THE DEVELOPMENT REPORT: Del Monte discussion tonight

THE DEVELOPMENT REPORT: Del Monte discussion tonight

Michele Ellson
Del Monte warehouse

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.

Related: Homes, retail space proposed for historic Del Monte warehouse

Del Monte development plan before board


Submitted by Steve Gerstle on Tue, Jun 24, 2014

There used to be a bus line that ran on Buena Vista and connected with both 12th BART and Fruitvale BART. That line was cut a few years back. There also used to be a bus line that ran on Encinal Avenue and went by Alameda Hospital. The transit coverage map of Alameda has been cut over the years. Transit service is heavily subsidized. No matter how great the need, if the funds are not available, the service will not be provided. It is similar to low income housing. There is a great need for low income housing, but it requires subsidies and if the funds are not available, then the housing will not be provided.

We used to live in a nine story condominium in San Francisco. The 150 units were studios, one-bedroom and two-bedrooms. Each unit had one deeded parking space. I served on the homeowners' board. The biggest complaint we heard was the lack of parking -- even though seven Muni lines ran within a few blocks of us and a wide variety of stores were available nearby. We paid for two passenger loading zones for taxis and drop-offs. We continually had to call Parking control to ticket people parked in our loading zones. There were a handful of homeowners without cars who rented out their parking spaces for over $300 a month. We also had to tow cars illegally parked in someone's space.

While charging an additional fee for parking in the new development sounds like a good idea, I can see those who cannot pay or will not pay for a parking space resorting to any means necessary to obtain a free spot. How will enforcement of parking rules be handled? Will the police have to be called each time to ticket illegally parked vehicles? Who will bear these costs?

I'm not against the development, but if it isn't planned right from the start, it could be a headache for residents, neighbors and city officials for a long time to come.

Submitted by Steve Gerstle on Tue, Jun 24, 2014

“If developments do charge separately for parking, there may be an incentive for tenants or owners to find other places to park their cars to escape the parking charge, potentially causing spillover effects. If on-street parking or nearby off-street lots for other uses are free and unregulated, they may soon be overrun. Some communities address this concern by prohibiting street parking overnight. Another approach is implement residential permit parking but prohibit residents of developments that supply off-street parking from obtaining permits. The most flexible approach is charge for on-street parking at a market rate and establish parking benefit districts to invest the revenue in neighborhood improvements. If both on-street and off-street parking costs reflect market rates, then there should not be a shortage of on-street parking. In addition, if there are nearby lots for other uses with more parking supply than they need, the community can allow them to rent or lease those spaces to the residents during evening hours or at any hours where they are not needed for the original use in a shared parking arrangement.”

Current estimates of the value of a deeded parking space in SF range from $30,000 - $100,000, depending on neighborhood. Deeded parking is a better approach as the small percentage of homeowners who do not own a car can lease their space to help offset their homeowners fees. My experience in SF, in a condo development far more dense, with excellent nearby shopping and numerous public transit lines, was that only about ten percent of homeowners did not own a car. The City should research the likely percentage of car-free households in this new development.
The development will bring hundreds of new residents to an existing neighborhood. Without proper planning, we are setting the stage for strife – and the angry new residents will outnumber the angry current residents.

Submitted by Kristen (not verified) on Tue, Jun 24, 2014

Has the city ever seriously considered area parking permits for residents? In congested areas, such as the neighborhoods near Park St. and Webster St., this makes a lot of sense. Living near Webster St., I would pay the city $50/year for a sticker that allows me to park on my own street all day long, and encourages those visiting the neighborhood and enjoying the "free" parking to move their cars after 3 or 4 hours. Seems like a win-win to me. Oakland, SF, other local cities do this. Why not Alameda?