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April 2019 Planning Commission Recap: Wareham Appeals Marketplace Plan, 55th Street Duplex Conversion

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The Planning Commission had a full agenda for their April meeting including a review of Emeryville’s proposed Capital Improvement Program and a Public Hearing to convert a dilapidated property on 55th street to a duplex.

The most anticipated agenda item was a dispute around the Marketplace ‘Parcel B’ redevelopment plan between City Center Realty Partners and a neighboring Wareham development owned property. The dispute garnered attention from the regional media including The San Francisco Business Times who framed it as “backlash from a competitor.”

Director’s Report:

  • At their April 2nd meeting, the City Council issued a letter to the Oakland City Planning Commission backing the approval for the conditional use permit for the Emery Go-Round for a Shuttle yard under the MacArthur Maze along Mandela Parkway. On April 3rd, the OCPC unanimously approved the permit.
  • At their April 16th meeting, the City Council Approved a request for a noise waiver at the EmeryTech Building at 65th street for Saturday crane operation to replace 18 air conditioning units. The work will be performed between April 27th and May 18th.
  • The City Council approved the annual increase in the development impact fees. Increase was set at 0.28% and will take effect on July 1st.
  • Bike to Work Day will be held on Thursday, May 9th. There will be a short community ride starting at 8 a.m. in front of City Hall.
  • There will be a Community Workshop on the 40th and San Pablo Transit Hub on the final design concept on Wednesday, May 22nd starting at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

PUBLIC HEARING: 55th Street Duplex Conversion

The Planning Commission also reviewed the conversion of an existing single residential unit at 1291 55th Street into a two-unit residential building. We covered the initial study session in our February recap.

At the time, The Commissioners generally expressed support for the project and provided various feedback on the aesthetics of the building. Suggestions by the commission included adequate space to access the proposed bike parking, additional plants in the front space and providing local examples of buildings with similar design aesthetics.

The conversion would  add about 518 square feet of space, for a total floor area of approximately 3,508 square feet. Unit 1 would be accessed from 55th Street, with four bedrooms and a deck on the top floor; Unit 2 would be accessed from the rear yard and would have a patio and five bedrooms on the ground floor.

The applicant, Baran Studio Architecture, came back with some key updates to the proposed design. The revised plans included a slightly modified parking design a more detailed landscaping plan. The applicant also provided the commission with examples of properties with similar design aesthetics as requested.

The Commission was impressed with the updated design, and while the design is unique, the massing and size of the updated property fit with the rest of the neighborhood.

“It’s interesting and it will be a different addition to the neighborhood, and the scale and massing is not much different then what is there now” said Commissioner Donaldson.

Commissioner Guerrero also highlighted that the update would be a welcomed change from what is there now,

“I see this building as a dramatic improvement from the unsightly building that has been there for several years.”

The Commissioner unanimously approved the updated design.

View the Entire Staff Report
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at [7:27].




PUBLIC HEARING: Reconsideration of Marketplace Parcel B Final Development Plan

The highlight of the meeting was the much-discussed reconsideration of the Final Development Plan (FDP) for the Parcel B marketplace redevelopment project. The FDP would see the development of an 8-story building that would include 14,000 square feet of retail space, 150,000 square feet of office/lab space, and 565 parking spaces.

The FDP was approved by the Commission back in January, but an appeal was submitted to the City Council by Wareham Development in February. Wareham’s appeal letter (page 8) listed five main concerns with the FDP. The main concern of the letter focused on the distance between the proposed project and their EmeryStation West property that they expressed would cause issues with wind on the ground level.

Other concerns include an alleged failure to complete and submit the necessary Transportation Demand Management Plan to the City for review and approval prior to completion of the FDP, possible violations of the City’s tower separation ordinance (currently being considered for amendment to accommodate the Onni tower project), and that the project does not comply with elements of the Redevelopment Project Planned Unit Development/Preliminary Development Plan (PUD/PDP) that governs the redevelopment in that area.

After review of the Commission’s original approval of the FDP and the appeal, the City Council remanded the issue back to the Commission on March 19 (Resolution No. 19-29) and directed the Commission to consider the issues raised and to hold a new public hearing on the project. Accordingly, the Commission’s review of the FDP is limited to the issues raised in the appeal.

While not unheard-of, the appeal and remand create a unique situation. In addition to the normal proceedings, which include public comment and discussion among the Commission, both the applicant, City Center Reality Partner, and Wareham were able to give presentations to the Commission outlining their cases.

The presentations started with City Center Reality Partners, the developer of Parcel B. As a general rebuke to Wareham’s concerns, City Center’s President Mark Stefan started the discussion and highlighted how integral Parcel B is to the overall redevelopment of the area:

“Parcel B is an integral part of the [Public Market] project. The reason Parcel B is an integral part is for several reasons… it allows us to provide replacement parking for Parcel A so we can build the 167 units on Parcel A, and with more than 500 employees that will be in that building, it helps provide a very important economic driver for the existing food hall and the small businesses we have.”

