David Baker Architects | Year: 2010 | Location: Oakland, CA
Completed in 2010, Tassafaronga Village is a new neighborhood bringing a diversity of affordable housing to an underserved Oakland area, while repairing the deteriorated neighborhood fabric. The 7.5-acre brownfield infill site—previously home to decrepit public housing built in 1945, an abandoned factory, and unused train tracks—was an isolated and unhealthy environment inviting to crime.
The new village features diverse housing with three times the density of the surrounding area, including a 60-unit affordable apartment building, 77 affordable rental townhouses (clustered in 13 buildings), and 20 supportive apartments with on-site medical clinic. An additional 22 Habitat for Humanity townhomes are integrated into the site. Landscaped paths and traffic-calmed roadways now conveniently connect the housing to the previously isolated library, local school, City park, and community center.
The design was driven by three overarching goals: strengthen the existing urban fabric; elevate quality of life; and achieve the highest sustainability. Common-sense measures—such as a well-constructed thermal envelope, natural ventilation, and strategically placed bays—offer solar control and exposure to multiple orientations, enhancing daylight, air flow, and flexibility in environmental control.
The team took on the challenge of reviving the contaminated site to become a neighborhood of opportunity, ecological restoration, and social resilience. The high-priority brownfield site was remediated, and demolition and construction practices were carefully considered. The abandoned factory building was preserved, despite the relative ease and cost-effectiveness of tearing it down, in the interest of increased sustainability. 93% of the existing factory—structural steel, framing and decking, and most exterior walls—was reused on site. By eliminating on-grade parking, 40% of this very high-density, 7.5-acre development is planted landscape. The comprehensive site-wide storm-water strategy includes drainage systems, infiltration features, and vegetated swales that manage and treat run-off before the City sewer system. By now, the deep planting beds—including those on the apartment building podium—have filled out with drought-tolerant shrubs and full-sized trees, creating shade, reducing heat-island effects, and providing a measure of relief from the relatively poor neighborhood air quality.