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Success Stories

Merritt Crossing: Sustainable Living for Seniors in Downtown Oakland

The Berkeley-based developer Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA) pulled out all the stops to make Merritt Crossing one of the Bay Area’s greenest residential developments. This 70-unit apartment building for low income seniors is the first building in California to achieve Energy Star certification under the multifamily high-rise rating system. The project also received LEED Platinum, GreenPoint Rated and Bay-Friendly Rated Landscape certifications. 
The property is located only a few blocks from Lake Merritt, the country’s first wildlife refuge and one of many stopovers along the Pacific Flyway, the major route for migratory birds that extends from Patagonia to Alaska. Even though Merritt Crossing’s landscaped area occupies only 4,200 square feet, it was designed to provide welcoming habitat not just for people but for wildlife, especially birds. The garden includes a Coast Live Oak and a variety of other wildlife-friendly trees, shrubs and vines, including three—Ribes, snowberry, and California native grape—that produce berries that birds love.
  • A 4,200 square foot landscaped courtyard area with seating serves as an extension of the building’s community room
  • A small orchard area with persimmon and columnar apple trees provides residents with healthy homegrown treats
  • A small lawn of low water-using fescue is watered with efficient subsurface irrigation instead of sprinklers
  • Raised planters provide a place for residents to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers
  • Weather-based "smart" irrigation controllers reduce water use and keep plants healthier by delivering the right amount of water only when needed


  • 29,000 gallons of water saved per year compared to a similar conventional landscape
  • 77% of plants are Caliifornia native or Mediterranean species that require little or no water in the dry season
  • 87% of landscape construction and demolition debris was recycled  
  • 16 tons of local, recycled compost and 11 tons of recycled mulch used
  • Bay-Friendly landscape practices reduced greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 6 tons CO2E

Bay-Friendly Rated Landscape score: 95

Year rated: 2012

Bay-Friendly Rater: Sarah Sutton, Placeworks