Fruitvale Transit Village- A 'National Model'

The Fruitvale Transit Village is viewed as one of the most successful Transit Oriented Developments in the U.S. in the way they have partnered directly with the community to assess the needs of residents... How did it all come together?

The Fruitvale Transit Village is a comprehensive development of mixed housing units, retail spaces for businesses, social services and community spaces, all adjacent to Fruitvale BART. The Fruitvale Transit Village opened in 2005 and is the first phase in a project by the nonprofit community group The Unity Council. The next stages will add on more units of mixed housing to the existing village. The Fruitvale Transit Village is seen as the national model of community designed and transit- oriented living for its collaborative planning. The Unity Council officially known as the Spanish Speaking Unity Council, was founded in 1964 to find sustainable ways to enrich the lives of families living in the Fruitvale District of Oakland. They aim ‘to help families and individuals build wealth and assets through comprehensive programs of sustainable economic, social and neighborhood development’ (The Unity Council). In response to BART’s 1991 plan to build a multi-level garage expansion directly next to the Fruitvale BART station, community members and the Unity Council protested that the development would hurt the community economically and possibly worsen crime in the area. BART withdrew their proposal after receiving so much community and political backlash. Instead of stopping at criticizing the BARTs development plans, the Unity Council initiated the idea for the Fruitvale Transit Village, a development that would actually create positive outcomes for the community.
It was the process of its creation and planning that is most outstanding to city planners and policy makers nationwide as the result of their collaborative planning achieved the goal of addressing the needs to serve the lower-income residents living in the Fruitvale District. At the beginning of the process, the team secured generous grants from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the City of Oakland. Over the course of a year, the Unity Council held community workshops dedicated to understanding the needs of the Fruitvale community. At the meetings 30-60 people would be in attendance and translators were on site to interpret the comments and concerns of the Spanish speaking population. Besides the connection with the target community, the Unity Council formed a partnership with UC Berkeley’s National Transit Access Center (UC NTRAC) to gather different proposals from architects who integrated participant demands into their designs. What resulted from seven years of planning between 1992 and 1999 was a large scale and detailed plan for the new Fruitvale Transit Village. The finished result includes 47 housing units, commercial and office spaces which all house thriving businesses, a health clinic, a public library, child day care and other amenities available for residents and neighboring populations.
From a modelling perspective, the Fruitvale Transit Village owes a large part of its success to the many years of political activism and network building of the Unity Council. What ultimately made it a success was the extensive public outreach. As of 2015, the village is a little over a decade old and still thriving and the Unity Council is now gaining funds for the second phase of the project. This project represents the potential that transit oriented- developments have for communities who are often left out of any city planning process.


Inside of the Cesar Chavez Branch Library in Fruitvale

Inside of the Cesar Chavez Branch Library in Fruitvale

Source: Oakland Public Library View File Details Page

Access Information:

Location is approximate. Local shops and restaurants in the commercial portion of the village are most easily accessible.

Street Address:

3340 E 12th St, Oakland, CA 9460 - The Unity Council Address [map]

Cite this Page:

Emma Ishii, “Fruitvale Transit Village- A 'National Model',” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed September 20, 2018,

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