit for developments near the transit village. The plan calls for mixed-use income developments for this major activity center and needs financial support to build it.