June 2018 Planning Commission Recap: 244-Unit Shellmound Way Hearing, Commissioner Kang Resigns

Published On July 11, 2018 | By Christopher Bennett | Development, News & Commentary

The June Planning Commission meeting had updated discussions on several ongoing developments including the Ocean View Townhome project at 1270 Ocean Avenue and a proposed mixed-use project at 5850 Shellmound Way. In addition, it was Commissioner Sam Kang’s final meeting as he has decided to step down from the Planning Commission. Kang had one year remaining on his three-year term.

The commission’s regular May meeting was canceled due to lack of a quorum although they did hold a special meeting to discuss the City’s proposed Parking Management Plan.

Director’s Report:

    • The City Council made a proclamation making May small business month
    • City Council denied a noise-waiver request for construction work on most Saturdays from May 2018 to May 2019 for Section C and D of the Public Market project
    • The City Council contemplated a challenge to the Planning Commission’s approval of the Tanium sign on top of 2100 Powell street, but it was ultimately withdrawn
    • On May 15th, the Council approved a noise waiver request for morning and evening work at the Clif Bar offices on 65th street
    • The Council approved an updated homelessness strategy and approved over $300,000 for funding of homeless services
    • On June 5th, the Council had a special celebration for LGBT month
    • On June 19th, the Council held a study session on the draft parking management plan. It is anticipated the finalized plan will be reviewed by the Council in July
    • The Council approved a two-year contract for fire services with the Alameda County fire department
    • Three seats on the planning commission are up for election this year, including  Commissioner Thomson, who’s initial three-year term is up. Thomson has applied for consideration of an additional three-year term. The other two seats were opened with the resignations of Commissioner Banta and Kang
    • The Planning Commission’s July 2018 meeting has been cancelled. They will have an August meeting
    • The discussion on the Shellmound Way General Plan Amendment was moved to the August Commission meeting

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Public Hearing: Ocean View Townhomes

The Commission reviewed an updated design plan for the Ocean View Townhomes at 1270 Ocean Avenue. Details on the previous discussion of this project can be found in our December 2017 recap.

As background, the applicant wishes to demolish an existing single-family home in order to build three new residential townhome condominiums, each with one automobile parking space and two bicycle parking spaces. The project went to the Commission for the first study session in January of 2017. Area residents commented that the proposed building was too large and out of character with the neighborhood, and that it should be reduced to either two or three residential units. The Planning Commission echoed these comments, suggesting that the applicant revise the project to better fit in with the existing neighborhood, the Emeryville Design Guidelines, and the North-Hollis Area Urban Design Program outlined in the General Plan.

At the January 16, 2018 City Council study session, community members raised several additional concerns with the proposed design, including the loss of existing single family homes and the impacts this has on housing for families with children. In addition, members of the public raised the issue about the ratio of bedrooms to automobile parking, and also expressed concerns about impacts to Peabody Lane. The City Council also expressed concern over project massing and the design of the project fitting in the context of the Medium Density Residential (RM) and North Hollis Overlay (NH) zones.

In accordance with all of the comments they received, the applicant revised their plan. In particular, the updated design includes maintaining the proposed location of parking garages along Peabody Lane. The argument being that locating parking garages along Peabody Lane maximizes the amount of area available for landscaping, minimizes the amount of area needed for driveways, maintains the existing amount of on-street parking and number of street trees along Ocean Avenue, and utilizes Peabody Lane in a way that is consistent with how neighbors with access to Peabody Lane use this private access road.

In addition, the applicant addressed neighborhood comments by stepping the building back from both the Peabody Lane and Ocean Avenue property lines and increasing the setback from the west side of the property so that there is more space between the proposed building and the neighbors to the west than there is with the existing building.

In general the Commission approved the updates to the design and appreciated the time the applicant put into reaching out to local residents and including them in the process. Vice Chair Barrera summed it up:

“ I think [the design] is much more fitting now. We started off this project with a handful of angry neighbors and we are ending it with a handful of supportive neighbors.”

