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File #: 2014-970   
Type: Regular Agenda Item
Body: Planning Board
On agenda: 10/13/2014
Title: PLN13-0175 - 1835 Oak Street - Applicant: City Ventures. A public workshop to review and comment on a proposal to rezone and redevelop the property at 1835 Oak Street for a mixed use project.
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1 - Planning Board Staff Report (February 10, 2014), 2. Exhibit 2 - Applicant’s Proposal, 3. Exhibit 3 - Courtyard Housing Guidelines (City of Alameda Design Manual), 4. Exhibit 4 - Neighborhood Photographs
Title
 
PLN13-0175 - 1835 Oak Street - Applicant: City Ventures. A public workshop to review and comment on a proposal to rezone and redevelop the property at 1835 Oak Street for a mixed use project.
 
Body
 
CITY OF ALAMEDA
Memorandum
 
To:      Honorable President and
      Members of the Planning Board
 
From:      Andrew Thomas, City Planner
                                    
Date:      October 13, 2014
 
Re:      PLN13-0175 - 1835 Oak Street - Applicant: City Ventures. A public workshop to review and comment on a proposal to rezone and redevelop the property at 1835 Oak Street for a mixed use project.
 
BACKGROUND
 
At its February 10, 2014 meeting planning staff asked the Planning Board if the Board would be interested in entertaining a proposal to rezone the 2.58-acre site at 1835 Oak Street for a transit oriented, mixed use development project.  Staff initiated this early request for direction because Alameda already has a sufficient amount of land zoned for residential development to meet its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) requirements, and a number of Alameda citizens have expressed concerns that the City has not been doing enough to support and expand the City's economic base and local employment opportunities.   (The February 10, 2014 staff report is attached as Exhibit 1 for reference purposes.)
 
On February 10, 2014, the Planning Board indicated that a majority of the Board would consider recommending a rezoning of the property to the City Council for a well-designed transit oriented mixed use project. Since February, City Ventures has been working with its design team to design a project that would respond to the Planning Board's direction.   
 
On September 4, 2014, City Ventures previewed its current plan to the Historical Advisory Board (HAB).  The HAB indicated that, from a historical perspective, the design of the project was generally acceptable.  The HAB did not take any final action, pending an indication from the Planning Board as to whether this would be a project design that the Planning Board would support and pending final environmental review. (The applicant's current proposal is attached as Exhibit 2.)
 
ANALYSIS
 
At this time, staff is requesting Planning Board review and comment on the current City Venture plans for the site.  Based upon the Planning Board's comments, staff and City Ventures will finalize the plans for the site and prepare the necessary documents for a final public hearing and decisions by the HAB and the Planning Board. Ultimately, the re-zoning proposal will also require a public hearing and action by the City Council.  
 
Project Description: The current proposal includes the following components:
 
Commercial Space: Approximately 4,860 square feet of commercial space would be retained in a portion of the existing 40,000 square foot manufacturing building.  The remaining 35,140 square feet of the existing building would be demolished. The northern wall of the manufacturing building which faces SKS Die Casting would be retained to provide a buffer between the Die Casting plant and the residential uses and preserve an artifact of the original historic structure that would be mostly demolished.  
 
In addition to the 4,860 square foot commercial building, the proposal includes some small "work" spaces within some of the proposed townhomes. The current proposal includes:
 
·      Five units with an 135 square foot work space;
·      One unit with a 200 square foot works space; and
·      One unit with a 379 square foot work space.  
 
Therefore the project includes 6,114 square feet of leasable, enclosed commercial space. The applicant has also proposed a 2,900 square foot open air "commercial courtyard" for temporary commercial activities and open space for the residents.  
  
Residential Units:   The 6,114 square feet of commercial space would be paired with over 100,000 square feet of residential floor area.  Forty-seven (47) new townhomes would be constructed on the site. The townhomes are three stories in height, and include a mix of two- and three-bedroom units ranging from 1,100 to 1,850 square feet in size.  Seven (7) of the 47 units will be affordable units. Access would be provided by an internal circulation system that provides access to the garage at the back of each unit.  The architectural design of the residential units is industrial in character with horizontal and vertical metal cladding on exterior facades and site fixtures with an industrial motif.  
 
Parking:  Each townhome would have a garage: 24 would have a private, two car garage and 23 would have a private, one car garage, for an overall parking ratio of approximately 1.5 spaces per unit. None of the parking costs would be "unbundled" from the price of the units.  The commercial structure would be supported by 10 surface parking spaces.  These spaces would be shared by the commercial tenants and visitors to the site.  
 
