Council offers approvals for Del Monte development

Council offers approvals for Del Monte development

Michele Ellson

Updated at 2:46 p.m. Wednesday, December 3

The City Council offered preliminary approvals for a plan to build up to 380 new homes on the 11-acre Del Monte warehouse, a development that one council member said could offer the last new housing the Island will see for years.

The council voted 4-0 to move forward with the proposal, with Tony Daysog abstaining. Daysog was concerned a traffic management plan developed for the site didn’t offer enough specifics for addressing unanticipated traffic the development could create.

Councilman Stewart Chen said the plan met the city’s long-held goals for the property and neighbors’ needs and that the plan as amended by the council reduced the number of homes that would be built to address the fact that some are to be sited on property the city hasn’t yet relinquished to the developer. City officials confirmed Wednesday that all of the 55 units of affordable housing planned for the site will be developed regardless of whether the council approves the land transfer. Four "yes" votes are required to approve a city land transfer.

Some neighbors said they felt the 414 homes originally proposed was too many; a representative for the developer said the number was based around the cost of rehabilitating the building, which is a city monument, along with fees and infrastructure costs.

The council will offer its final approvals on the project in two weeks, right before Mayor-elect Trish Spencer and Councilmen-elect Frank Matarrese and Jim Oddie are seated. Spencer and Matarrese were among the dozens of speakers who turned out to offer their thoughts on the project Tuesday.

Matarrese questioned the number of units approved for the project, saying it was more than double what city staff had previously said they thought the site could hold. Spencer questioned whether the council should move forward with changes that bundled a parking space with each unit; some Planning Board members had argued the parking should be separate to help discourage people with cars from moving in.

But one of the leaders of a neighborhood group asked Spencer to consider the fact that neighbors of the project had fought hard to convince the Planning Board to revise the development plan to require developer Tim Lewis Communities to bundle a parking space with each unit. City staffers had sought to unbundle the parking.

“We fought very hard for the bundled parking,” Alison Greene of PLAN! Alameda said. “While I respect the opinions of anyone, there’s some of us who have lived and breathed this for months, and I ask you to consider that.”

Several neighbors said they want the project because it will eliminate truck traffic and blight and provide much needed housing for families who can’t afford to stay here and older Alameda residents who want to downsize. City Planner Andrew Thomas said all of the 308 units in the Del Monte building will be accessible for seniors and people with disabilities, and more than 40 percent of the units planned for the $125 million rehab of the Del Monte building are studios and one bedrooms.

In addition to construction costs, the developer plans to spend $20 million on public benefits, including $7 million to extend Clement Avenue from Atlantic Avenue to Entrance Road and $5.8 million in parks – money some said they’d like to get flowing.

John Kim said Alameda needs more housing, adding that friends of his recently moved because they couldn’t find a home here. Others said the project, which city leaders hope will promote transit and other methods of getting residents out of their cars, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I think this should be passed and moved on, the sooner the better,” said Art Lenhardt, a longtime resident who said he’s watched the Del Monte deteriorate for decades.

Others who spoke Tuesday said they’ve still got concerns that include traffic and parking, and still others said the new council should have the opportunity to make the decision instead of outgoing members.

“I just think it’s inappropriate for you folks to be voting on this when you have a new council coming in, especially when you have a new council coming in that campaigned on these issues,” onetime council candidate Jane Sullwold said.

A representative for the developer said they hope to begin work on the project in late 2015 and to start moving new residents and businesses in by 2017. In addition to homes, the project includes 30,000 square feet of commercial and retail space.

Separately, the council voted 4-1 to reject a pair of finalists to develop an 82-acre Alameda Point site where they hope to see a corporate campus.

Alameda Point Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Ott said neither developer was willing to offer cash for the property, pay for roads, sewers and other infrastructure that’s needed to support development there or offer performance milestones.

Daysog and Chen questioned whether negotiations could continue, but City Manager John Russo said he didn’t want to discourage other developers from inquiring about the site. Chen, who said it’s tough to find commercial developers who are interested in moving forward, voted against dumping the finalists.

Seth Hamalian of Mission Bay Development Group, one of the two developer finalists for the site, said he had offered to work with the city to find a build-to-suit user for the site. He said developers aren’t erecting office buildings without a user in place.

The council also signed off on nearly $1 million to upgrade the police department’s dispatch and records systems, which were installed in 1984. Alameda Police Capt. Lance Leibnitz said the company that installed the system no longer supports them in their current iteration and that they are at the end of their service life.

The council also agreed to a budget for more than $11 million in surplus funds. More than half the money will remain in the city’s reserve fund or be set aside to address rising pension and retiree health costs, and another $1.8 million will cover maintenance projects. Money will also go toward supplies for a new emergency operations center, and additional library materials.

