The inner East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most diverse places on Earth—a cultural, ecological, and economic mosaic. The people that make it home speak more than 100 languages and live in some of the nation's most ethnically mixed communities. Its natural environment is part of one of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots. Its universities and laboratories produce groundbreaking inventions, Nobel-prize winning authors and poets, and the brainpower that fuels California’s economy.
For decades the inner East Bay has been a place that people come in search for a better life; a place where it is possible to expand cultural and scientific boundaries, fi nd or create a welcoming community, create a new business, and live close to natural wealth. It has been the arrival point for waves of immigrants that have formed thriving communities. It provided a new home for Dust Bowl migrants and the stage for the counterculture that emerged around Berkeley in the 1960s. It was the end of the Transcontinental Railroad, the place where African-American migrants settled to create a Black community that has shaped politics, art, and music.
Today the inner East Bay is in a period of transition marked by pockets of growing prosperity and efforts to address longstanding disparities. Its cuisine and arts scene captures the attention of The New York Times and Conde Naste. In some neighborhoods homes are regularly sold twenty-five percent above asking price and rents escalate close to fifty percent per year. Shuttle buses to Silicon Valley add stops in North Berkeley and Fruitvale to serve a growing East Bay tech workforce. Industrial building vacancies approach historic lows in Richmond, San Leandro and Hayward, anchored by innovative companies in industries ranging from robotics to chocolate. New policies begin to address the unequal health and career outcomes of children born in different zip codes.
The East Bay is uniquely situated in the region. Neighborhoods around BART stations in Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley, Oakland, San Leandro and Hayward are a shorter transit ride from central San Francisco than most neighborhoods in the city itself. The extension of BART to Silicon Valley in the next decade will continue to increase access to jobs and regional attractions. These neighborhoods offer or are planned to offer the services, shops, and public spaces sought by the region's fastest growing groups—single adults, young couples, and elders. They are places where it is possible to walk to a grocery store, clinic, park, or community center and to quickly reach a vast network of trails and open spaces by bicycle or car. And despite rising costs of living, these communities remain affordable in comparison to San Francisco, the Peninsula and Silicon Valley.
The growing allure of the East Bay creates a paradox. Affordable housing, access to education and available building space have allowed generations of innovators to nurture the ideas that help define the East Bay and make it attractive to newcomers. Today many of the longtime businesses and residents that form the unique fabric of the East Bay must decide between moving and making major personal and financial sacrifices. In 2013, the most recent year for which reliable data is available, 53 percent of renters paid more than a third of monthly household income on rent, and 27% spent more than half. Among homeowners with mortgages, these figures are 47 percent and 19 percent, respectively. While less consistent data is kept for rents in commercial and industrial buildings, stories emerge daily of local businesses and community organizations moving or closing due to major rent increases or evictions.
Beyond adding household stress and instability, escalating rents represent a loss of resources that could otherwise be spent on local businesses or invested in education and job training. For the low income families and fixed-income seniors that make up many East Bay communities, rising housing costs often leads to displacement—which is linked to poor health outcomes, increased incarceration, reduced educational performance, and even shorter life spans.
The inner East Bay also faces long-term challenges to its natural environment, safety, and economy. The Hayward fault places homes, businesses, and infrastructure in harm’s way during earthquakes. Rising temperatures and tides threaten water supply, health and the safety of homes and infrastructure. Despite recent retrofits to roads, transit, homes, and water and sewer systems, the East Bay is by most accounts not prepared for a major earthquake or the impacts of climate change. The quality of education in the classrooms of low and higher income communities has been unequal for decades. Access to healthcare, community services, healthy food, and parks continues to vary by community as well.
These challenges represent opportunities. Most, if not all, spill across city and county boundaries. Inner East Bay jurisdictions are taking steps to find creative solutions to problems they cannot solve alone. Already, jurisdictions are partnering to expand high-speed broadband access, create a comprehensive trail network, coordinate health services, and bridge gaps in transportation networks.
The East Bay Corridors Initiative builds on this spirit of collaboration to create a platform for identifying and achieving shared priorities. The Initiative is a partnership between 13 jurisdictions, county and regional agencies, and community and business organizations connected by transportation, economic, ecological and cultural networks. The Initiative starts in the places where many of the East Bay’s greatest challenges and opportunities hit the ground: in the neighborhoods, main streets, and downtowns identifi ed by jurisdictions for future investment and growth. These are Priority Development Areas (PDAs)— places planned by communities for new housing, jobs, improved parks and streets, and essential services such as healthcare and grocery stores.
The inner East Bay's PDAs form a corridor between Rodeo in the north to Union City in the south. At the center is Downtown Oakland—the East Bay's regional center and focal point for transit, employment, and culture. Situated around BART stations, the mixed-use downtowns of Berkeley and Richmond anchor the northern part of the network; Fruitvale, downtown San Leandro and Hayward—all anchored by a BART station—play this role in the southern portion. PDAs along traditional main streets—San Pablo Avenue and International Boulevard/East 14th Street/Mission Boulevard— connect these centers and provide space to improve services to residents and expand housing choice. PDAs with major redevelopment sites around BART stations—Coliseum, Bay Fair, and Union City—are future centers that will add to the job and housing opportunities in the East Bay.
Each PDA includes numerous development sites for housing at a variety of income levels, commercial development, and community facilities. These sites are all close to transit and existing or planned services and amenities. They are among a limited number of locations in the region with these qualities—making the revitalization of each crucial to creating a sustainable future for the East Bay and the Bay Area.
Through the East Bay Corridors Initiative, jurisdictions are identifying a set of shared priorities. The goal is to evolve the PDAs and surrounding communities into a network of thriving neighborhoods, downtowns, and avenues—each of which play a role in making the East Bay a more connected, economically vibrant, and equitable place of opportunity. Looking ahead, the Initiative also provides a platform for partnering with community organizations, businesses and other organizations to address broader issues of shared interest such as industrial land, resilience, water, and energy.
The next section highlights the Priorities developed by Corridor jurisdictions. The final section outlines partnerships and funding sources for implementation.