City Center’s legal counsel, Chelsea Maclean of the law firm of Holland & Knight, followed up by providing a point-by-point rebuttal of Wareham’s concerns that were included in their appeal letter. In regards to the issues surrounding wind, Ms. Maclean pointed to the wind studies they had completed, which according to their expert, showed that the building massing and location that were approved would not create adverse affects to ground-level winds.

“the presence of naturally ventilated parking garage space in the bottom half of the structure means that any upwind and downwind pressure differences generated at the top floors of the building would result in airflow through the parking garage floors and not wind accelerations at ground level…it would not have the potential to adversely affect ground-level winds near the base.”

In response to Wareham’s concerns about the tower separation, Ms. Maclean highlighted that the regulations that control tower separation (Zoning Code Section 9.3.310) does not apply since the code applies to towers above 100 feet, which Parcel B will be short of.

For their Part, Wareham’s CEO Rich Robbins started their presentation by highlighting their commitment to this redevelopment and their history in Emeryville,

“There seems to be a misnomer here. One, we are not against density. Two, we are not against this project. Three, we want to expand the cluster and care greatly being that we’ve been here for 41 years and have been long-term stakeholders.”

Geoff Sears, a partner at Wareham, continued the presentation and elaborated on the concerns they included in their appeal letter. First, he touched on the numerous requirements the PDP places on the redevelopment, and their opinion that the Parcel B FDP does not meet a number of the requirements. Included in this was their opinion that the FDP did not meet massing and setback requirements found in the PDP, and numerous design elements that are required are also not present.

In addition, Mr. Sears highlighted Wareham’s issue with the narrow gap that would be created between Parcel A and B, and in their opinion the wind issues that could be created,

“Wind remains a real issue. We’ve engaged our own wind consultant … the conditions of approval and the EIR call for final designs… to avoid narrow gaps between buildings were wind can be accelerated. The current design does not do that.”

Once the presentations and public comment were over, the Commission held an initial discussion and some members voiced their concern that Wareham had continued to submit documents on the issue all the way up to the day of the Commission’s meeting, and this left some of the members without adequate time to review everything that had been submitted. Leading this was Commissioner Keller, who was vocal that he did not have enough time to review the entire collection of documents.

Given the importance of the issue and the documents that came in last-minute, the Commission agreed to push the discussion to a special Commission meeting that will be held on May 14th where they will discuss the information and vote.

View the Entire Staff Report
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at [37:29].



ADMINISTRATIVE ITEM: Review of Capital Improvement Program

The final item on the agenda was the review of the proposed Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for Fiscal Years 2019-20 through 2023-24. City Council will hold a study session on the Draft CIP on May 7th and a budget presentation on May 21. Adoption of the CIP along with the City Budget is tentatively set for the June 4th meeting. California Government Code Section 65403(c) requires that the CIP be referred to the Planning Commission for review of its consistency with the General Plan prior to final adoption by the City Council.

For background, since the 1980s, the City Council has used the Five Year Capital Improvement Program to implement the goals and vision of the Emeryville community as defined in the City’s General Plan. The CIP provides a framework to view what capital projects have been accomplished and those that are planned for the future. It is an integral part of the City’s strategy for developing the infrastructure required to create a livable and sustainable city. Over the years, through the CIP process, the City has completed its new Civic Center, constructed several new parks, built a new Child Development Center, our Amtrak Station, renovated most of its existing community facilities, and upgraded the Public Marina.

The most recent CIP budget was approved on September 19, 2017 for fiscal years 2016-17 through 2020-21. This CIP included approximately 89 projects with a price-tag of approximately $144 million. Some of the major projects recently completed and/or under construction include Emeryville Center for Community Life; Corporation Yard Improvements and Emergency Operations Center; The Senior Center Rehabilitation; the Joseph Emery Park Skate Spot; the Transit Center Plaza, and the 3706 San Pablo Affordable Housing project. In the Draft CIP for fiscal years 2019-2020 through 2023-2024, a total of approximately $91 million are proposed as ‘funded’ projects.

These projects are subdivided by the following categories:

  • Community Facilities and Facilities Maintenance
  • Housing
  • Information Technology
  • Marina
  • Pedestrian and Bicycle
  • Public Art
  • Sanitary Sewer
  • Streetscape System
  • Transportation
  • Vehicle Replacement

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the proposed CIP priorities and plan.

View the Entire Staff Report
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at [1:46:12].

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Christopher Bennett

was born and raised in the north bay and now lives on the Emeryville/Oakland border in the Longfellow neighborhood with his wife and two cats (Sherlock and Watson). When he's not writing, Chris works as an attorney who assist engineers and professional consultants navigate their contracts and related business issues.

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