July Planning Commission Recap: 5-Story US Spring Building, Doyle Street Townhouse Projects

Published On August 4, 2017 | By Christopher Bennett | Development, News & Commentary

The July 27th Planning Commission saw two study sessions on the agenda for two new housing projects. One for the “Doyle Street Mews” project that had been previously reviewed back in April of 2016, and a new “Adeline Springs” project located on the Emeryville/West Oakland border.

The Commission began the meeting by paying tribute to Lawrence “Buzz” Cardoza for his eleven years on the commission. The 82-year-old Cardoza was replaced by Miguel Guerrero at the June 20th Council meeting.

The meeting then moved to the annual election of Commission officers. Commissioner Donaldson was nominated by outgoing chair Keller and subsequently elected as the new Chair of the Commission. Commissioner Barrera, who was not present with an excused absence, was nominated and elected Vice Chair.

Director’s Report:

  • City Council approved the locations of the Ford GoBike bike share program at July 11th Council Meeting
  • The City Council’s July 25th meeting had them review and approve a modified noise waiver for work being performed on Saturdays at the new streets near the Public Market. Construction crews will be allowed to start work at 10 AM but the waiver does not allow for work on South Market Drive
  • As previously reported, The City of Emeryville was officially named a designated California Cultural District
  • The City Council approved the abatement of the residence at 1264 Ocean Avenue (See Full Story)

Study Session: Proposed Mix-Use “Adeline Springs” at 3637 Adeline St.

A majority of the meeting revolved around the proposed “Adeline Springs” mixed-use development of the US Spring building at 3637 Adeline Street. The site sits at the “star intersection” corner of Adeline and West MacArthur behind Lanesplitter Pizza and Scend’s Bar & Grill.

Until earlier this year the property was occupied by US Spring Service, which operated a family-owned business for repair and replacement of truck springs. The developer, RB Adeline, LLC, purchased the property in 2016 when US Spring Service Owner Stanley Brown decided to move to business elsewhere.

In its current form, the proposal calls for the demolition of the current 5,866 square foot building and constructing a new multi-use development that will top out at 5-stories. The new building will include 29 rental housing units and approximately 4,870 square feet of ground floor live/work space.

Parking for 15 vehicles and 18 bicycles is accommodated in a ground level parking lot behind the proposed building with entry and exit occurring off West MacArthur Boulevard. Floors 2-5 will accommodate the residential units, which currently include 3 studios, 11 one-bedroom units, 11 two-bedroom units and 4 three-bedroom units. The unit size varies from 345-390 square feet for studios; 560-700 square feet for one-bedroom units; 940-1,050 square feet for two-bedroom units; and 1,140 to 1,265 square feet for three-bedroom units. Project amenities include a ground level 208 square foot community room, a 440-square foot lobby area, and a 2,040-square foot common open area on the fifth level.

The building also meets the bonus point requirements by including 17% affordable units (3.9% Very Low-Income level, 5.9% Low Income and 7.2% Moderate Income) and a proposed contribution to the Citywide Fund to Support Small Local-Serving Businesses. the bonuses are required because of the proposed height and floor area ratio.

The Commission discussed several areas of concern, including those highlighted at a community meeting which was held on June 13th, 2017. One area of concern was the general size of the proposed building, which could impact sidewalks on Adeline st. In addition, owners of the adjacent properties attend the meeting and voiced their concerns, mainly the potential consequence the building would have on shadows and their view. The developers produced shadow analysis that showed the configuration of the property would not have a major impact on the shadows, but as adjacent property owner Steve Scar put it:

from our point of view, shadow studies aren’t where it’s at, it’s the fact that we have a massive five-story, 55-foot tall building right in our sky, and it’s going to block out most of our sky.”

Several commissioners recommended that the development team review the bulk of the building to see if alternative design could address the neighbor’s concerns as well as ensuring there is appropriate sidewalk space, and even possibly looking into working in a new cross walk that could help the walkability of that area, which is known to be a difficult area for pedestrians.

