March 2019 Planning Commission Recap: Adeline Springs Extension, Regulation Amendment for R&D Zoning
The Planning Commission’s March agenda was fairly light, but we did get an update on the Adeline Springs development as well as a discussion on the potential zoning update that would allow R&D in mixed-use with residential zones within the city.
- At their March 5th meeting the City Council approved an amendment to the municipal code that will allow cannabis products to be visible from storefronts.
- On March 19th the City Council approved the 2018 annual progress report on the General Plan, including the housing element that was covered in our February recap.
- At their March 19th meeting, the City Council reviewed the appeal to the Planning Commission’s decision on the Marketplace Parcel B development. The Council determined that there were topics included in the appeal letter that were not adequately considered during the Planning Commission’s review and remanded the issue back to the Planning Commission for their review at their upcoming April meeting.
- There will be a scoping meeting for the EIR of the Onni Christie mix-use project on Thursday, April 4th at 6:30 PM at City Hall.
- Caltrans will host a community meeting on their proposed MacArthur maze vertical clearance project on Wednesday, April 10th from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at ECCL.
Public Hearing: Adeline Springs Extension Request
The Planning Commission considered a request for a one-year extension of a Conditional Use Permit and Design Review permit that was approved by the Commission in 2018 to demolish an existing 5,866 square foot building and construct a new, five-story building that will accommodate 29 rental residential units at 3637 Adeline Street.
As we discussed in our July 2018 recap, the property was formerly 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 his business elsewhere. Part of the initial design included several affordable units (17% affordable units, 3.9% Very Low-Income level, 5.9% Low Income and 7.2% Moderate Income) as well as approximately 4,870 square feet of ground floor live/work space.
According to Ali Kashani, the Co-Managing Partner of RB Adeline, the request for an extension comes as increasing costs and related financial indicators make the project difficult to finance. Specifically, construction costs have been outpacing the rise in rents, making it difficult to find financing for the project. The financial issues led Mr. Kashani to put the property up for sale in 2018, but they were unable to find any qualified buyers.
Subsequently, Mr. Kashani has been in discussion with the City to see if there is any interest in developing the property as 100% affordable housing, a plan that sounds appealing given the housing issues throughout the Bay Area. While promising, the current issue continues to be financing. Under the proposed partnership, the City would provide the needed funding, but the source of that funding would come from the sale of approved municipal bonds from the City, which has yet to occur. However, both Mr. Kashani and the City remain optimistic that this could be a good solution for everyone involved.
Given the ongoing discussion between Mr. Kashani and the City, the Planning Commission had little concerns granting an extension of the Use Permit. Commissioner Young started the discussion by reiterating the need for housing,
“I keep hearing about rent rates skyrocketing… we need affordable housing, we need it bad, and here is one example [of possible housing]”.
Commissioner Thomson also approved moving forward and continuing to explore the City partnership for affordable units:
“I’ve heard some of the same things about construction costs going very high so this does not surprise me. I still think it is a good project, and I am glad [the applicant] is exploring the 100% affordable.”
The Commission unanimously approved the extension.
View the Entire Staff Report →
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at [07:32]
Public Hearing:Planning Regulations Amendment to Allow R&D in the Mixed Use with Residential Zone
The Commission wrapped up their night with a review of a proposed amendment to the City’s zoning regulations that would allow Research and Development (R&D) in the Mixed Use with Residential (MUR) Zone. This particular review was brought by the owners of the Jelly Bean Square property at 6400 Hollis Street, but any amendment would apply citywide.
As currently set up, there are no zones in Emeryville that allow both residential and any R&D uses to coexist. This was codified in the update to the General Plan that was adopted in 2013. However, during the review of the General Plan back in 2013, the discussions surrounding the issue was not focused on any incompatibility between residential housing and R&D use.
In particular, there was no real issues identified with allowing R&D to be zoned with residential units. What the City was trying to accomplish was to protect areas where R&D could continue to flourish without creating pressure to turn those buildings into more housing. This desire to find an appropriate balance between adequate housing stock and areas where companies, especially startups, can put down roots and contribute to the local economy, continues today.
Hong Ho, the representative for the landlord of the Jellybean Square, highlighted the demand for R&D spaces, especially for young startups looking to small spaces where they can combine light R&D with more traditionally office use,
“I look at Berkeley and the research that they have, and these startups today could very well be the next big player in the marketplace, so why not have an opportunity for these startups to start here in Emeryville. They are small companies that are looking for 2,000-5,000 square foot floor plans, very different from the market supply you see today. They are bringing with them a lot of research dollars and good hired jobs and could definitely grow the revenue base.”
Under current zoning regulations, there isn’t enough of the smaller units that allow for R&D. This issue is exacerbated by how the City defines R&D, and the fact that many companies combine traditional office work with light research and modeling, blurring the lines of what types of work fit within the R&D category. This is especially difficult as startups start to scale up and pour more resources into their product R&D, which could force them to relocate under current zoning requirements.
The commission was receptive to the request. As Commissioner Young summed up, the proposed amendment would be beneficial, and through the required building permits, the City would be able to keep tabs on the new R&D spaces to ensure there are no health or safety concerns.
“I think it’s really a neat thing to do with the space…I think if there is a little bit of a concern, we can ask what kind of filter systems we might want to regulate [any labs use].”
The Commission unanimously approved the proposed amendment. City Council will now take up the issue at a forthcoming meeting.
View the Entire Staff Report →
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at [21:51]