THE DEVELOPMENT REPORT: Del Monte discussion tonight
THE DEVELOPMENT REPORT: Del Monte discussion tonight
The Planning Board is set Monday to discuss plans to redevelop the historic Del Monte warehouse as concerns over the proposed development and others along the Island’s Northern Waterfront grow.
Developer Tim Lewis Communities wants to build 414 new townhomes, lofts and flats in the seven-acre warehouse and on two new development pads on the Del Monte property, which sits at the corner of Buena Vista Avenue and Sherman Street. The company also owns the 13-acre Encinal Terminals site behind the warehouse, and representatives told a raucous crowd that attended a community meeting Thursday on the Del Monte project that they hope to construct another 505 new homes there.
The Del Monte could be built and opened to new residents in 2017; public review of the Encinal Terminals project has not yet begun.
Residents who packed the developer’s presentation Thursday and others who are organizing around their concerns said they’re worried about the traffic congestion the developments could cause, and they questioned plans to create less parking on the Del Monte site than the city typically requires. They are also accusing the city of shorting the public on opportunities to weigh in.
Representatives for Tim Lewis said Thursday they’re designing the development with scarce parking in a bid to attract residents with fewer cars, though they also said they don’t have the space to add more stalls. A traffic study showed that development plans for the Del Monte and Encinal Terminals sites would produce less traffic than the retail- and office-heavy development initially envisioned for those sites, though it did show additional trips off-Island during the morning commute.
The Planning Board has held a handful of informational hearings on the project, including a presentation at the Del Monte warehouse, and the Historical Advisory Board has approved a certificate saying the proposed development meets federal historical preservation standards. Master and development plans and a development agreement will be subject to future public hearings and approvals.
A report and declaration have been drafted stating the new development plan for the Del Monte won’t create more impacts to traffic, noise, animals and others than the originally studied plan. A similar study conducted for the planned Jean Sweeney Open Space Park is also before the Planning Board on Monday, and that will head to the council for its approval at a future date.
Plans for housing on the two sites have grown and shifted since they were first approved in 2008, as city leaders have pressed policies to increase and diversify the Island’s housing stock and demand for housing in the Bay Area has brought developers knocking.
City leaders approved principles for development of the Northern Waterfront – which is bordered by Sherman Street, Buena Vista Avenue, Grand Street and the Oakland/Alameda Estuary – in 2008. At that time, the city envisioned 75 new work/live lofts in the Del Monte and 165 single-family homes on the Encinal Terminals site, with 366,000 square feet of retail and office space across both sites.
All told, the city anticipated 933 new residents in 389 single family homes to be built across a group of properties that included both sites plus the Grand Marina neighborhood; Marina Cove II, which will be built on the 7.14-acre former home of a Chipman Moving & Storage warehouse; and a Pennzoil tank farm on Grand Street. New plans for the Del Monte site alone could add more than 1,000 residents.
City leaders approved a density bonus ordinance in 2009 that allows developers who agree to build more affordable housing than the city requires to apply for the right to also construct additional market-rate units. And in 2012, they okayed a new housing blueprint that permitted the development of apartments and other multifamily housing on 10 properties, including the Del Monte and Encinal Terminals sites.
The blueprint envisioned as many as 150 new homes on the Del Monte site and 234 at Encinal Terminals. But it also called for as many as 193 homes on the Chipman site, which is next door to the Del Monte on Buena Vista Avenue. Lennar plans to construct 89 single-family homes there.
The Northern Waterfront area is listed as a potential “priority development area” in a regional development plan drafted by the Association of Bay Area Governments – a designation that could put it in line for enhanced transportation investment. Alameda Point is also a priority development area; the city is planning for construction of 1,425 homes and 5.5 million square feet of commercial space there.
In addition to these developments and Alameda Point, some 276 new homes are under construction at the Alameda Landing development behind the College of Alameda, while 182 units have been okayed for the Boatworks project on Clement Avenue near Park Street.
