Oakland Community Cabins

Oakland Community Cabin Program

Lake Merritt, Northgate, 6th/Castro, & Beyond


Lake Merritt Cabin Community represents one of the six sites currently in operation under Oakland’s Community Cabin Program (all six listed below). Opened on October 4th, 2018 in the former Kaiser Auditorium Parking Lot across from Lake Merritt, the 20-cabin/40-bed transitional shelter project is designed to help alleviate and eliminate camping at Lake Merritt.


  • Launched in late 2017, Oakland’s Cabin Community projects are designed as temporary transitional shelters to help stabilize the homeless and assist in the finding of permanent housing.
  • Community Cabins are part of a multi-prong strategy in the city to house people – beyond cabins, City has opened three safe RV parking sites and a trailer site for 67 state-owned trailers (invested in the site for water and sewer connections).
  • The City of Oakland and private donors/volunteers have set up Cabin Community Temporary Shelter Units at six locations (listed below).
  • Designed as geographically focused intervention to locate communities near existing encampments in order to remove unregulated and/or unsafe encampments.
  • Sites are typically developed in 4-5 weeks (as little as 3 weeks) from approval to use a site to opening.

Mission: Provide an alternative to encampments to help move people off the streets, through bridge housing facilities, and into long-term housing.


Owner: Land owned by the City of Oakland, across two parcels.

Previous Use: Former Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center parking lot – the convention center is been vacant/dormant for years, with plans to rehab the convention center soon.

Use Arrangement: Convention Center to undergo major rehab in the next 1-2 years. Informal agreement with the site’s future developer to allow the City to continue the Cabin Community until the developer is ready to start rehab/construction and needs access to the site, at which time the community will then be relocated to a new site.

Site Selection Criteria Considerations:

  • The site is adjacent to the City’s Peralta Park, which is the site of many homeless encampments.

Site Selection Notes


  • Site selection process:
    • All sites are located near existing encampments to bring people from the area indoors to safer shelter.
    • Local preference policy at shelters – priority given to unsheltered people within close proximity of the site – a series of “invitation zones”
  • Site notes:
    • When the Lake Merritt camp opened, city officials say they plan to phase in the no encampment zone around the lake starting first with the large camp that existed at Peralta Park next to the old Kaiser Center.
    • Some people choose to participate in the Community Cabin program. Those who don’t are ordered to leave camps nearby.
    • Community response has improved with each new site, as neighboring businesses and residents see the camps making a difference in cleaning up areas and providing dignified shelter to vulnerable populations.
    • Some encampments have re-emerged within vicinity of Cabin Communities due to capacity of only 20-30 beds per site vs. the scale of the problem.
    • City has codified the areas around Cabin Communities as high sensitivity areas to help enforce removing informal encampments.



Upfront Development*$308kFunding from CA State (via HEAP in 2019 and 2020; HHAP in 2021), funds go to City. Net of in-kind donations for dev services valued at $65k, budget uses total was $243k – see below. (See Budget Detail)
Cost Per Cabin*$15k20 cabins, 40 beds in total
Operating Costs*$850k /yearFunding from CA State (via HEAP in 2019 and 2020; HHAP in 2021), funds go to City.
Cost Per Bed*$21k/year$58/bed/night  (cabins are double occupancy, assuming every cabin has two occupants)


Funding Notes

  • Development Uses Budget summarized as follows:
    • $132k for cabins (by Tuff Shed), $88k site work (wooden platforms, ADA ramps, electrical low voltage and full power to offices and community tent, fencing and gates), $22k for FFE (furniture, fixture, equipment)
  • Cost to city for development of site was close to zero due to philanthropic donations:
    • Sutter Health bought the sheds and donated them to the city
    • Site work included many donated materials, but valued at cost above
    • Engineering, project management, and architecture fees were in-kind donations from private sector in Oakland community, thanks to connections made by Oakland Builders Alliance.
  • Ground prep minimal due to paved lot, no plumbing and sewer hook-ups.
  • For operations, City Council adopted the two-year budget for fiscal years 2019-2021 which includes $32 million in funding for homeless services that will allow the City to expand existing homeless programs such as Community Cabins and safe parking; enhance the health, sanitation, and safety of unsheltered residents; and provide employment training and opportunities to hire unsheltered people to assist with litter removal at encampments. The funding will also support rapid-rehousing, services, and interventions for homeless residents, including a mobile homeless outreach team, and create a $2.7 million fund for anti-displacement services and housing security improvements. In addition to this budget allocation, Oakland’s partnership with the San Francisco Foundation—Keep Oakland Housed—augments the City’s budget with $8 million in rapid anti-displacement assistance.