Comments

Submitted by Steve Gerstle on Wed, Dec 3, 2014

We owned a condo in SF for a few years. I was on the condo board. The project was 150 units with underground parking. There were seven Muni lines within a few blocks and lots of nearby shopping. Each unit had one deeded parking space. About 40 percent of the units were studios and one-bedroom units. The rest were two-bedrooms. One of the biggest complaints I received was about the limited parking. About 90 percent of the units had one or more cars. Another complaint was that the garage doors kept breaking because of all of the use. We paid the City of SF for two passenger loading zones. We had a continuing problem with people parking illegally in the loading zones. Those few people who did not own a car made good money leasing out there parking spaces. Those spots were worth a fortune! In spite of all of the amenities, nearby shopping and good public transit, just about everyone wanted a private car. Not everyone worked in SF and many people took off on weekends to the mountains or coast and needed a car to do that. As a member of the HOA Board, the demand for more parking came up at one HOA meeting after another. Even with buses running every 2-5 minutes and a stop right outside the building, that was not enough to get people to give up their cars.

Jon Spangler's picture
Submitted by Jon Spangler on Wed, Dec 3, 2014

While what Steve describes is accurate about our desires regarding autos, it is also true that congestion is getting worse and we will be unable to *go* anywhere eventually at some point not too far away. It is also true, as Doug Linney and others pointed out last night, that worsening global warming and sea level rise mean we have to radically reduce our carbon emissions--"yesterday." The Del Monte agreement approved last night will help a great deal on both counts compared to Alameda's historic reliance on single-family homes.

I was saddened to see Lena Tam and others seemingly pandering to project opponents' (not necessarily justifiable) cries about "traffic" when they reduced the number of housing units from 414 to 380, which only hurts the ability of this project to support and sustain better levels of transit service as well as achieve other "green" project goals such as offering affordable housing to more Alamedans.

Submitted by al076 (not verified) on Thu, Dec 4, 2014

To suggest that having less parking will discourage car use is pathetically paternalistic and ludicrous! Individuals that live in the Bay Area need their cars and they are not going to stop using them. Not requiring sufficient parking is only going to cause congestion, constant bickering, and hostility among residents. I am shocked by the selfish paternalistic views that are offered by people that live no where near the project. Building in such a way to control human behavior is simply ignorant and foolish. We have to build taking into consideration the infrastructure that we currently have. And we all know there simply are not enough points of ingress or egress in Alameda. I live one block from the Del Monte project and currently we struggle immensely for parking. On the weekends when there are activities at Littlejohn park it is impossible to find parking for block and blocks. There are simply too many units being allowed with this project and not enough parking is being required. There should be a max of 200 units allowed with this project. In terms of traffic, I honestly do not see how the project can sustain all these new residents. Especially, taking into consideration all the other development that is ongoing. I feel that stuffing Alameda to maximum capacity endangers all residents. It is a health and safety issue. How will we be able to get off the island safely if there is a medical emergency? Building for seniors? Why? If I was senior I would not want to live here anymore knowing that in a medical emergency I would not be able to get to a sufficiently equipped hospital facility. I have lived in Alameda my whole life and it pains me to see that apparently 4 votes have the power to ruin an entire community. I would hope at some point these city council members develop a conscience...oh wait, what do they care, they are on their way out! So easy to make decisions when you leave other people holding the bag!

Submitted by JAG (not verified) on Fri, Dec 5, 2014

al076 spot on post.

Submitted by Lucky Lucy (not verified) on Sat, Dec 6, 2014

What is wrong with historic reliance on single family homes? We love Alameda exactly because of this. There should be a serious cap on new developments.

Submitted by MARVIE (not verified) on Sat, Dec 6, 2014

I am saddened that people who are probably not going to be affected by the traffic or parking problems and are on their way out as city officials are approving something which may cause irreversible problems for those who WILL be affected.

Submitted by Rion Cassidy (not verified) on Mon, Dec 8, 2014

I don't see how people can claim that this project reduces global warming. It's just another selling point that the promoters use to snare the weak-minded. The single largest cause of global warming is the growing number of human beings on this planet! It has doubled to over 7 billion in about 40 years. How can building more housing do anything but further this situation? The demand for food and energy keep rising. There used to be jobs in all those warehouses and factories that have been torn down along the northern waterfront; we have removed the places of employment and turned Alameda into a bedroom community so everyone has to commute. This is supposed to combat global warming? Think about how much energy is needed for the manufacturing and construction of all those condos. No, this is not the sustainable way. If the promoters of this project and our (former) city leaders had a real understanding of global warming the word 'sustainable' would be getting used.