Council to consider repealing Del Monte approvals

Council to consider repealing Del Monte approvals

Michele Ellson
Del Monte warehouse

Mayor Trish Spencer has asked her dais-mates to consider rescinding a plan to redevelop the Del Monte warehouse into hundreds of new homes and shops.

The new council will consider rescinding the master plan and development agreement for the project, which includes up to 380 homes and 30,000 square feet of retail space on the 11-acre Del Monte property, at tonight’s meeting. The former council approved the development by a 4-1 vote in December, with Councilman Tony Daysog casting the lone “no” vote.

“This is the way to give the new council an opportunity – if they want an opportunity – to revisit this project. I think this is procedurally the only way to do it,” Spencer said Monday.

Spencer, who opposed the project and the council’s decision to approve it last month, said she wants to hit the rewind button on the project so she and other new council members can get involved in its design. She said she’s concerned about the building height, the number of units to be built and the adequacy of transportation to serve them, and about plans to separate housing for low-income residents from market rate units.

Spencer, who ran for mayor on a slow growth platform, noted that Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese and Daysog opposed moving forward with the project. But she said she’s not trying to stop the development outright.

“Slow growth does not necessarily mean no growth,” Spencer said. “I just feel like it needs to be presented to the sitting council.”

Daysog said he’s gathering information to help him weigh the benefits and risks of rescinding approval of the project and didn’t say Monday how he plans to vote. Oddie declined to comment, though he said that only one of the roughly one dozen e-mails he’s received was in support of a repeal. Matarrese didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

In an open letter detailing her reasons for supporting the development, Councilwoman Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said it had gone through a rigorous review before winning the council’s approval. The $125 million rehab project was the subject of a dozen city hearings plus community meetings and negotiations between developer Tim Lewis Communities, community groups and a neighborhood group, PLAN! Alameda, whose leaders were among the Del Monte neighbors who spoke in favor of the project in December.

“While not all neighbors agree with everything proposed, they do agree that there is little benefit to having a decaying warehouse generating significant truck traffic in their neighborhood,” wrote Ashcraft, who said she supports the development plan the council okayed because it provides badly needed housing, restores an historic building, takes truck traffic off of Buena Vista Avenue, offers traffic reduction measures and provides millions of dollars for local parks.

In a letter to supporters, James Meek of Tim Lewis Communities expressed disappointment in Spencer’s decision to ask the council to consider rescinding approval of the project, saying the approval should stand. He said the project will provide $20 million in public benefits and 55 units of below-market housing for lower income families.

“Upholding (c)ouncil’s decision sends a message to businesses, the capital markets, and the community that a deal is a deal in Alameda. That city government can be taken at its word. That exhaustive review, community input, time, resources and financial investment results in a plan that cannot be undone simply because some newly elected members want to re-open, revisit and reverse the decision,” Meek wrote. “Let’s not undo what has been done.”

City Attorney Janet Kern said the council does repeal and amend ordinances prior councils have passed. But she said city staff isn’t aware of a prior council ever considering the repeal of a development agreement that confers vested rights, which may be legally protected from repeal.

Kern said a repeal will “likely” create legal and political consequences, but declined to elaborate, saying she was not authorized by the council to share her legal analysis of the potential results of a repeal. City Manager John Russo also declined to comment on the potential consequences of a repeal.

Kern offered The Alamedan a summary of the city’s rules for reconsidering, repealing or holding a referendum on previous council actions that says a council member can ask that the council consider repealing an already approved ordinance at a future public meeting. A majority of the council would need to vote in favor of the rescission action twice – in its introduction and during a second, final vote – to approve it.

The council meeting begins at 7 p.m. today in council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Avenue. The meeting is open to the public and will be broadcast live on Comcast cable channel 15 and AT&T cable channel 99 and webcast live on the city’s website.

More of The Alamedan’s coverage of the Del Monte development can be found here.

Comments

Submitted by old native (not verified) on Tue, Jan 6, 2015

"a deal is a deal in Alameda" Yeah, even if it's a bad deal, huh? You made a deal with the former city council, not the public, Mr. Meek. Sorry that you're disappointed.

