|introduction | terminology | background | summary|
|Background: History of Live/Work in Oakland
Since the time man began to farm land and employ laborers, "work" has often been seen as an activity somehow separated from "life." With the onset of the industrial revolution and concomitant advances in transportation technology, commuting to work over some distance became the rule rather than the exception. As early as the middle of the last century the effects of technology and intense urbanization gave rise to movements for social improvement, one form of which was the notion that the poor should be protected from the tendency of industry to want workers living nearby (presumably at greater risk to their health and welfare) through laws requiring that separate sectors of the city be set aside for industrial and residential uses. Thus arose Zoning, the primary mode of land use regulation which continues to the present day as the mainstay of modernist city planning: today mixed-use development is the exception rather than the rule and primarily a remnant of earlier times. Meanwhile building officials have closed ranks to enforce this separation between life and work through codes that separate uses into "occupancies" which when mixed within a building require fire wall separation and sometimes entirely different construction types under the code.
The late 20th Century shift to a post-industrial economy led to the de-industrialization of American inner cities, and other factors including the rise of cargo containerization (you can't fit a container in a loft) caused a major recycling of commercial buildings sparking the rise of live/work as a mass phenomenon beginning in the 1960's and continuing to the present. Several factors conspire to make work/live even more attractive today, to the point that new buildings are even being designed and built with this use in mind: commuting is hell--on our time, our pocketbooks and the environment; the internet, fax machines, and even teleconferencing make travel to face-to face meetings less often necessary; changing household structures have reduced the standard nuclear family to 17% of the nation; affordability, not only of home and work place but also transportation and child care are advantages; and as artists have known for years, being able to work when the spirit moves you, at any hour, has its advantages.
In fact, live/work has come of age: lenders will loan on it, realtors know it as a "product," and mainstream Americans now aspire to telecommute, to run a small business at home, or to simply enjoy the flexibility, light and space afforded by urban loft living. Along the way, various cities have sought to encourage and regulate this new building type--usually by reinventing the wheel-- with varying degrees of success. It has become clear by now that live/work is not a monolithic phenomenon.
Several unit types have emerged, differentiated by:
Oakland has played an important role in the evolution of live/work as a type for over a generation. Long home to artists attracted to its many vacant warehouses, affordable rents and proximity to industrial materials suppliers, Oakland's strong artists' live/work community grew up here and continues to this day, particularly in East and West Oakland. Artists from Oakland were instrumental in passage of state legislation which has enabled the relaxation of building codes for live/work from San Diego to Sacramento. The first purpose-built live/work ever built in the United States is here in Oakland--South Prescott Village--begun in 1985 as an effort by Sculptor Bruce Beasley to bring more artists to his neighborhood. Nearby, the first newly constructed live/work condominiums in the U.S. were built and sold in 1990. The Jack London Square district is now home to numerous loft projects, with several more on the way; a number of downtown Oakland's older office buildings are being considered for loft conversion; and East and West Oakland continue to be home to numerous, relatively affordable live/work projects.
For decades Oakland has had the least restrictive Home Occupation regulations of any major city in the Bay Area. In 1996, Oakland adopted the first Live/Work Building Code which is entirely congruent with the Uniform Building Code and which is beginning to serve as a national model. And as recently as 1998, The Live/Work Institute (www.live-work.com) was founded in Oakland to study and advocate the development of live/work as an important land use and building type well suited to the needs of the 21st century.