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February Planning Commission Recap: Cannabis Lounge approved; General Plan Annual Report, Sherwin Update

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February’s Planning Commission meeting included a discussion of the annual general plan progress report, approval of a new cannabis dispensary and a review of an updated final architecture plan for the Sherwin-Williams project.

Director’s Report:

  • At their February 20th meeting, The City Council approved an amendment to the master fee schedule to add a fee of $2500 per pole per year for small cell antennas attached to City street lights.
  • The City Council also approved an ordinance to put a $50M affordable housing general obligation bond on the June, 2018 ballot.
  • A Special Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for March 15th.

General Plan Annual Progress Report:

The meeting started with a review of the 2017 General Plan Annual progress report which was presented by the City’s Economic Development and Housing Department. As way of background, California Government Code Section 65300 requires each city and county to adopt a general plan for the physical development of the jurisdiction. State law requires that general plans include seven elements which must cover topics such as land use, housing, noise and safety. The plan also establishes a baseline by which to determine whether development proposals and public projects are consistent with the City’s goals for the future. The City of Emeryville adopted its General Plan, not including the housing element, in October of 2009. The current 2015-2023 housing element was certified by the California Department of Housing and Community development back on January 28, 2015.

For this Planning Commission meeting, there was a focus on the goals included in the housing element of the General Plan. An important aspect of the housing element is the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), which is the state-mandated process to identify the total number of housing units (by affordability level) that each jurisdiction must accommodate in its Housing Element. Emeryville’s current RHNA implementation period runs from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2022.

At just over the one-third mark in the current RHNA period, there has been good progress made in developing more very low-income units, but low and moderate units are lagging. The Economic Development and Housing Department anticipate those two areas to catch-up to the very-low income levels as new developments come online this year. There are several projects in the pipeline that will include moderate and low-income units, but until a building permit is issued, they can’t be counted in annual report.

Affordable Housing Programs Coordinator Catherine Firpo summed it up as follows:

“We will obviously meet our above-moderate requirement, that is not a problem… the low and the moderate I expect to catch up to the very low because of how our programs work.”

Even with the numbers looking good, the Economic Development and Housing Department do not anticipate Emeryville will reach all the goals set out in the General Plan. As Ms. Firpo stated,

“[for moderate and low income units] I expect we will get to close to 50% at the end of the nine-year period.”

But even with that being said, Emeryville is in line with or exceeding the progress other municipalities are making in the region, and the Commission was appreciative of the work being done, as Commissioner Keller put it,

“For a city as small as we are we have accomplished a lot.”

In addition to the update on housing, the annual report highlighted some of the major achievements of 2017, which include:

  • Joined Berkeley and Albany in the North County Homless hub program.
  • The Heritage Square Garage and Retail project was completed. It will provide parking for the Emery Station West Transit Center project, which is under construction.
  • The City received Measure B funding from Alameda County Transportation Commission for several projects including the South Bayfront Pedestrian Bicycle Bridge and the bike share stations west of Shellmound.
  • Shellmound Street was realigned as part of the Marketplace redevelopment project.
  • The City started preparing a Green Infrastructure Plan on stormwater treatment.

View the Entire Staff Report →
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at 1:42:00

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Public Hearing: Rochambeau Cannabis Retail Dispensary

The Commission reviewed and considered a Major Conditional Use Permit for Rochambeau, a company owned and operated by the Berkeley Patients Group, who have run a dispensary in Berkeley at 2366 San Pablo Avenue since 1999.


The permit would allow Rochambeau to open a new cannabis dispensary at at 3996 San Pablo Avenue, which will include retail sale and on-site consumption of cannabis products (a tasting bar), on-site pick up, and home delivery.

Rochambeau proposes to occupy an existing 2,200 square-foot space on the ground floor of the Andante Mixed Use residential development. This commercial condominium space is owned by Joson Nicholas Lee and has been vacant for approximately one year. The remaining 7,950 square feet of ground floor commercial space along San Pablo Avenue is occupied by a tax office and hair and massage spa with the southernmost space remaining vacant. A 4,400 square-foot restaurant is located at the corner of San Pablo Avenue and 40th Street.

The planned dispensary will include a sales kiosk and on-site consumption of cannabis products excluding any type of smoking. The facility is expected to have 20 employees, and approximately 300 customers per day are expected. The facility has rights to 90 parking spaces in the Andante garage that are shared by all the commercial uses in the complex and the garage includes access to bicycle parking, with a new bicycle rack is proposed outside the storefront on San Pablo Avenue to accommodate additional customers. The facility will operate consistent from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm, while deliveries will be restricted to between 8:00 am and 7:00 pm.

Berkeley Patient Group COO Sean Luse highlighted their experience in the cannabis space:

“[Berkeley Patient Group] has the longest operated dispensary in the county…we have pretty much seen everything there is to see when it comes to operating a dispensary… including challenges from the federal government, and have been at the forefront of pioneering regulations and creating a regulated marajuana industry in California.”

Rochambeau’s permit application was extremely detailed and hit on all the major concerns, including security, trash and the tasting bar. The Commission was very pleased with the amount of detail presented, and it was clear that Rochambeau’s team had the desired experience. Vice-Chair Barrera summed it up:

“[Rochambeau] Seem professional and have all of your ducks in a row…and I was especially impressed with the all the community benefits that you are proposing… and you are already being well received by the surrounding community.”

The permit was unanimously approved.

View the Entire Staff Report
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at 1:57:00.

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Public Hearing: Sherwin Williams – Architectural Final Development Plan

The Planning Commission held another study session to review the final architectural development plan for the Sherwin-Williams development. As covered in our January recap the last study session ended with the Commission voicing their general approval with the progress on the architectural features.

Since the last review, the developer has made some edits to the plan, including modifying the planned B1 building by Removing what was previously the sixth floor from the building, lowering the height by an entire floor and reducing unit count by 10 units from 74 to 64. Overall project unit count remained the same at 500 units due to changes in unit count in other buildings.

In addition, they have reconfigured  building B2 so the overall building plan goes from a “C shape” to an “E shape” building. An update to the Site Transportation Demand Management plan was also provided in order to accommodate the updated targeted vehicle trip reduction goal.

After discussion, the plan was unanimously approved.

View the Entire Staff Report
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at 0:05:00.

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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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