Additional Funding Notes

  • HHAP – This year, as part of the State’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2019-20 Budget, the State set aside $650 million in one-time funding for the construction and expansion of emergency shelters and
    navigation centers, rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, job programs, and for innovative projects like hotel/motel conversions. The Homeless Housing, Assistance, and
    Prevention Program (HHAPP) will make available $275 million to large cities, with a significant portion going to Los Angeles.
  • HEAP – Prior state funds for emergency shelters were provided by the 2018-enacted HEAP funding allocations (link).


Lead Deal CoordinatorCity Logo Housing Innovation CollaborativeCity of Oakland – Mayor’s Office and CAO
Community EngagementHumanserviceslogo Housing Innovation Collaborative 


City of Oakland coordinated across departments – Human Services coordinate with service provider (radius, census) + Dept of public works for site clean up + Police Dept
Construction / Project ManagementSun Logo Housing Innovation CollaborativeSustainable Urban Neighborhoods,  a community-focused building and development company. Pro-bono GC and PM.
Shelter Vendor / ManufacturerTuff Shed Housing Innovation Collaborative 

1 3 Housing Innovation Collaborative

Tuff Sheds (for first sites) / California Sheds (for subsequent, latest sites)
On-Site Assembly  –Third party vendors subcontracted under Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods, including electricians and builders


Design Notes


  • The design includes 20 cabins (40-capacity), a manager’s unit, 3 storage containers, and one bathroom module
  • Utilities: All bathrooms and showers off-grid, serviced 2-3 times per week. Showers serviced provided by Lava Mae (bus with permit to access septic dumping with the City)
  • Cabins have continued to improve in design and quality, with the latest two sites – Mandela and London sites including R12 insulation, sheet rock, three double pane windows.
    • Tuff Shed delivered kit of parts, third party volunteer project manager managed the assembly process. Onsite services paid prevailing wage.
    • Via project manager and general contractor connections, cabins are California Shed, where they get customized designs built with dry wall and insulation and double pane windows, delivered to site ready to go with no foundation needed.


  • Construction management done by third party provider, Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods,  a community-focused building and development company, who worked pro-bono GC and PM. Allowed for faster implementation, worked with state fire marshall, local fire, and building department for quick review –

Review / Approval Process

  • Review process was expedited and cabins not up required to be up to full building code given the emergency ordinance and temporary intention of the site – all depts were collaborative and flexible in review/approval process given the alternative of people living on the street.
  • Site reviews: Fire, ADA, structural reviews completed for site layout and cabin plans themselves.
  • Fire Dept required extinguishers + smoke detectors in each cabin,  5/8-inch fire-code drywall, and appropriate spacing between each cabin for access and fire separation. Each fire nearby fire station tours the site and comments on egress, help create an emergency management plan.
  • Building and Safety reviewed plans – materials, connections, framing detail – inspected by structural engineer
  • Bureau of Engineering reviewed soils, mitigation plans


Lead Operator:

Logo Hceb Housing Innovation Collaborative

OperatorHousing Consortium of the East Bay, an Oakland-based nonprofit that works in the area of disability and housing. Their work includes “providing housing outreach and support services; developing affordable housing, partnering with other nonprofit and for profit companies to secure set-asides within larger rental communities; and owning and operating special needs affordable housing.” 


AgreementAgreement to provide services for 24-month period. 

See below for Projects’ Scope of Required Services, Facility Standards and Program Standards documentation.