While the size of the development was an issue, the biggest concern for the commission seemed to be the lack of parking that would be built for the residents living there, but opinions varied. Commissioner Keller agreed that this could be an issue, but stressed the changing dynamics of the city and the goal of trying to push more residents to use alternative forms of transportation:

parking is an issue throughout town… the way this parking code is now written is to encourage less automobile reliance, I support that… it’s a change of paradigm and it’s going to take time for things to change and change is uncomfortable, but I totally support anything that discourages single occupant vehicle use and I know for a fact that fewer parking spaces does do that job and it’s going to be a growing pain period of a time but I think the City is working on parking policies that will help address those things.”

In his remarks, Commissioner Kang agreed with encouraging alternative means of transportation and increasing the walkability of the area, but also highlighted there is still a practical need for more parking:

I don’t think there is enough parking spaces. While I acknowledge we want to encourage more walkability in this city, I also want to respect the people who are already there, our neighbors and residents who are already there, and I think it’s easy to talk about the people we want to attract and come, but I am a little uncomfortable with saying people in a certain age don’t drive anymore because I think that overlooks people of different ability, different diversity, and families who need a car to get around. Have you ever tried to take public transportation with two kids in tow… riding AC Transit, it’s not really realistic.”

In connection to the parking issue, several of the commissioners urged the development team to reexamine the bicycle parking to see if they could incorporate more secure places for residents to park their bikes. As Commissioner Thompson said:

secure bike parking is really critical. I have a kid and I don’t have a car, and we have lots of bikes in our house and we won’t put them anyplace because we don’t have a secure place and it takes up real estate and as you have smaller units it’s a huge problem in terms of not having that real estate.”

A number of Commissioners also commented on the proposed murals that would be included on the exterior. While most lauded the developer for including artwork that would give the property some personality, they cautioned that it needed to be of good material quality to have long-term viability, and they needed to consult the surrounding property owners, who will be facing the murals every day.

The last major talking point was the proposed use of wood batten siding on the exterior of the building. While most of the Commission approved of the unique look it would present, they warned of the “jail-cell feel” residents would experience, and the propensity for the wood to warp and degrade over time. They asked the development team to reconsider the battens or update their plans to account for the long-term care of them.

While there is still issues to be ironed out, the commission seemed to approve of the general idea of the building. As Commissioner Keller noted:

I want to recognize that this is a difficult site; it’s particular small, it’s in a neighborhood that has been neglected…these types of building bring more people to the neighborhood, they make more safe streets, they bring more eyes on the streets, this type of development is what a city needs.”

The development team will look to take the commissions suggestions and integrate them into their updated plans for approval at a later date.

View the Entire Staff Report →
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at 15:25


Study Session: Doyle Street Mews

The second study session of the night involved the proposed mix-use development of the “Doyle Street Mews” at 5876 – 5880 Doyle Street near The Townhouse Bar & Grill. The Commission has previously discussed this project at prior meetings in 2016, and it involves the demolition of six exiting residential units and replacing them with six new residential units which will all be 3-bedroom units.

As a recap, the first study session was held on April 28, 2016, and the Commission expressed general support for the project concept, but raised concerns regarding the proposed use of Zero Net Energy to reach the required bonus points.

A second Planning Commission study session was held on August 25, 2016. The applicant replaced the previous proposal to earn the required bonus points by making the project Zero Net Energy, with a new proposal to earn the required bonus points by contributing to the Citywide Fund to Support Small Local-Serving Businesses and meeting the family friendly unit design requirements. While the commission was supportive of the updated proposal to earn the required bonus points, they voiced concern with potential damage to neighboring redwood trees and the general size of the development.

The developers then took the proposal in front of the City Council on November 1st, 2016 as they need approval upon recommendation from the Planning Committee because it involves the demolition of residential units. At their meeting, the Council was generally supportive of the project, they have deferred to the Planning Commission for advice on the issues of the potential damage to the redwoods and overall design and materials.

The developers have now updated the design in several ways to address previous concerns including elevating parts of the foundation to minimize any potential damage to the neighboring redwood trees as well as re-configuring the design of the units for a more townhouse look, which increases their efficiency in terms of parking and open family space. The Commission supported the updated design of the units and were pleased with the upgrades to the proposed material and aesthetic look.The developers will look to incorporate final updates before getting approval from City Council.

View the Entire Staff Report →
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at 2:02:50


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About The Author

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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