Rising rents in the Bay Area have made the developers of Cathedral Gardens in Uptown Oakland grateful they were able to create the project.
For Dianna Ingle, EAH Housing vice president of real estate management, being able to bring high-quality housing that’s affordable to a low-income community was deeply rewarding.
“Cathedral Gardens provides families a steady, dependable source of housing that’s close to shopping and transportation,” said Ingle. “I see this community as half housing and half hope. Families have the chance to spend less on housing and more on their children and saving for the future.”
Located in the transit-oriented Uptown Oakland neighborhood, Cathedral Gardens adds 100 units to an area in dire need of affordable housing. One of its three buildings is a former rectory that was built in 1916 to house staff of the Saint Francis de Sales Cathedral that was built by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland in 1893. The cathedral suffered extensive damage in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and was demolished in 1993.
“We’re thrilled to have created a community that honors a historic site and renews the surrounding area,” said Ingle. “We’re honoring the significance of the historical site by naming the community Cathedral Gardens.”
But getting to that point was never an easy road, said Mary Murtagh, EAH housing president and CEO. EAH Housing had made offers to purchase the Cathedral site, but was unable to reach agreement on a price during the peak of the real estate boom.
“Following then Mayor Jerry Brown’s initiative to create 10,000 units of market rate housing in Oakland, purchasing land in downtown Oakland was close to impossible until after the 2008 crash,” she said. “In February 2009, the Oakland Housing Authority purchased the site from the Diocese of Oakland and leased the land to EAH Housing.”
Construction began in June 2012 and ended in November 2014.
“Completion of the property occurred just in time to serve the sky rocketing need for housing in Oakland as local rents began to surge in the tech boom,” Murtagh said.
In addition to creating housing opportunities for low- and extremely-low income families, construction of Cathedral Gardens has helped with the physical cleanup of the Uptown area, developing several neighborhood partnerships, installing new landscaping to increase usability and safety of the local park, an influx of more than $30 million into the local economy for construction and staff jobs, and an increased effort in sustainability for high-density affordable housing.
On the property, residents have access to a variety of community facilities including a community room, afterschool homework center/technology lounge, workout room and laundry facilities. During the Cathedral Gardens application period, 5,000 applications were submitted.
“This project has received enormous community support, and support from the city of Oakland, Oakland Housing Authority to revitalize an otherwise unused, forgotten site,” said Ingle. “Partnerships with organizations that help special needs populations allow Cathedral Gardens to provide outstanding social services for tenants.”