In addition, the Commission was satisfied with the ultimate decision to remove the trees that are in question. As detailed by the applicant’s arborist, the current trees are in poor health and there is little that can be done to mitigate the damage. The Commission approved the idea of planting new trees that would be better suited for the location and makeup of the soil. As Commissioner Keller said:

“great job working with a difficult parcel and a lot of request from the commission and City Council. I don’t have any concerns with the plot lines and I go by Peabody a lot and I think those garages will enhance that lane a lot… I wanted to mention the trees. They are doing a lot of work in my neighborhood for the public market and they’ve planted a lot of trees… and I was just noticing that the newer trees are almost as big as the trees that are three years old…so I am thinking that while losing a mature sick tree is unfortunate,  I think we are doing now with engineering soils and stuff…I am seeing new trees far exceeding older trees in health and their robustness and overall they are better trees.”

The application was unanimously approved. The project is tentatively scheduled to go City Council for a public hearing this month.

View the Entire Staff Report
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at [0:13:35].


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Public Hearing: Sherwin Williams Temporary Surface Parking Lot

The Commission reviewed a request for a Major Use Permit for a proposed 140-space surface parking lot on the southwest part of the Sherwin Williams’ project site (future site of the public park) fronting Sherwin Avenue.

As most regular readers know by now, the project will redevelop the former Sherwin Williams paint factory site and an adjacent City-owned parcel. The project will including reuse of an existing 74,000 square foot significant structure  for office use, construction of four new buildings that will accommodate approximately 500 dwelling units,  2,000-8,000 square feet of ground floor commercial/retail space, and development of approximately three acres of public open space.

The applicant, Lennar Multifamily Corporation, is in the process of selecting a commercial developer/operator for the existing building that is approved for office use. There is no parking within this building and the parking needs for the office use will be accommodated in the new garage building. As the existing building will only require tenant improvements it is anticipated that it most likely will be ready for occupancy before the garage building is completed. In order to mitigate this possibility, the applicant is requesting to build a temporary surface parking lot for the future tenants of the existing building. The timeline for completion of construction of the parking garage is not anticipated until February 2021, with construction beginning in early 2019. Therefore, the surface parking lot will be needed for a little over a year (Fall of 2019 to February 2021).

The Commission had very little to add after the presentation. Their was consensus that this was a good idea and well thought out. Commissioner Guerro summed it up for the group:

“I don’t have any reservations with this. I think it’s great planning to have a fallback plan.”

The permit was unanimously approved with Chair Donaldson abstaining from the vote.

View the Entire Staff Report
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at [0:49:53].


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Public Hearing: 5850 Shellmound Way Mixed-Use Project

The Commission reviewed the updated development plan for 5850 Shellmound Way. We did a full review of the initial design in our September 2017 recap, but for some background, the project involves demolition of the existing 61,000 square foot “Innovative Interfaces” building and construction of an eight-story building accommodating 244 rental units and approximately 7,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space.

At the first review back in September of 2017, The Commission agreed  that the proposed mix of uses was acceptable. Concerns were expressed regarding traffic and circulation, and that, due to its configuration, the site did not integrate functionally with the surrounding area. One Commissioner suggested that the architect should consider the development in a historical perspective and provide a design that is inspiring and becomes a gateway to the city. In addition to the original design plan, the applicant analyzed the viability of constructing a high-rise multifamily rental or condominium project. The project was analyzed as a 20-story, 225-foot tower with approximately 380 units, and an adjacent parking garage. However, after analyzing the alternatives and discussing the options with various developers, the applicant determined that the economics of a high-rise project at this location are not viable to attract capital.

The updated design plan calls for the overall unit mix to include 13 studios (5.3%), 103 one-bedroom units (43.4%), 90 two-bedroom units (36.9) and 35 three-bedroom units (14.3%). Project amenities include a podium courtyard, outdoor terraces for upper floors, and an area for unspecified amenities on the ground floor, as well as a community gallery and community open space on the ground level.

In general, the Commission was receptive to the updated design ideas brought by the applicant. However, both Commission Keller and Kang felt the project was being designed without an eye for the surrounding community. As Commissioner Kang noted:

“In general I think this is a good use of the space… how it interacts with the community, I just don’t see it yet, I can’t see that vision quite yet. I would encourage you to look into how that could happen.”

Chair Donaldson also commented on the desire to have more public interaction with the building:

“I have a couple of concerns, and one is the interaction with the street. I appreciate the wide sidewalks but as fellow commissioners have been saying, how is this engaging people walking by… I would like to see more that interacts with the street… there needs to be some public use or public access.”

The applicant will take the Commission’s comments into consideration and be back to provide additional updates in future meetings.

View the Entire Staff Report
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at [1:09:54].

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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