A critical study session for the Sherwin Williams “Urban Village” project will be held at tonight’s Planning Commission meeting starting at 6:30pm at City Hall. The seven person committee chaired by Lawrence C. “Buzz” Cardoza and is responsible for “conducting studies with respect to matters affecting the orderly growth and development of the City and to make recommendations to the City Council with respect to such matters”. They are effectively the first-line of defense for our city prior to City Council vote and we will be monitoring their decisions closely. It should be noted that Chairman Cardoza has recused himself from this study as his son has some involvement in its financing.
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The planning commission has its work cut out for it in trying to make everyone happy: Residents, investors, union labor, developer-friendly politicians mixed in with the cities new family-friendly objectives all have a stake in this massive project. The Emeryville Warehouse Lofts and the Artist Co-op are the two longest vested neighbors and have the most to lose/gain from the 460 planned mixed-use development and the influx of residents, employees and shoppers it will bring to the Historic Park Avenue District.
The letter below was presented to the planning commission earlier this week to express the desires of an Ad-hoc committee of Emeryville Warehouse lofts residents and business-owners asking the planning commission to uphold the visions outlined in the approved Emeryville general plan and Park Avenue District Plan. It should be noted that this represent the views of the Committee and not all residents & businesses of the Emeryville Warehouse Lofts.
Dear Planning Commissioners,
We are a group of residents and business owners living and working at the Emeryville Warehouse Lofts. We are excited about the Sherwin Williams project and look forward to development of this site as a vibrant mixed-used community that contributes to the diverse and architecturally distinct Park Avenue District.
Presented below are issues we consider very important. While we have talked with many residents of the neighborhood and spent quite some time in studying the issues, these are the opinions of our group and do not represent the opinions of Emeryville Warehouse Lofts.
Neighborhood character is clearly described in the Park Avenue District Plan. The Sherwin Williams development must be compatible with the Plan. That being said we would like to see the following incorporated into the development:
- Maintain the neighborhood’s “funkiness” – the diversity of uses, blend of old and new architecture, and affordable space for artists and craftsman.
- Offer a mix of for-sale and rental housing units, preferably with a majority of the residences being for-sale units. According to City statistics, there are currently approximately 461 units under construction in five projects, and another 118 approved in two projects. All are rental. And this is in a community with nearly 2/3 of the homes rentals and quite low civic engagement. Residents of owner occupied housing invest in their community – they vote, volunteer, support the schools and buy locally to support the tax base. The majority of renters typically do not participate as actively in the community. Rental housing is an important component of the City’s housing stock – it offers housing for young families starting out, and those with lower incomes. However, the City now has more than enough rental housing.
Public Park and Open Space
The designated City dog park located to the southwest of the Sherwin Williams property should not be encroached upon by the development. The City is in need of a dog park and its proposed location near the railroad tracks does not present a conflict – there are examples of urban dog parks located under or adjacent to freeways and near railroad tracks in other East Bay cities. For safety purposes it is important to have a controlled site for a dog park that separates active off-leash dogs from typical park activities enjoyed by humans. The dog park’s proposed location is separate from the development and conflicts between dogs and humans therefore avoided. The development is proposing its own open space in the form of a central green that would include a children’s play area, seating areas, pathways, etc. We support this concept and our encouraged the developer intends this open space to be accessible to the public.
We look forward to a development that includes street trees along Horton Street and Sherwin Avenue, open space within the development for children’s play, picnicking, relaxing, etc., with generous plantings, seating areas and bike and pedestrian paths that connect the development with adjacent streets. We like the entrance at the Sherwin Avenue frontage and its relationship to Hubbard Street and would encourage distinctive plantings/landscaping and public art at the entrance. This will provide visual interest along Sherwin and Hubbard and open up the development so there is not a solid wall of buildings on Sherwin Avenue. Green up the plan as much as possible.
Traffic and Circulation
Adjacent streets are designated Local Streets which carry low volumes (Sherwin Avenue, Hubbard Street) and Bike Boulevard (Horton Street) where bicycles have priority and through traffic by other modes is discouraged. Introducing 460 residential units and 85,000 square feet of retail/commercial space has the potential to generate significant traffic and create circulation conflicts. Based on our review of the Illustrative Development Concept we offer the following comments:
- Include an Emery-Go-Round (EGR) stop on-site. Support EGR service to West Oakland Bart.
- Truck loading bays must be located on-site, no on-street loading for delivery trucks.
- Locate garage entrances/exits on Horton Street. The Illustrative Development Concept shows garage entrances on Sherwin Avenue. This will significantly increase traffic on Sherwin, Hubbard and Halleck which cannot accommodate such traffic increases, resulting in traffic backups and noise and air pollution. The garage lighting and alarms from garage doors will adversely affect the EWL units facing on Sherwin Avenue.
- Parking – provide adequate parking on-site. We are concerned there will be inadequate parking for project residents and workers which will result in increased competition for existing on-street parking. There must be adequate parking to accommodate all residents and workers. We support public parking in the garages. We support not allowing on-street parking on the central green side of the streets, but do support short-term on-street parking on the building side of the streets for retail use.
We are concerned about the project density and do not believe the surrounding infrastructure will support such a dense project – particularly the significant increase in traffic that would be generated by the project on adjacent and nearby local streets. While the General Plan allows a density bonus of up to 15%, we believe the base density of 85 dwelling units (du) per acre is dense enough. Adjacent lands to the south and east are designated at a base density of 50 du and 60 du with a density bonus. A density greater than 85 du is incompatible with the neighborhood and the Park Avenue District.
Urban Design and Architectural Quality
We are encouraged with the developers intent to hire multiple architects for the project.
We would like to see the following incorporated into the design concept:
- Taller buildings should be located at the northern part of the property which would be more compatible with the taller, massive Novartis buildings. Along Sherwin Avenue and Horton Street, buildings should be no taller than the height of the existing Sherwin Williams building, and stepped back from the street frontage at 3 stories if they are to be taller to maintain sunlight access and diminish mass.
- Honor the history of the neighborhood and respect the architectural integrity of nearby buildings including Emeryville Warehouse Lofts, the Pelco Building at the corner of Park Avenue and Halleck Street and the Trader Vic Building at 1545 Park Avenue across from Emeryville Warehouse Lofts. We don’t want cute replicas, we want to see contemporary design that reflects the scale, massing and quality of materials of these buildings.
- Use materials with integrity such as brick, concrete and iron which are compatible with the surrounding older buildings in the neighborhood.
- Incorporate public art, trees and landscaping that greens up the street and the project site.
- Signage and lighting should not be intrusive – no harsh lighting, no big signs.
- No dead walls – we are particularly concerned about your design for the parking levels.
And would like to see more organic, open, quality-built condominiums that honor the historic Warehouse & Factory Neighborhood:
Retail and Services
We want to see a mix of small neighborhood-serving retail and business services. We do not want large stores – Bay Street provides that type of retail. We want to see retail that activates the ground level of the development as well as the surrounding area – that draws residents, workers and visitors to the area. We have provided the developer with a list of the type of retail and services we would like to see.
We thank you for your consideration.
Rob Arias, Donna Briskin, Krisna Hanks, Patricia Jeffery, Mike McConnell & John Wolf