  • Two day-shift workers
  • Shelter Manager
  • Program Supervisor
  • Logistic Coordinators
  • Case Managers
  • Security
  • Janitorial
  • Back-end Admin
Services ProvidedOperator provides wraparound services, which include intensive case management, linkages to medical and mental health support, groups and classes for self- awareness. In addition, they focus on housing navigation and employment assistance such as resume building, interview preparation. These services are designed to help people move into – and stay – in permanent housing.
  • $58/bed/night operating costs
Operating Expenses
  • On-Site Personnel
  • Maintenance
  • Client Services, meals


Operation Notes


  • Housing Consortium of the East Bay is a nonprofit that has done work with the City in the past
  • Local preference policy at shelters – priority given to unsheltered people within close proximity of the site – a series of “invitation zones”
  • Prospective residents were skeptical of the program and the first cabin community, however, after the first opened, unsheltered people were asking how to get admitted into the community
  • While tenants are brought in to stay for 6 months as they find more permanent housing and work with their case manager, tenants tend to stay longer. Tenants only leave if break the rules of the Cabin Community.

Relevant Materials

All Oakland Community Cabin Program Sites

6th Street & Castro (Closed)

1st Pilot Site

One-year pilot; Opened Dec. 2017, closed in Dec. 2018.

Occupancy: 20 cabins

Site Owner: Caltrans

Site Use Arrangement: Subleased to the City from BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit, the rapid transit public transportation system serving the San Francisco Bay Area in California).

Funding Source: Home Depot donation (Oakland Chamber of Commerce)

Operator: Bay Area Community Services (BACS)



Opened May 2018.

Occupancy: 20 cabins

Site Owner: Caltrans

Site Use Arrangement: Caltrans has made the site available to the City for a $1 per month lease. AB 3139 (Bonta) allows Caltrans to lease State highway property for emergency shelter to the City of Oakland for up to ten parcels for $1 per month. This is consistent with Governor Newsom’s directive that public lands be made available to address the homelessness crisis.

Funding Source: Kaiser Foundation

Operator: Operation Dignity




Occupancy: 40 cabins, 76 people

Site Owner: Caltrans

  • The Mandela location was chosen in response to the persistent public health and safety hazards at two large, nearby encampments along the Oakland/Emeryville border: 1) 35th & Magnolia and 2) Hollis & West MacArthur. Outreach teams have conducted a thorough census of the homeless population at these sites and there is space at the Mandela site to accommodate everyone from these encampments. Residents of these encampments will be offered space at the Mandela Community Cabins, and then the encampments will be closed.

Site Use Arrangement: Caltrans has made the site available to the City for a $1 per month lease. AB 3139 (Bonta) allows Caltrans to lease State highway property for emergency shelter to the City of Oakland for up to ten parcels for $1 per month. This is consistent with Governor Newsom’s directive that public lands be made available to address the homelessness crisis.

Funding Source:

  • The cities of Oakland and Emeryville have combined resources to address the encampments that straddle the border between the cities
  • This double-sized site will cost $1.7 million per year to operate ($850,000 per section). Funds to operate each site come from the California State Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP).
  • Target, Sutter Health, and the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce—have provided funding for the site, and the Home Depot Foundation has provided funding, building supplies, and dozens of associates from local Home Depot stores who volunteered their time and talents building ADA-accessible ramps and decks for the cabins.
  • (See budget)

Operator: Operation Dignity


Lake Merritt (see above)

Opened October 2018.


Miller Community Cabins

Opened January 2019.

Occupancy: 20 cabins

Site Owner: City of Oakland. Land to be sold to nonprofit for longer term affordable housing development in the future.

Site Use Arrangement: Operating agreement with operator.

Funding Source: Various philanthropic sources.

Operator: Roots Community Health Center


6th & Oak Street (Jack London Community)

Opened January 2020.

Occupancy: 19 cabins/38 beds

Site Owner: Caltrans

Site Use Arrangement: Caltrans has leased the property to the City for $1 per month.

Funding Source: The site will cost $850,000 per year to operate; funds come from the California State Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP). (See Budget)

Operator: Managed by Roots Community Health Center in partnership with Family Bridges, which will provide housing navigation services.

Press Release: https://www.oaklandca.gov/news/2020/from-sidewalks-to-services-7th-community-cabin-site-serves-chinatown-jack-london