Development Alert: Planning Board to consider Site A plans, North Housing cap

Development Alert: Planning Board to consider Site A plans, North Housing cap

Bill Chapin
Site A

With a pair of agenda items going before the Planning Board on Monday, the city’s staff is attempting a grand bargain of sorts that would allow the far West End of the Island to begin its transformation into something other than a shuttered military base.

This bargain must not only prove acceptable in a political climate driven by residents’ concerns about how long it takes them to get through the Posey Tube in the morning, it also needs to stay in compliance with 30-plus years of federal, state and local laws and agreements that govern housing development in Alameda.

First, the board will consider approval of a development plan for Alameda Point’s Site A, a 68-acre property that generally extends from the northeast corner of the Seaplane Lagoon to Main Street and West Tower Avenue. The board will also be asked to approve a density bonus waiver that would allow developer Alameda Point Partners to set aside Measure A in order to build multifamily housing; comment on the development’s transportation management plan; and recommend a development agreement for the City Council’s approval.

In addition, the board will consider several amendments to the zoning code intended to clarify the city’s rules for granting developers waivers from planning and zoning rules in exchange for affordable housing and to limit the amount of housing that could be built on another portion of the shuttered Naval air station. This site, known as North Housing, comprises 36 acres of former Navy housing located just west of the Alameda Landing development.

The first agenda item would authorize the construction of 800 new homes while the second item would eliminate the possibility of a roughly equal number. The latter proposal came out of the March 10 City Council meeting through a motion made by Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese, who is seen as a crucial vote for the approval of Site A, which needs the approval of four council members to move forward.

Here is a closer look at the two items.

Plan for Alameda Point’s Site A: In accordance with various plans and policies the city has adopted since 1996, developer Alameda Point Partners is proposing a transit-oriented, mixed-use development that would account for 800 of the 1,425 homes planned for Alameda Point. Two hundred of those would be affordable housing units. Most homes would be rentals, but 270 townhouse and condo units would be put up for sale in two phases.

The site would also feature 600,000 square feet of commercial space, two-thirds of which would be reuse of existing buildings. The remainder includes new stand-alone shops and restaurants, as well as ground-floor retail in five residential buildings along Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway, which will serve as the main corridor through the development. Density and building height increase as one moves westward along the parkway away from Main Street.

Fifteen acres would be devoted to public open space, parks and plazas.

The plan includes several provisions to minimize the traffic generated by the development, including construction of a ferry terminal at the Seaplane Lagoon; dedicated bus lanes; and a transportation demand management plan that could include transit subsidies and support services, limited parking, and car and bicycle share programs.

What’s next: If the development proposal receives the Planning Board’s recommendation, it moves on to the City Council for approval. The council is expected to consider the proposed development on June 16.

More information: The meeting agenda and related materials are available on the city’s website. The city also has a web page devoted to Site A with links to relevant documents and concept plans. Developer Alameda Point Partners’ website provides an overview of plans for Site A. Alameda Point Info is an informational website run by a volunteer group of Alameda residents. The Alamedan’s coverage of Alameda Point can be found here.

Zoning code amendments: Changes regarding the city’s density bonus ordinance are intended to “improve public understanding and implementation” of the law, according to a staff report. The amendments would consolidate the requirements for applications in a single section of the ordinance, allow architectural designs for complex projects to be submitted in phases, clarify the difference between what is required for submissions from developers seeking a concession to reduce costs versus those seeking a waiver from development standards that would prevent a project from physically fitting on a site, and let some affordable housing details be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

The current zoning for the North Housing property could allow anywhere from 1,091 to 1,473 housing units, depending on what kind of density bonus a developer asks for and the amount of affordable housing they propose to build. City staffers are proposing changes that would cap the amount of housing that could be built at the site at 435 units. The reduced number would still include 90 units for homeless people and another 30 to be built by Habitat for Humanity of the East Bay – mandates that were part of the process of the federal government handing over the land.

An essential element at work here is that Alameda is on track to meet its state-mandated housing obligation. Divvying up regional housing needs, the Association of Bay Area Governments in 2013 assigned 1,723 housing units to Alameda for the eight-year period beginning in 2015.

The city estimates that there are currently eight projects in the development pipeline (meaning they are “either under construction, approved, or actively pursuing final land use entitlements”) that could supply 1,841 housing units by 2023 – a number that includes Site A’s 800 units. Furthermore, when Alameda updated the housing element of its general plan in 2014, the city identified 11 sites that are zoned to accommodate a total of 2,245 new housing units, satisfying its housing allocation – but Site A and its 800 units were not among them.

So, the reasoning goes, if Site A moves forward, there’s no need for North Housing to be zoned to accommodate quite so many homes.

What’s next: The Planning Board will make a recommendation on the proposed density bonus ordinance and zoning changes for the City Council to consider. The council is expected to consider the proposals on June 16.

More information: The meeting agenda and related materials are available on the city’s website. The background report for the city’s 2014 housing element update explains its housing needs assessment in detail. The Alamedan’s previous story on the proposed housing cap is here.

Comments

Submitted by 10dB (not verified) on Mon, May 11, 2015

Where is there info on "bus lanes?" Months ago I saw an illustration showing Ralph Appezato Parkway with one lane in each direction restricted to buses? Really??!! One bus every 15 minutes going to Site A would be a LOT of public transport. Should those of us forced to drive (for example, I am engaged in public service activities in the South Bay) be denied use of both lanes of the road simply because a bus might use it occasionally? Have any of the geniuses who invented (or will approve) this idea considered the impact of diverting traffic on to less suitable roads in the West End??