A former car lot that sat vacant for some years in San Leandro, Calif., has been been transformed into affordable housing for 51 seniors, a catalyst for retail development, and a buffer between commercial, residential, and school uses. “Originally, it was kind of an anonymous site that didn’t contribute at all to the ambiance or the nature of the neighborhood and certainly didn’t serve as a transition between the commercial and the residential uses in the area,” says Richard Caldwell of HKIT Architects.
At first it was a squeeze to get the 40,312-square-foot building, plus a generous courtyard, onto the .91-acre site, but then the city of San Leandro agreed to allow less parking than normally required. Caldwell had argued that seniors don’t have as many cars, especially when public transportation is available. The city agreed to limit the parking with the stipulation that there would be space set aside in the courtyard for parking in case more was needed. It wasn’t. “They don’t use the stalls we have,” says Caldwell.
Energy efficiency was a big focus for the project. The building’s solar panels for power and water heating and systems that hold and treat rainwater on site helped the building garner the highest score in California’s Green Point energy ratings’ history.