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Sept. 2018 Planning Commission Recap: On-Site Consumption at Cannabis Dispensary; San Pablo Avenue Senior Housing Project: Marketplace Temporary Lot

5 mins read

The Emeryville Planning Commission met on September 27th with three Public Hearings on the agenda. These items included a look at the proposed on-site consumption lounge for East Bay Therapeutics‘ new dispensary, a proposed senior housing project at 4300 San Pablo Avenue and a temporary surface parking lot at the marketplace development. Commissioners Barrera and Hidalgo were not present with excused absences.

The entire agenda can be downloaded at

Director’s Report:

  • At the September 4th City Council meeting, the City Council approved a contract with Christine Daniel as the new City Manager. She began working for the City on September 24th
  • At the September 17th City Council meeting the City Council Selected Orton Development Inc. for The development and operation of the proposed Arts Center at 4060 Hollis Street
  • The 32nd Annual Celebration of the Arts show at 5700 Horton Street will run from October 5-28th

Public Hearing: Marketplace Parcel B Temporary Parking

The Commission had a lengthy discussion about a request for a conditional use permit to allow a 68,000 square foot temporary surface parking lot at 6000 Shellmound Street to support existing uses at the Marketplace Planned Unit Development (PUD) site until the new garage building on Parcel B is constructed. The proposed temporary parking would be located on the building pad of Parcel B and accommodate approximately 200 spaces. The proposed permit would be for two years with an option to extend if needed.

Up until now, parking demand has been met by the temporary parking lot on Parcel A. However, demand is greater than Parcel A can handle, and delays have prevented the garage building to be constructed on Parcel B. In addition, construction can’t commence on Parcel A until the parking garage is constructed and able to handle the parking needs of the development.

There was a lot of concern, especially from Commission Keller, that approving this permit would delay the construction of the parking garage on Parcel B longer than it already had been, especially since this project has been in development for nearly ten years. He was also concerned that the initial draft of the permit allowed the developer to request an extension on top of the initial two-year term if they needed more time.

Marketplace developer CCRP President Mark Stefan explained how a 20% increase in construction costs combined with a 30% decline in retail rents necessitated the need to temporarily pause development on Parcel B. Stefan explained the need for the request and attempted to calm any fears that the project would be delayed any longer and laid-out their plan moving forward,

“Hopefully we will have final approvals first quarter of next year. Complete the working drawings and be under construction by the third quarter of 2019.”


However, Commissioner Keller still voiced his concern with the direction this project is going,

“I am a little dismayed that this is before us tonight… In reading the information that was presented and asked to approve something that conceivably could be with us for a very long time, and in addition, we are being asked to approve something our general plan does not specifically allow for.”

Commission Keller suggested that they remove the option for an extension of the permit which would have required the developer shut down the temporary parking after the two-year period. In his opinion, this could help push the developer to finish faster and with limited delays.

Some of the other Commissioners, including Commissioner Donaldson and Thomson, pushed back on Commissioner Keller’s concerns. As Commissioner Donaldson stated,

“I am not understanding how denying the temporary parking lot would force the developer to build something sooner than they want to.”

Commissioner Thompson also felt the discussion had veered off course, and the Commission had lost the real reason for the requested permit,

“there was a lot of discussion on the parking garage needing to be built before parcel A can be developed, which was somewhat irrelevant to this…the real question was is there an inadequate supply and is this needed for the duration… there is a pretty efficient, non-landscaped, non-lit piece of pavement that isn’t necessarily in accordance with the general plan…but may serve a need, and I don’t think the threshold was met to determine if this is actually needed.”

After discussion it was decided that the permit be amended and approved for a three-year term with no option for an extension. The amended permit was unanimously approved.


View the Entire Staff Report
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at 0:10:28.



Public Hearing: East Bay Therapeutics Cannabis Retail Dispensary Amendment

While a good portion of the night was spent discussing the temporary parking lot, the Commission didn’t have too many reservations regarding the proposed on-site consumption lounge that East Bay Therapeutics (EBP) is looking to incorporate into their new dispensary at 5745 Peladeau Street.

As covered in previous stories, the dispensary was approved by the planning commission back in April, 2018 and had a soft opening as the City’s first cannabis dispensary last month. The proposed amendment adds a 3,500 square foot consumption lounge and includes small, sealed private rooms where vaping and/or smoking will occur. Consumption of edibles and other non-smoking substances will occur in the open lounge area.

EBT’s Founder, Nasser Azimi, was on hand to detail the planned expansion, which will include enhanced security features and proper ventilation and filtration systems which will ensure there aren’t any second-hand smoke issues for customers in the retail section of the store.

The Commission was pleased with the amount of detail Mr. Azimi and EBT provided, and felt comfortable with the security and health features of the proposed lounge. As Commissioner Keller summed up,

“I really think you guys have a great program and I look forward to see what you come up with.”

The application was unanimously approved.


View the Entire Staff Report
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at 0:53:04.



Public Hearing: San Pablo Avenue General Plan and Planning Regulations Amendment

The Commission wrapped up the meeting with a public hearing covering proposed general plan and planning regulations amendments to increase the maximum development potential on a parcel located on the corner of San Pablo and 43rd Street. The site is the current home of the Robert Savage Recreation Center. The amendments would increasing the allowable floor area ratio (FAR), building height, and residential density of the approximately 2.5 acre parcel.

As way of background, on April 18, 2017, the City Council adopted Resolution No. 17-51 designating 4300 San Pablo Avenue as an affordable senior rental housing development site and authorizing staff to issue a request for qualifications and proposal. This was consistent with the 2015–2023 Housing Element of the Emeryville general plan that identified the City-owned property at this site as a possible site for affordable housing.

At the City’s pre-bid meeting on May 8, 2017 several potential developers expressed concern that, given the existing maximum density and FAR on the site, it was impossible to design a project that would be financially viable. With this feedback, staff examined the general plan designations in the vicinity of this site and noted that the parcels across from the site on the western side of San Pablo Avenue were designated with higher development potential as expressed by their FAR, height, and residential density.

The proposed Amendment will increase the maximum development potential that could occur within the area by increasing the allowable FAR, building height, and residential density. if approved, the new density allowances would make it more feasible for developers to create the desired senior living housing on the site.

There was some concern from several of the Commissioners that the increased size and ratios allowed under the amendment would create issues near zoning borders. Commissioner Donaldson voiced this concern,

“I think the thing that concerns me here is the relationship.. I think San Pablo Ave. is a great place for density and for increased housing. What Concerns me is the height transition.”


However, the Commission felt the planned amendment was appropriate and necessary given the changing condition in the community. Commissioner Keller stated,

“I understand there is always concern when we are changing the feel and dynamics of the neighborhood. Problem being that are population is growing and expanding, and the bay area is very expensive, and having a mother who is 90-years-old and on a very fixed income, senior housing for these types of people is critical.”

Commissioner Donaldson echoed Commissioner Keller, even with some of the concerns she had about the changes,

“I recognized we have an incredible housing crunch, an incredible affordability crunch, and any place that we can provide affordable housing in the city is really important.”

The amendment was unanimously approved.

View the Entire Staff Report
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at 1:46:43.

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Christopher Bennett

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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