A project that was nearly a decade in the making is finally ready to take the next steps as the Sherwin-Williams Preliminary Development Plan (PDP) was approved at the Tuesday October 18th Council Meeting. A project we’ve been covering for the past five years with no fewer than a dozen articles in an attempt to communicate the many steps and vet neighborhood priorities.
The PDP approval allows for the 10.05-acre project site to be divided into five development parcels that will accommodate:
- Up to 500 residential units (85 designated “affordable”, 50% “Family Friendly”).
- 18,000 sq. ft. of office space (within existing “architecturally significant” building)
- 2,000 – 8,000 square feet of ground floor retail/restaurant space.
- 3.53 acres of public park/open space area on the City-owned property and in four “Park Open Space” parcels
- Expansion of the Emeryville Greenway to connect to the planned bike/ped. bridge to Bay Street.
The project will also create two new streets in the Park Avenue District including 46th Street and an extension of Hubbard. The height of the buildings at street level were negotiated to be in-line with adjacent buildings and step back to higher elevations toward the interior of the site.
The Environmental Impact Report was unanimously certified at the Sept. Council Meeting:
The Planning Commission deadlocked on recommending the EIR certification back in July and it was slated for a showdown at the September 6th City Council meeting when the neighborhood advocacy group PARC (Park Avenue Residents’ Committee) reached an 11th hour deal with Lennar to provide eleven separate community benefits that would help mitigate the impact of the increased density in exchange for their valuable support. PARC organizer and Emeryville Warehouse Lofts resident Donna Briskin continually communicated with residents throughout the project through an email newsletter and seemed particularly satisfied with the result “[we] think it’s going to help Emeryville as a whole and the Park Avenue District.”
PARC emerged from an Emeryville Warehouse Lofts resident group that included Briskin, John Wolf, Krisna Hanks, Patti Jeffries and E’ville Eye editor Rob Arias. They merged with similar groups from neighboring buildings with shared interests including the Artist Cooperative to achieve maximum leverage and represent the entire neighborhood. It was the first time that a neighborhood group had stepped in to reach an agreement with developers that Emeryville city staff was aware of. PARC may get called into action again soon as there are several neighborhood projects in the queue including the proposed demolition of the architecturally significant PG&E Laboratory building, the Pelco Development and eventually the Banker Marks building (that houses the East Bay Badminton Association).
These community benefits were written into the Conditions of Approval for the project:
- Free community shuttle from the site non-stop to W. Oakland BART for five years
- An open-air pedestrian/bike path through the original building that will connect the new park directly to 45th St.
- Ten Carshare spots, three of which will be on City streets to make them more accessible to the entire neighborhood
- A bike share station that will be part of the network that is also at W. Oakland and MacArthur BART stations
- The development of a Traffic Demand Management system which will reduce car traffic by 30% below that which it would have been expected to reach with “normal” density of this type. As part of this, the City is being asked to develop a parking management program (e.g. meters, limited time spaces, etc.)
- Sidewalk improvements and undergrounding of utilities on the surrounding streets (east side of Hubbard, east side of Horton, and south side of Sherwin)
- A 2,000 square foot community gallery and meeting room space, and associated structured parking.
The comparison below illustrates the initial “central green” plan pitched by Thompson Dorfman and the revised plan that includes PARC’s recommendations:
Consolidated Affordable Units
One sticking point of the project was the consolidation of affordable units into one parcel. It’s been conventional wisdom that affordable units should be spread throughout a development project to avoid the stigma and class distinction of “living in the affordable building”. This consolidation does come with quite a few benefits that include more units, deeper levels of affordability and the ability to provide social services such as training programs to the residents. Council ultimately conceded that the benefits outweighed the costs and agreed to the proposal. St. Anton Multifamily is being considered by Lennar for the affordable unit development.
Martinez avoids “Deal-Killer”
Mayor Martinez found herself in a bit of a pickle when a Carpenters Union came in at the eleventh hour to try to add a condition of approval to the project that would require that all general contractor bidders participate in an apprenticeship program. A condition commonly referred to as a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). “I don’t want to leave any vagueness about what this means for us. It’s a Deal Killer” noted Lennar representative Alex Waterbury adding that it would have added 25% to the cost of carpentry to the project estimated to be more than $7 million. “We have not signed anything like this in our company to date.”
Martinez, who has developed a reputation for kowtowing to labor groups, wisely backed off as undoing the efforts of the community and derailing the project would certainly come with blowback. “This is not a surprise” noted Councilmember Nora Davis referring to the project that had been ongoing for three years. “To come in at the last hour expecting some kind of signature is unrealistic.”
Almost everyone happy
Representatives of three organizations including The Greenbelt Alliance, Bike East Bay, and TransForm (which provides GreenTrip Certification to developments) each stood up and enthusiastically supported the project. “After careful review, we are proud to endorse the Sherwin-Williams project. As a matter of fact it is one of the highest scoring projects we’ve seen in several years” noted Greenbelt Alliance regional representative Joel Devalcourt. Devalcourt added that the fact the development was on a former Brownfield site made it even more of an accomplishment.
TransForm’s calculations noted that residents in the new project could drive 41% less than the average development of the region based on the transit amenities. The Greenbelt Alliance endorsed the project in this article by noting “this proposal will help address the Bay Area’s pressing housing shortage, support the local economy, and relieve development pressure on our natural and agricultural lands.”
Surprisingly, there was little opposition toward the project with a notable exception being one lone RULE member. Despite this individuals persistence on increasing Emeryville’s Affordable Housing stock (17%), inclusion of “family-friendly” housing (over 50%) bike-ability (endorsed by Bike East Bay) and increasing park space (over 3 acres), he continued to deride the project and the efforts put forth by community members.
The City “Statement of Overriding Considerations” document ultimately noted that the project would “revitalize the site to create an active mixed use residential and commercial neighborhood with new public park and open spaces”. “It was through a high level of community engagement that tonight we get to look at a project that’s been greatly strengthened.” added Councilmember Atkin referencing the efforts of PARC. The project PDP and general plan amendment that was required were both formally approved 5-0.
Next Steps for the project
A second reading of the agreement will be brought forth at the November 1st council meeting where it is expected to move forward unopposed. The project will then enter the next phase where the architecture, parks, landscaping and the other specifics of the development will be designed. These will be brought forth to the Planning Commission Study Sessions for community feedback and eventual approval throughout the course of 2017. Groundbreaking is expected to take place in 2018 and be completed within three years.
The staff presentation, council discussion and subsequent vote can be viewed above beginning at 2:39:18