- Sensitivity to the scale of the surrounding neighborhoods.
Each of these TODs is higher than the density of the surrounding, primarily single-family neighborhoods. However, they are scaled to fit into the neighborhoods, with highest densities closer to the station, and tapering to lower densities further from the station. At several of the stations — Butterfield, Power Inn and Royal Oaks — the RT station site is in a predominantly commercial/industrial area, some distance from existing residential neighborhoods.
- Bringing new amenities to the surrounding neighborhoods and communities.
In each of these projects, the TOD development is meant to provide new housing options for the region and new amenities to the nearby neighborhoods. At Cemo Circle, the developer is preserving a nearby creek and building the pedestrian bridge. At Royal Oaks, a new plaza and new retail options are being introduced. At 65th Street, neighborhood-serving retail is being introduced, and at Power Inn, the developer is considering a series of access improvements (new streets, a tunnel connecting Folsom Blvd. to the station) to link the surrounding areas and commuters to the station.
- Primarily market-rate, with some affordable units.
All of the RT projects are primarily market-rate. The percentage of affordable units at each site is still being determined, but envisioned in the range of 10 to 15 percent.
- Attempt to help create a station area neighborhood, not only a new residential project.
RT envisions the TODs not as individual projects, but as part of a process of neighborhood building at each of the stations. To that end, each residential project is placed in the context of other neighborhood elements (open space/public space, neighborhood serving stores, additional public services) and/or to linking the station to nearby neighborhoods. At Butterfield, the residential development not only will bring neighborhood-serving retail, but also RT is considering a pedestrian bridge over busy Folsom Boulevard to link to the single-family neighborhoods on the south. At Royal Oaks, the development includes new office and retail elements, as well as the residential project, and includes the plaza and walkway for neighborhood events.
1. The emerging market for infill housing of some density.
The Sacramento region is a highly auto-oriented region, with a very dispersed housing stock, at less than 5 units per acre. Single-family housing remains the main housing product in development in the fast-growing area suburbs of Elk Grove and Folsom. However, the past five years has seen the emergence of residential projects in planning and even in development of in-fill housing of densities over 20 units per acre.
The most dramatic of these projects have been in downtown Sacramento, where at least two developers believe there is a market for high-rise living. A 39-story tower (Aura Condominiums) and two 53-story towers (Saca Towers) have received entitlements. Though both of these projects recently have stalled with financing problems, city officials continue to express belief that they eventually will be built, and that high-rise downtown living will find a market in the region.
More relevant to the TODs are the three- to four-story projects, in the range of 25 to 40 units per acre, that are being built just east of the state capitol, such as those being built on the L Street corridor, between 18th and 21st. These rentals and condominiums are proving financially viable.
How extensive the market is today and in the next few years in Sacramento for multi-family in-fill housing remains to be determined. However, the number of developers coming to RT with development proposals for station sites (three developers have approached RT in the past few months on the Florin station site) indicates that, at least among the development community, there is belief in a growing niche market for in-fill, rail station-based housing in the region.
2. A transit agency board and general manager emphasizing implementation.
RT, along with the other governmental entitles in the region, has been interested in TODs for more than two decades. During this period, several planning studies and charrettes have been held on station sites. However, it is only in the past three years that projects have moved into the development and pre-construction stages, and the new general manager and board have been a main impetus.
The general manager, Beverly Scott, who came to RT in October 2002, made it clear from her start that she wanted to see projects built, not discussed further. Scott meets regularly with real estate staff on each project’s progress, and has encouraged staff to drop developers who do not move forward on their projects. She has contacted the city and county planning and economic development officials to make each TOD a project partnership.
The board too has emphasized implementation, and individual board members are involved in the planning and advocacy of specific projects in their cities.
3. Financial participation of the city and county governments.
Both the city and county governments have recognized the link of land use and transit as a priority for land development. To that end, they have undertaken station area plans for stations at Swanston, Florin, 65th Street and Meadowview.
RT recently contacted the city and county regarding financial partnerships for station implementation, in line with the partnerships undertaken in recent years for nearly all of the TODs in the nearby Bay Area. The Bay Area TODs, at stations on the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and the Peninsula CalTrain lines, have near uniformly included the financial partnership of the local municipality. At the Richmond BART station, for example, the $75 million Richmond Transit Village has been in development over the past 12 years, and includes a mix of public transportation funds, as well as $3.5 million in local redevelopment funds for the Nevin Walkway and plaza. At the Dublin/Pleasanton Transit Center and TOD, the county of Alameda and city of Dublin have contributed county-owned land to subsidize the BART garage and infrastructure, waived the city of Dublin traffic impact fees and contributed county-owned land for an interim parking lot.