improving neighborhoods

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Fine Arts Building.

38 Harriet before and after. 

Sacramento Senior Homes

Center for Sustainable Neighborhoods​

ADU by New Avenue Homes.

Housing Choices

A mix of housing types to meet the needs of the full range of local incomes, ages and family types at an average density sufficient to support a walking lifestyle is a key element of a sustainable neighborhoods.  Achieving this ideal is no easy feat, and often local zoning rules aren’t as helpful as they should be.

 The good news is that there are solutions to fit the needs in all sorts of settings, rural, suburban and urban alike. Smart planning and architectural standards can locate and shape new construction so that added density is attractive and enhances neighborhood values. Public, private and philanthropic investments in subsidized affordable housing can help assure that lower income residents aren’t excluded.


Sacramento Senior Homes, Berkeley CA

 Local, state and federal sources helped fund this project, built by Satellite Affordable Housing Associates. It features 41 homes for very low income seniors over a cafe and other ground floor retail. It is a stunningly beautiful and successful project. Nonetheless, this project almost didn’t get built. NIMBY’s sued to stop the project, claiming it would change the aesthetics of the neighborhood. Center staff oversaw development of an amicus brief  on behalf of the Sierra Club supporting this project, and helped secure a legal victory that allowed the project to proceed. 



Fine Arts Building, Berkeley CA

Built in the streamlined style popular in the twenties, this building in Berkeley California was actually completed in 2004 by Panoramic Interests. This project utilized the state density bonus to add an extra floor and in return reserved 20 of its 100 homes to serve as subsidized affordable housing. 

Center staff managed two successful campaigns secure voter approval to support transit oriented development in this neighborhood helping to create 2500 units of zoning potential for some of the most sustainable housing choices in the state. 



38 Harriet, San Francisco CA

The Center offered the first support from the environmental community for this contribution to the tiny house movement by Patrick Kennedy of Panoramic Interests. 

This building was manufactured in a factory and assembled on site, much like Michael Blumberg's pioneering factory built micro home project in New York.

 The tiny house movement has a lot to offer the cause of sustainability. For people who want to live without a lot of stuff, projects like this can help them do so in style, with a tiny environmental footprint.  Brilliant design packs a lot of comfort in each 300 square feet unit allowing 23 homes to occupy less than a tenth of an acre.  That amounts to 267 units per acre and yet at just 4 stories and 45 feet the project fits comfortably in this modestly scaled neighborhood. This was the first such project in San Francisco, but several more have been built since, and all have been successful. 


Accessory Dwelling Unit by New Avenue Homes

This ADU, or granny unit, by New  Avenue Homes serves as a small rental unit or guest house. Typically placed in the back yard of a larger home, as is the case here, granny units  can add new housing choices to a single family neighborhood without changing its essential character. We support zoning ordinances that make it easier to build these units.