By Christina B. Farnsworth. The San Francisco Bay area is the least affordable market in the country. But thanks to creative collaboration, a neighborhood coalition, a nonprofit group, and three government entities managed to produce an affordable 17-unit, urban infill community.

The .6-acre site of Gateway Commons straddles the boundary of Emeryville and Oakland and is the site of an underground creek owned by the county. These live/work lofts and townhomes targeted low- to moderate-income, first-time buyers.

"The project was the result of five or six neighborhood design workshops," architect Michael Pyatok says. Richly detailed dwellings in the front row of the community face the street. They feature a double-height flexible front room and entry from the street that can house an office or shop.

A landscaped "front outdoor patio room" (a high-walled and windowed courtyard) acts as an acoustical and privacy buffer in case residents want to make the ground-floor space part of their residence. Units that don't face the street have a flexible first-floor space that can be rented out as an accessory apartment. Second-floor decks above the garages provide urban outdoor living space, all at a density of 25 dua.

Photo: Michael Pyatok

"The site was extremely tight in terms of working space," says J.H. Fitzmaurice building project manager Adel Moghaddas. "Another challenge," Moghaddas adds, "was that the city of Oakland requires that at least 50 percent of the workforce for anyone working on the job be Oakland residents." The homes sold for $135,000 to $199,000. Category: Live/Work; Entrant/Architect: Pyatok Architects, Oakland, Calif.; Builder: J.H. Fitzmaurice, Oakland; Developer: Oakland Community Housing, Oakland; Landscape Architect: Rich Seyfarth Landscape Architects, Berkeley, Calif.