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Resources for Community Development E-Newsletter

Winter 2011

Family Rentals? Infill? Service and Transit Oriented?

History is our guide

Rental units for working families, infill sites, and easy access to transit, services, and retail are part of our history, reaching as far back as 1879!

We hope you enjoy this look back and peek forward that highlights some of our work to preserve housing at our oldest properties, to show how creating homes for people is both historic and futuristic, the unfolding of a dynamic process.


In 2001 a collection of neglected Victorian homes came into our portfolio when the City of Oakland asked RCD to take them over from another non-profit developer.  We acquired them, brought them under management, and began to restore them.

These properties are located in West Oakland in what was known historically as the Oakland Point District, one of the largest, most intact Victorian neighborhoods of Oakland.  Oakland Point is the closest land in Oakland to San Francisco.  The area attracted both commercial and housing development early in Oakland’s history, partly because it was well served by transit: ferry, train, horse car, and electric street railway. 

Oakland Point’s housing was built primarily for working people, with a few larger homes mixed in that were often occupied by the developer of the surrounding rental homes.  Typically, the owners were small business people who lived and worked in the area and were active in the community.  Originally built as single-family rental housing, they now range from single family to four-units.

Real estate developer John Ziegenbein, who lived nearby at 1004 Peralta Street, built two of these properties. He developed a large group of similar 2-story, Italianate houses that featured hip roofs, 2-story bays, porticos, and often, a porthole. His obituary in The Enquirer in January 1889 notes that he built 300 homes and enabled people to own homes with an installment purchase plan and that he kept “a large force of men almost constantly employed” over a period of 18 years.  Three cheers for Mr. Z!

Opening walls reveals the past

Each of these gems of Queen Anne and Italianate design required major investment by RCD to make them habitable and bring them up to building code.  We started from the ground up to repair floors, windows, roofs, the electrical, plumbing, and heating systems, and to give everything a fresh coat of paint.

Opening up the walls revealed secrets like coal chutes with coal still in them and hidden stairways to a wood paneled attic.  The architectural features common to Victorian homes – high ceilings, decorative molding, bay windows, woodwork –once again graced these homes.

The road to the next round of renovations started with a Physical Needs Assessment in November 2008, which means we were “shovel ready” when over $1.5 million in loans became available from the City of Oakland in 2011. 


Your donations help keep us “shovel ready” for the next opportunity, whether it’s evaluating a potential site or existing property, compiling data to assess the physical needs of our properties, or preparing a 350-page funding application.  Thank you for helping us create the next opportunity to open doors for more housing and services for more families!


You may donate securely online or mail a donation check payable to RCD to: 2220 Oxford Street, Berkeley CA 94704

Eight of these properties recently received some exterior "TLC" to protect them from the elements and repair some of the effects of aging. Exterior work sealed and protected the buildings, including replacement and repairs to siding and trim, painting, roof repair, and site drainage improvements.  

The second phase of the work will start and finish in early 2012 and will include new fencing as well as interior work.  Kitchens will be refurbished and electrical work will improve life safety with hardwired smoke detectors.

These properties continue their historic service to working families.  We can all appreciate the foresight of the early developers who built for the long-term.  Their legacy includes values we pursue in housing development today:  quality design and construction; housing that meets the needs of lower-income working people; and locations that are near transit, retail, services, and jobs.

Infill that helped a downtown grow

The City of Oakland is a longtime supporter and partner in preserving its historic housing.  When RCD acquired it in 1994, The Hotel Harrison was a single room occupancy hotel, long past its heyday, but historically significant.

Architectural historian Anne Bloomfield described the construction of the 1915 Hotel Harrison as part of a civic improvement plan led by then Mayor Frank Mott, as well as a response to the need for housing for the construction workers on the Panama Pacific International Exhibit and subsequent visitors.  She wrote that it was typical of “infill development in that they employ the early 20th century composition and styles of more important buildings … [It] conveys the sense of pre-Depression infill commercial development just east of Oakland’s main downtown.”


Harrison Hotel


In 1995, the hotel began its transformation to The Harrison, 81 units of housing for people with special needs, including 59 units that are rent-subsidized through the Oakland Housing Authority and Alameda County’s Shelter Plus Care Program.  This allows very low-income and formerly homeless people to pay only 30% of their income for rent.

Over half of the $5.8M rehabilitation went to seismically strengthening the building, including the addition of steel bracing to the frame and foundation.  Other improvements included substantial renovation of the heating, electrical and plumbing systems, including a new elevator and fire sprinkler system.  Major reconfiguration of the residential floors made the rooms suitable for permanent occupancy.

Eleven years later, a $5.6 million loan from the California Multi-family Housing Program allowed RCD to replace windows and frames, upgrade the plumbing, re-roof the building, and refurbish the common spaces. 

Now, in the first two months of 2012, we will use funding from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Weatherization Assistance Program grant from the City of Oakland to focus on energy and water conservation.

Harrison residentsReady for a second century of service

The Harrison will enter its second century with green, energy saving upgrades including lighting replacements, Energy Star refrigerators, low-flow water fixtures, an energy-efficient water heater, programmable thermostats, and a cool roof coating.  These improvements will provide a more comfortable physical space for the residents and conserve natural resources.

It takes a commitment that can span many years to convert a neglected building into a community asset.  Then one day, there are no hammers pounding.  The people coming in and out are residents. A full calendar of services programs for them is posted in the lobby.  It’s suddenly clear that people have been living their lives in safety and stability for quite awhile.  People who may have once been without housing are now part of The Harrison community, bringing vitality and economic support to downtown Oakland.

From all of us at RCD

Thank you very much for your care and concern for the people who live at our properties. We appreciate all that you do to ensure that housing and services are available … transforming lives now and building a strong foundation for the future.

We wish you a happy holiday season and all the best in 2012,

Dan Sawislak, executive director, and staff

Shema Al Mahbashi • Heidi Andrews • Carolyn Bookhart • Sabrina Butler

Charles Che • Grace Dixon • Liz Eckstein • Michael Gliksohn • Pera Gorson

Janice King • Eric Knecht Pollyanna Lee • Linda Mackey • Kate McKean

Lisa Motoyama • Peter Poon • Jessica Sheldon • Ebony Smith


Thank you to our enewsletter sponsor: 
Union Bank



Comments or suggestions: contactrcd@rcdev.org



© 2011 Resources for Community Development
2220 Oxford Street • Berkeley, CA 94704
Phone: (510) 841-4410 • Fax: (510) 548-3502