Proposed Live-Work Pelco Lofts first new ownership units in Emeryville in nearly a decade

Published On July 21, 2016 | By William He | News & Commentary, Planning & Development

At the June 23rd Planning Commission meeting, plans were reviewed for the Pelco Lofts project. The 29,567 square foot warehouse nestled at the foot of Park Avenue would be an ambitious conversion of a historically significant building into modern abodes for entrepreneurs. The building is a Tier 1 “high architectural significance”according to the Park Avenue District plan and subject to preservation.

Designed by SABI Design Build and headed by Y.Q. Bomani Construction, the Pelco Loft’s scope of work consists of removing existing accessory buildings on the lot, converting the existing warehouse into loft units, and building a new two-story building in the rear for a total of 23 live-work units and 2 ground floor retail spaces. 14 vehicle parking spaces would be included. The building originally required 24 spaces, but gained parking space “credits” through our development bonus system through reuse of a architecturally significant building. The developers will also provide 26 long-term and 8 short-term bicycle parking spots. Bomani previously helped rehab the Cigar Factor Lofts in West Oakland.

Pelco is being presented as an ownership project which would make it the first significant for-sale development since [Correction] Adeline Place in 2009. Since they are live-work units, they will not be subject to the City unit mix or family-friendly requirements. Most developers note their decision to build all rentals as “market-driven”.

The Planning Commission had mixed reactions to the latest Park Avenue District project. On the one hand, they applauded the developers for taking on the challenge of working with a historic building and keeping much of the facade and architectural details on the roof lines. The commission also welcomed the idea of providing spaces for entrepreneurs, which could incubate new ideas and small businesses for the City. The project would also implement sidewalks on the west side of Halleck Street adding to the area’s pedestrian friendliness.

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Pelco Distributors at the corner of Park & Halleck was built as “Air Reduction Incorporated” in 1917 and manufactured oxygen tanks for welding.

The project was also met with some criticism by the commission. Firstly the live/work designation has to meet specific criteria including being 50% living space and 50% work space. They must also be ADA accessible and the current plans did not include an elevator. Overall, the commission thought the floor plans were confusing and lacked detail.

While the developers made a laudable effort to present the concept of the warehouse conversion, the plans showed stairways that led to nowhere and windows in the wrong places. The single entry for the two ground floor retail spaces also felt uninspired, and the commission requested the developers to explore options of creating two separate entries while working with the existing industrial roll-up doors. Lastly, the brand new two-story building seemed very close to the railroad and had very small windows compared to those of the warehouse building.

The applicant will respond to the comments and concerns of the Planning Commission and submit their official package at the next stage. With the right direction from staff, the Pelco Lofts project could become a plus for the Park Avenue District. The adjacent blighted warehouse at 4245 Halleck is not part of this project.

The Planning Commission Study Session video can be viewed in the feature area [54:50] and the planning submission can be viewed below.


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About The Author

is a city planner for the City of American Canyon. He grew up in Oakland and moved to Emeryville in 2011. He has a Master's Degree in Urban Planning from San Jose State University and completed his thesis on the impact of redevelopment projects in Emeryville. His interests include community planning, land use optimization, and urban design. William lives with his wife in the Park Avenue District and enjoys photography and traveling on his spare time.

13 Responses to Proposed Live-Work Pelco Lofts first new ownership units in Emeryville in nearly a decade

  1. Mike M. says:

    What brilliant city planning. The fact that the building is notable means that half the residents can park on the street. And the few remaining businesses along Park Avenue and in EWL will be further damaged by the absence of street parking for their customers. I am sure such planning sounded good on paper to those who make these policies, but what a disaster for the neighborhood.

  2. C. Wong says:

    I echo Mike M. and Frances Carty’s opinions about the parking planned for the project. Parking is already horrendous in that area without the development of this project. With inadequate parking, it will only strain the parking in the neighboring areas and discourage customers/visitors to the area.

  3. hewhew says:

    Hi folks. Thanks for commenting on this story. Full disclosure, I live in Park Avenue District and am a bit concerned with the development myself. However, during the Planning Commission meeting, the commission did ask the developer about how they would mitigate the parking situation. One of the options they tossed around was having the developers provide transit passes and/or create some spaces for carshare parking. It’s still in the planning review stage for the Conditional Use Permit, so there will be more to details to hammer out before anything is built. I’m definitely going to be following up on this one.

    • Mike M. says:

      Great. If you can mention hearing dates in future coverage, that would be helpful. There seems to be a standard b.s. reply from developers about handing out transit passes as if that will change people’s behavior. Do you know anyone who doesn’t have a car? I drive only once a week, but to pick up my granddaughter in Oakland and take her to kung fu in Berkeley every Thursday, I need a car. What is the developer’s theory, that I’ll take Uber? AC Transit is not an option. We are not talking about traffic; we are talking about parking. They are NOT going to be able to sell condos to people who don’t own cars. The idea that E’ville will become Manhattan by wishing it so is truly bewildering and frightening.

  4. Rob says:

    My personal thoughts are that I don’t think a 23 unit live-work project is going to dramatically impact the parking in our neighborhood and I welcome that building being used for needed housing instead of storage. I’m especially pleased that these will provide ownership opportunities in our city. I think we need to look to the city to provide better parking management and also we need to talk to Plum Organics and Peet’s about better incentivizing their employees to take transit as they are probably the biggest culprits of our scarce parking from my observations.

  5. Alex says:

    I agree with Mike M’s sentiments. The idea of expecting the people who move in to not have a car is unrealistic. Thinking people will just use mass transit might work on paper but I just don’t think it’s going to happen in reality. At best the prevailing attitude will be to expect “the other guy” to do it which means virtually no one will. I think the city council is completely out of touch with reality with regards to parking.

  6. Lisa says:

    I agree, transit passes don’t change the fact that condo owners are going to be car owners and the cars need to be somewhere. This is extremely short sighted.

  7. Scott says:

    Where are they at with this project?

  8. Psy says:

    Seems like the building is now off market (a quick search to find out what its status was brought me here.) As someone who has been trying to buy a proper work/live unit in Emeryville for the past eighteen months, I’ve got my fingers crossed that the development is moving forward!

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