Reimagining El Cerrito Plaza BART – Ideas and Inspiration

Special thank you to community member Cara Houser for writing this! To join the conversation, please comment below or email plazaforthepeople@gmail.com to get involved.

Introduction

We’re excited about the opportunity to transform El Cerrito Plaza BART station into a vibrant gathering hub with mixed-income housing, shops, restaurants, and public spaces. A thoughtful plan will enhance and serve the existing neighborhood residents as well as the broader community, which relies on BART and surrounding amenities and services.

Important Considerations  

…to keep in mind as we partner with BART, city leaders, and the development team to create a concept that benefits both nearby residents and the community as a whole. Here, we offer some ideas and invite you to share your vision and ideas for the space. 

A successful design would provide ample opportunities for homes near transit, with high quality design/materials and opportunities for delightful public gathering spaces— shops, cafes, and art. Happily, these goals can be complementary, if done thoughtfully. More dense projects near transit provide not only a greater number of environmentally sustainable homes, but also free up funds and space to use for quality design, materials, and significant enhancement to the public realm. 

·      Transit + Access – Provide excellent transit, bike, and pedestrian access around the area. Building housing in walkable communities adjacent to quality transit and amenities is shown not to lead to increases in cars or traffic. These homes attract residents preferring a car-free lifestyle. Studies are beginning to address the significant issues of BART access for people unable to walk or outside of walking distance. Ideas to support access include:

  • Subsidizing bikes and e-bikes,
  • Enhanced bike lanes / safe routes to the station area,
  • Secure bike parking,
  • “Last mile” bike rentals,
  • Bike and scooter share,
  • Ride share,
  • Local shuttle service, enhanced local bus service
  • Carpooling to a reduced number of spaces at or near the station, and more. 

·      Housing + Sustainability – Creating higher-density housing around transit is an impactful way we can support mixed-income housing opportunities, a healthy commercial sector, and environmental sustainability. Compact development dramatically reduces the need for driving, which for most people is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. This relieves pressure on green areas that would otherwise be used to build suburban sprawl. Multifamily homes, built to current standards, are far more energy efficient simply by design. The double benefit goes to families who are relieved from crushing commutes, pay less in utilities, and who enjoy improved quality of life. 

·      Public Realm + Plaza + Art – A neighbor envisions this space as one where he could arrive home from work on BART and meet up with his family or friends, grab an outdoor table and relax/eat/drink while kids play at the adjacent park/plaza, with perhaps a band playing, and public art on display for all to enjoy.

·      Shops + Restaurants + Amenities –  A higher concentration of residents at this transit hub will not only support existing neighborhood businesses, but add new retail amenities such as cafes, restaurants, and bars (with outdoor seating). These could spill out onto the public plaza, providing opportunities for chance encounters, events, and recreation for all to enjoy. Imagine sunset at a rooftop bar/restaurant with breathtaking bay and city views!

Ideas and Inspiration 

This section includes a number of selection of ideas, images, and precedent projects that integrate mixed income housing, art, and public realm plaza spaces. We’d love to hear from others as to additional examples of interesting/ successful/ noteworthy projects.  

·      The Passage (in San Mateo) is a mixed use development adjacent to a transit hub that strives to deliver “lifestyle as a service.” Elements include: landscaped open space, public art, restaurants, shopping, entertainment, childcare, wellness amenities, and housing into a multi-faceted community. Though the site is larger in scale than ours, it provides some interesting mixed-use mid-rise building and site design concepts. The following three images are from this project. More info here and here

·      The former Regatta Plaza strip mall in Aurora, CO – replaced by retail with apartments plus nearby office and entertainment uses across from a light-rail station. From “Transforming Inner-Ring Suburbs with Walkable Mixed-Use Development” – link below.

·      A selection of images illustrating the intersection of homes and public spaces + art, from projects in a lower rise neighborhood in SF, such as Dogpatch. Note the last one, which shows a lovely rooftop deck in the evening. Imagine a rooftop bar/restaurant where residents and visitors could enjoy the incredible bay views.  See Resources section below for links.

·      This image is not from EC, but you get the idea of a rooftop bar with views!

If you’d like to join the conversation with fellow community members, please contact plazaforthepeople@gmail.com or fill out the contact form here:

https://plazaforthepeople.org/contact/

Resources

On creating thoughtfully designed, enjoyable, walkable, and sustainable mixed-use transit hubs in mid-sized inner ring suburbs.

·      https://archive.curbed.com/2019/6/24/18715939/real-estate-development-walkable-urbanism

·      http://www.designforwalkability.com

·      http://www.designforwalkability.com/station-center

·      http://www.designforwalkability.com/walkability-principles

·      https://www.abettercity.org/assets/images/Inspirational-Ideas-for-Boston-Public-Realm.pdf

·      https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/02/arts/design/a-prescription-for-plazas-and-public-spaces.html

·      https://www.fletcher.studio/300-ivy

·      https://www.fletcher.studio/the-dogpatch-artwalk

·      https://www.fletcher.studio/950-tennessee

·      https://www.fletcher.studio/the-landing

·      https://www.fletcher.studio/the-station-center

·      https://www.fletcher.studio/the-passage

·      http://passagesm.com

·      https://urbanland.uli.org/development-business/inner-ring-revitalization-transforming-aging-suburbs-walkable-mixed-use-development/?submitted=true

·      https://www.greenbelt.org/climate-smart-development/

·      https://www.greenbelt.org/research/strategies-for-fiscally-sustainable-infill-housing/

·      https://www.greenbelt.org/mission-vision/

·      https://www.fastcompany.com/90554205/if-covid-19-pushes-people-to-the-suburbs-how-can-we-make-them-more-environmentally-friendly

·      https://news.berkeley.edu/2014/01/06/suburban-sprawl-cancels-carbon-footprint-savings-of-dense-urban-cores/ 

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