| Cathedral Gardens housing
at former cathedral site
Aside from the rectory where stained glass windows remain, the former St. Francis de Sales Cathedral, part of the Cathedral Gardens housing development, is recalled in a vestibule near the elevator in a photograph that graces the entire wall.
MICHELE JURICH/THE CATHOLIC VOICE
Advocates for affordable housing celebrated on the grounds where St. Francis de Sales Cathedral stood for more than 100 years until it was irreparably damaged in the 1989 earthquake.
The celebration recognized the 10-year effort to make a dent in the need for housing in the city of Oakland. The Cathedral Gardens housing development, on 21st Street in Oakland's Uptown neighborhood, provides 100 units of housing, ranging from one to three bedrooms, for residents who meet income requirements.
Some residents of the one-bedroom units, for example, have household incomes of less than $12,000 a year. Residents in the three-bedroom units have a maximum household income of $57,000.
Speakers at the May 14 grand opening said demand for the new, affordable housing was great. There were 5,000 applicants for the 100 apartments. After the eligibility of each applicant was determined, a lottery was held.
Cseneca Parker drew No. 51 in the lottery.
He had been notified of the availability of housing through his church, True Vine Ministries in West Oakland, he said. His new residence stands where Oakland's cathedral once stood. "It is a blessing to live here," he said. "I believe it to be a sacred place," he said.
"It is a beautiful building," he said, citing amenities such as marble floors and granite countertops, and a gym on the premises.
Beyond that, it is "a very diverse community," he said. "We're starting to know each other."
EAH Housing, in collaboration with the Oakland Housing Authority, developed the project. EAH officials estimated the cost of the project at $40 million. The land was purchased from the Diocese of Oakland in 2005 for $5.25 million.
The development includes three low-rise buildings, in addition to the renovated rectory building. Officials said 95 of the units are accessible and fully adaptable according to Americans with Disabilities Act standards. In addition, the building is seeking the highly coveted LEED certification for its energy-efficiency.
In a presentation that included a dozen speakers, more than one speaker spoke of the project being built on "hallowed ground."
They included Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who noted that ground had been "blessed by priests and the Holy Spirit."
She asked those gathered to remember the "people who did not get the privilege and blessing of living on this literally hallowed ground."
Among the housing challenges Oakland faces, the mayor said, is "how can we do both: invite new people into our city and how can we preserve and protect the people who have lived here all along?"
The residents of Cathedral Gardens, who began moving in last fall, joined in the celebration, some with children playing in the imaginative play area while the adults spoke.
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