Submitted by DelMonte Neighbor (not verified) on Tue, Jan 6, 2015

Why would anyone ever do business with the city if the council thinks it's good practice to simply change it's mind. Regardless of whether you think it's a good deal or not (and as a neighbor, I do think it is MUCH better than a blighted warehouse!), you have to agree that at some point you do have to honor prior agreements and contracts. I sure hope city council doesn't simply'change their mind' on other contracts entered into by the prior adminstration, for schools, police, fire, etc.... This is a horrible way to run a community!! This political game and need to put their own fingerprints on it is jeopradizing the Jean Sweeney Park and the Clement extension....Three steps backwards!!!

Submitted by 2wheelSmith (not verified) on Tue, Jan 6, 2015

Councilmember Tony Daysog has proposed an excellent alternative to repealing the ordinance approving the Del Monte housing and commercial project. Most of the concerns about the project are about the traffic that the new housing would generate. Councilmember Daysog has proposed that the City develop a traffic management plan for the entire City to address those concerns.

The primary concern is with traffic that construction of about 2,000 homes on properties zoned for housing along the Northern Waterfront and the Oakland Estuary west of Webster would generate, not simply the 380 proposed for the Del Monte project. By proceeding with the Del Monte project, the preparation of that traffic plan could be accelerated and used as guidance for deciding on whether or not to approve housing units in excess of those the City has committed to approve along the Northern Waterfront and Oakland Estuary in the housing element certified by the State of California.

Such a transportation plan would illustrate the advantages of new approaches to transportation systems in Alameda, for example maximum, rather than minimum, limits on parking spaces in developments that make housing both more sustainable and more affordable.

Developments that come with viable alternatives to transport in automobiles expand the range of options for shopping, education, working and recreating available to the moderate and lower income citizens for whom Renewed Hope Housing Advocates advocates. Should the Del Monte project go forward, it will establish a TMA (Transportation Management Authority) for the Northern Waterfront, which will provide our community with dedicated experts knowledgeable of local transportation conditions.

Such experts, and the TMA they operate, can provide more assurance that Alameda will soon have a comprehensive transportation management plan that is viable. Consequently, and for many other reasons we have articulated elsewhere, Renewed Hope Housing Advocates opposes the ordinance to rescind the previous Council's approval of the Del Monte project.

Regardless of the ultimate fate of the Del Monte project, Renewed Hope will work with the Council, Planning Board, Transportation Commission, City staff, and all Alamedans to produce an innovative transportation plan that will be a model of sustainability and better serve the interests of moderate and lower income citizens.

William Smith
Vice-President, Renewed Hope Housing Advocates

Submitted by Danai Lamb (not verified) on Tue, Jan 6, 2015

PLAN! Has worked long and hard negotiating the long list in the WIN category for our neighborhood. Do I need to recap? Okay: fewer units, bundled parking, extension of Clement connecting to Atlantic Ave., more off-site parking, more retail space, to name a few but not all. And, let's not forget funding for Jean Sweeney Park.

Submitted by Long time Resident (not verified) on Tue, Jan 6, 2015

As DelMonte Neighbor said, you negate all of the hard work and time spent on this decision by doing this and frankly no developer has any respect for a council that can't stick to decisions made. Move forward Mayor Spencer, not backward. This kind of action is disgusting to me.

Submitted by Les Cabral (not verified) on Tue, Jan 6, 2015

Yes let open up this can of worms! and do the job right.
We have to have transportation in place for this to work, there needs to be at least 2 parking places per unit plus guest parking for each unit plus additional commercial parking . Remember the developer has not bought this property yet, lets get his money on the table now and start making necessary improvement needed now. Remember this is a brick warehouse building in sad shape.

Submitted by gmb (not verified) on Wed, Jan 7, 2015

Well as it stands now, this warehouse starts up at like 3AM with truck traffic and dropping heavy containers that make loud booms waking people up and during the day with fork lifts honking their horns all day. I live half a block from it.
I think that parking should be included with the units. There isn't much street parking around this area for existing housing as it is. Many older homes don't have driveways and people are already forced park on the street as it is. Also bringing back the 19 bus that used to stop on Buena Vista right in front of the place might encourage those that don't have cars to move in there. I loved that bus route, and so did many others.
Also are any units going to considered for low income seniors?