A formal design permit has been filed with the Oakland Bureau of Planning and Zoning for the proposed development of the empty lot at 6500 San Pablo Avenue, a lot that once housed the original Trader Vic’s restaurant.
The proposed development of the compact 3,600 Square foot lot will include a 5-story mix-use building with ground floor commercial space, 10 residential units, and seven parking spaces.
A Lot with History
6500 San Pablo Avenue is a historically significant location as it was the original location of Trader Vic’s and its predecessor Hinky Dinks when it first opened in 1934. Trader Vic’s moved to the Emeryville Marina in 1972 as part of the Watergate development. The developer has agreed to honor this historical fact with a plaque as requested by the community.
The property was owned by the estate of Leonard and Elzora Leggett. Several organizations, including The Oakland Community Land Trust and The Coalition to Defend Black Homes drew attention to the sale of the property, and in the OCLT’s case, attempted to work with the Leggett estate directly.
However, prior to anything being formalized between OCLT and the Leggett trust, the property was put through probate, and an auction was held for the sale of the property at the Berkeley Superior Courthouse in November of 2016.
The proposed development falls within a regular design review (DR) for new construction (Planning application PLN-17067). The permit application was submitted on behalf of the owner, 6500 San Pablo LLC – Lezhi Huang, by ICE Design, Inc. on March 9th.
The City performed a CEQA analysis and determined the development was exempt under CEQA Guideline Sections 15532 and 15183 as being a fill in development that meets the community zoning plan.
More Development in North Oakland
The project went through two rounds of community input before arriving at its current plan. Community sentiment was said to be mostly favorable after aggregating and implementing their feedback. Final public comment ended on July 10th.
Some from the public questioned the aesthetics of the development, which resembles other newer developments popping up in that area. In addition, concern has been expressed with the proposed size of the development, which some feel is disproportionate to the adjacent single story building that Novel Brewery Co. operates out of.
Some neighbors expressed dismay over the loss of the iconic street murals that were created when the adjacent building was part of the Pallet Space Gallery. The building is being renovated to accommodate a Kitchen on Fire cooking school.
However, the proposed development would be in line with other mix-use developments in this intersection, including a seven-story building kitty-corner to the lot at 6505 San Pablo Ave., as well as another five-story mix-use complex straight across the street at 6501 San Pablo.
While some raised concerns, others expressed their general approval of the proposed development given the new residential units that could help the current tight housing market. “The City and the developer were very receptive to community requests to soften the building design, improve the environmental features, and preserve the site’s historical character,” noted Golden Gate Neighborhood resident Adam Lenz who helped facilitate neighborhood outreach.
“The improvements initiated by the community are facilitating a project that will integrate well into the neighborhood, and demonstrate the value of local input. I hope to see more projects feature constructive collaboration between developers and the community. This will be the key to transform underused lots along San Pablo Avenue.”
Approval is handled at the staff level but is appealable by the Oakland Planning Commission. Because the project required a major encroachment permit, it will require approved by City Council.
The project is one of several new developments happening in a hot Oakland housing market whose epicenter is the MacArthur BART station.
After approval of the encroaching permit, the developer will be eligible to file a Building Permit and construction could start as early as later this year.
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