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Special March Planning Commission Recap: New Emery Go-Round Lot Permit; Sherwin Williams PUD Amendment

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Planning Commission held a special meeting on March 15th to discuss a conditional use permit for a temporary lot for the Emery Go-Round fleet, as well as a PUD amendment for the Sherwin Williams development. A planned study session of the proposed Shellmound Way Mixed Use Project was delayed to a future meeting.

The Commission met a bare quorum with only four commissioners present (Guerrero, Keller, Thomson and Barrera).

Public Hearing: Emery Go Round Temporary Fleet Parking

The Commission considered a two-year Conditional Use Permit for Emery Go Round to use approximately three-fourths of the Novartis “Rifkin Lot” at 4555 Horton Street to park their shuttles and employee cars. As most residents know, The Emery Go-Round is a fare-free shuttle service, open to all Emeryville residents, shoppers, visitors and employees of Emeryville businesses. The service is primarily funded by commercial property owners in the citywide transportation business improvement district (PBID) and is managed by the Emeryville Transportation Management Association (ETMA).

ETMA’s current lease on 67th Street is set to expire on April 15th, and while they are working on a long-term site for their operations, they are looking to lease the Rifkin lot for the next two years. According to ETMA’s plan, the lot would be used for employee parking and Emery Go Round shuttle storage. Total, the lot would accommodate roughly 26 shuttles and 20 employee vehicles. The lot would experience an estimated 70 shuttle trips on weekdays and 20 on weekends. In addition, ETMA has agreed to install two covered bicycle parking racks as suggested by the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

Some local residents, including the closest residential building, the 45th Street Artist Cooperative, had concerns with potential noise and traffic issues. In particular, they were concerned with the noise associated with idling shuttles. To quash any concerns, the ETMA highlighted that no fueling or repairs would be performed on site, and the idling of the shuttles would be limited to approximately five minutes in the morning, which is required for the drivers to perform their safety checks. In addition, activity on the site will be limited to their hours of operation, which will be weekdays from 5:12 AM to 10:45 PM, and weekends from 7:30 AM to 10:30 PM.

After ETMA’s outreach, local residents seemed ok with the use, including Sharon Wilchar, 45th Street Artist Cooperative Community liaison:

“[The Artist Co-op] has been in Emeryville for 45 years so we have seen a lot of changes to the mixed-use area we are in. Noise and street parking are some of our bigger issues and some of that will change even more in the future… but I believe the obvious concerns have all been answered adequately.”

ETMA also highlighted that this temporary use is essential to the longevity of the Emery Go-Round. Tim Bacon, ETMA’s Chair of the Board of Directors, summed it up:

“The long term viability of the ETMA really depends on having close-in parking for the shuttles to the city. While we contine to work through the [long term site] process… we spent a lot of time trying to find a suitable alternative in the interm.”

Currently, ETMA’s long-term plan is to get a 30-year lease approved for an Oakland site operated by Caltrans. A conceptual site plan has been drafted, and ETMA is in the prcossess of getting Caltran and Oakland approval.

Overall, the Commission was supportive of the temporary solution. As Commissioner Keller stated:

“I’m just happy they were able to find a space. To move such a big facility, that must have been pretty hairy to try and figure out. It’s not ideal, but for our little city, to have found a place that is this ideal, I think we are pretty lucky.”

Commissioner Thomson also agreed with the solution:

“I think Emery Go-Round is a great service for the community, so it’s great to be able to find a location for it and do it while minimizing the impacts as much as you can.”

The Commission unanimously approved the permit.

View the Entire Staff Report →
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at 01:04.

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Public Hearing: Sherwin Williams PUD Amendment

As part of the original PUD approval process, the developer agreed to numerous conditions, including a community benefits agreement (CBA) that were tied to the bonus points they received. One of those community benefits was the undergrounding of the overheard power lines along Horton Street. As the development moved forward, PG&E informed the development team that they do not allow joint trench boxes in the roadway, and due to utility congestion in the roadway, the conduits would need to be routed to the sidewalk area near Park Avenue and 45th Street.

Currently, both sides of the Horton in this area contain trees; the west side sidewalk has 11 and the east side has 30. In order to perform the necessary trench work, one side, and the trees on it, will need to be removed and then replanted. Given the west side has fewer trees, it was suggest that it be the side to be trenched.

While no one favored removing trees, it was noted by City staff that the soil surrounding the trees could be contaminated, and this would be an opportunity to inspect the soil and replant trees in new soil so they have an environment to grow. Commissioner Keller pointed out that this may be the best solution:

“the opportunity to dig up the trees and some of the contaminated soil is a good thing, and bring in more healthy soil. I also don’t know what our options are if we don’t do this. Do we not underground the utilities? That is not a win sum to me.”

Commissioner Thomson agreed and highlighted that providing new soil and trees where needed could have a long-lasting benefit:

“I think the health of the trees is pertinent to this discussion, because as much as you try to retain tall trees, mature trees, if they are not healthy, you aren’t retaining that much.”

The trees on the left are in poor health relative to the trees on the eastern side of Horton and the soil is suspected to be contaminated.

The planned trenching work will include both a soil and dust management plan in order to ensure residents are protected. Groundbreaking for the work is scheduled for December of this year, while the actual trenching is not scheduled until June of 2019.

The amendment was unanimously approved.

View the Entire Staff Report →
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at 32:15.

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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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