Several of the nearly 150 attendees at Thursday’s community meeting on the Del Monte project assailed the developer’s plans to create just 460 parking spaces for the project – one for each unit and another 46 for employees at retail businesses there – saying that the limited parking would push more cars onto their already-crowded streets.
“You put this in here, I won’t be able to get out of my house,” said one attendee who said his home borders the Del Monte. “You’re taking away my freedom.”
Others questioned the developer’s assertions that the development is being designed to discourage the two-car families who might seek out off-site street parking and that plans are being made to create the additional transit needed to get them in and out of the development without their cars.
“It’s not your typical suburban neighborhood type of community. Because of that, some of the rules you all think will apply do not necessarily apply,” said Tim Lewis’s Mike O’Hara. “This development isn’t going to be for everybody. If you have two cars, three cars, you’re not going to live here.”
O’Hara said 60 percent of the development will be made up of studios and one-bedroom units, which he thinks will attract seniors and young professionals who he said are increasing turning away from the car. But that was a notion most in the audience struggled to swallow.
One attendee said she takes transit to work each day but uses her car to run errands on the weekends. “So it doesn’t eliminate my need for a car. I use my car minimally, but I still have it,” she said.
Attendees demanded the development provide two parking spaces for each new home, something O’Hara said would only attract more cars. He was roundly jeered when he proposed a permit parking program for the neighborhood’s existing residents – something that happened repeatedly as angry participants expressed their fears about the parking and traffic woes all the new development proposed for Alameda could create.
“What we need is two new bridges coming in and out of Alameda. You don’t live here,” said one attendee, who dismissed the developers’ statements as “demagoguery.”
Like other developments the city has approved over the past several years, construction won’t begin at the Del Monte or Encinal Terminals until a plan to reduce the rush-hour traffic the developments will create is approved by the city. In some cases an abundance of parking has been cited as a barrier to the success of those plans.
Still, it was clear the specifics of the parking program – like whether to lease or sell spaces – were still being worked out. O’Hara said the developer is talking to nearby Wind River about possibly making use of their parking.
“The project has to be viable. If it’s not viable, it doesn’t make sense for us to be doing it,” he said. “We’ve crammed every bit of parking we can on this site.”
Some of the meeting’s attendees said they want the transit to be in place before the development is constructed, though O’Hara said riders need to be in place before existing transit agencies will consider adding service. O’Hara said the developments could have a resident-funded shuttle to carry commuters to BART or AC Transit bus passes, though the latter hasn’t yet been okayed by the bus agency.
O’Hara also said the development could support a water shuttle that could ferry existing residents along with those who move in to the new developments across the estuary to a planned bus-to-BART bridge at Oakland’s under-construction Brooklyn Basin development, though that notion seemed preliminary.
The original environmental study of development plans for the Northern Waterfront determined that an extension of Clement Avenue would be needed to blunt the traffic new development would create, along with a pair of new traffic signals and timing changes for some others. Developers will also be required to pay a share of the cost of improving other affected roadways to ease traffic.
The new traffic study determined that existing roadways could only handle the Del Monte project and 30 percent of what Tim Lewis wants to build at Encinal Terminals unless the Clement Avenue extension is completely built. The extension – which is to run from Grand Street to Atlantic Avenue – is to be constructed in pieces as development occurs.
The study determined the parking limits would not create a significant impact to existing residents.
At Monday’s meeting, the Planning Board will hold a public workshop to discuss draft master and development plans for the Del Monte proposal, which include the layout of the proposed development, parking, open space, landscaping, roads and utilities. The environmental study and draft declaration that no additional environmental review is needed will also be presented. The board will not vote to recommend acceptance or approval of any of the documents Monday.
The Planning Board meeting begins at 7 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Avenue. Draft development plans are available on the city website, and materials for the Planning Board meeting are here.