BART was awarded $2.7 million in grant funding to pursue construction of affordable housing units at the Ashby and North Berkeley BART stations.
The California Department of Transportation announced the award winners of its Sustainable Transportation Planning Grant Program, which includes an allocation of $704,747 for the El Cerrito-Berkeley Corridor Access Strategy for Transit Oriented Development, or TOD.
On June 11, BART was notified that it would receive an additional $2 million for the project from the Federal Transit Administration, bringing the total amount of grant money to $2.7 million to augment city funds.
Aspects of the project have been underway since 2018. In May 2018, Berkeley held a town hall to address the development of the North Berkeley BART station and met six additional times over the last two years to address community concerns about the project.
“There has been a near unanimous position among the community that they want housing on these sites and they want affordable housing, a lot of affordable housing,” said Abby Thorne-Lyman, a TOD program manager at BART.
The goal for the project is to have 35% affordable housing.
Although the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the real estate market are unclear, Thorne-Lyman said she thinks the pandemic will not heavily disrupt project development. She added that affordable housing is not as “market dependent” and can still be built in an economic recession.
Some residents, however — especially those unable to walk or bike to the North Berkeley station — are concerned about the lack of parking access, as housing will be built on BART parking lots. Vendors at the Ashby Flea Market also said they were concerned the housing would affect their businesses.
“The grants set us up to help ensure that we have good answers to those concerns, that we have a plan that can address them, that we can engage AC transit — we work with AC transit a lot — and really come up with some viable solutions,” Thorne-Lyman said.
BART’s mobility pattern data shows that compared to 2008, riders have started walking to the Ashby and North Berkeley stations more, and in North Berkeley, biking has increased by 50%.
Driving and parking have decreased by 28% at Ashby and 39% at North Berkeley. This has been replaced by “drop off” transportation, which has increased by 100% at Ashby and 260% at North Berkeley.
Thorne-Lyman said BART is excited to see the progress being made on the project.
“The puzzle pieces have really started to all come together this month,” Thorne-Lyman said.
By summer 2021, the Ashby and North Berkeley stations will be rezoned and Berkeley will have decided whether or not to allocate “local dollars” to fund construction, according to Thorne-Lyman. She added that the city can then begin the process for choosing a developer.