Design Considerations:
 
Commercial Mixed Use:  Located one block from Park Street transit and commercial services and one half block from the Clement truck route, the site provides an excellent opportunity for a transit oriented, mixed use project with a substantial commercial component.  Staff believes that the commercial component of the project should be increased for the following reasons:
 
·      In February, the Planning Board stated that the project should increase the amount of commercial space in the project.  Staff does not believe that a mixed use project with over 100,000 square feet or residential floor area and 6,000 square feet of commercial space takes full advantage of the commercial opportunities on this property. Staff would recommend that the amount of commercial space be increased and the amount of residential space be decreased to create a better mixed use project.  
 
·      Preserving and expanding employment opportunities in Alameda improves citywide transportation conditions by increasing job opportunities within the City for residents who are currently driving off-island for work.  Improving the balance between residential space and commercial space on the site will reduce commute hour traffic and greenhouse gasses generated by the project.  
 
·      There is demand for, and a short supply of, small and medium size office spaces and small to medium sized "boutique manufacturing" and "incubator" spaces for start-up companies in close proximity to Park Street services and transit.  A site with these types of spaces that is within one block of Park Street transit and the Park Street Marketplace and restaurants is very attractive to prospective businesses and small employers.
 
Residential Mixed Use:  In February, the Planning Board indicated that a mixed use project on this site could be a benefit the adjacent residential properties and provide an opportunity for transit oriented housing.  Staff believes that the design of the residential component of the project could be improved to better reflect the adjacent neighborhood and provide housing for transit-oriented families and households who don't need or want multiple automobiles.  The adjacent neighborhood is characterized by one and two story homes with on-site open space.  To better reflect the surrounding neighborhood, and create a more pleasing residential environment, staff suggests the following modifications to the site plan:
 
·      To create a more authentic "Alameda" design, the project design could be modified to reflect a "Courtyard Housing" design.  This design type is described in the City of Alameda Design Manual (See Exhibit 3).   Examples of courtyard housing can also be viewed at the "Stonehenge" development on Santa Clara Avenue.  This residential development type is also sometimes referred to as "pocket neighborhoods". (See www.pocket-neighborhoods.net <http://www.pocket-neighborhoods.net>)
 
·      Using the Courtyard design approach would enable the project to:  
 
o      Reduce the size of the homes from three stories to two stories (all the adjacent homes are one and two stories).  The photos in Exhibit 4 illustrate the residential scale of the adjacent residential properties on Elm Street, Buena Vista, and Oak Street.
 
o      Increase the open space on the property available to site residents, and reduce the amount of asphalt necessary for internal automobile circulation, and  
 
o      Consolidate the parking for the project into shared parking areas.  
 
Parking:  To support a transit oriented development, reduce car ownership in the project, and create a more authentic and interesting design, staff recommends that all of the parking for the project be "unbundled" from the cost of the residential units and commercial space.  Staff suggests that the project provide a common, shared parking area at the rear of the property or in the existing building, and "unbundle" the cost of the parking from the cost of the housing and commercial spaces.  The staff suggestions are designed to:
 
·      Reduce car ownership, parking demand, commute hour trips, and greenhouse gas emissions generated by the project;
 
·      Enable the townhomes to be reduced from three stories to two stories;
 
·      Reduce the amount of asphalt on the 2.6 acre site necessary for automobile circulation and increase the amount of open space for residents. The current plan includes ¾ of an acre of asphalt for internal automobile circulation; and       
 
·      Facilitate the potential re-use of a portion of the warehouse building for a shared parking area.  
 
In summary, if the Planning Board agrees with the staff suggestions, City Venture could revise their plans to:   
 
·      Preserve a larger portion of the existing commercial structure for small offices, small start-up companies, and/or small manufacturing companies that are looking for space in proximity to Park Street restaurants and transit.  
 
·      The parking for the commercial space and the parking for the residential units could be placed at the rear of the property behind the commercial building in a shared parking area or even inside the existing building at the rear of the property. This would allow the parking to be unbundled for both the commercial and residential uses, which will reduce automobile trips and car ownership.
 
·      If the parking for both the commercial space and the residential units is consolidated into a single shared parking area at the rear of the property, a single automobile lane would be necessary to access the parking area at the rear of the property.  This would reduce the amount of asphalt necessary for automobile circulation and increase the amount of land available for useable open space.
 
·      If the commercial space and the parking are consolidated along the northern property line adjacent to SKS Die Casting, the entire southern half of the site adjacent to the existing residents would be available for residential use and open space.  If the parking is separated from the units, the residential units could be designed as one and two story structures instead of three story structures, which are more compatible with the adjacent neighborhood character and much easier to adapt for residents with disabilities or seniors "aging in place".  
 
In staff's opinion, these changes would result in a better mixed use project, result in less traffic and greenhouse gases, and result in a more pleasant living environment for the future residents of the project and the surrounding neighborhood.
 
ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW
 
The proposal is subject to further review under CEQA.
 
RECOMMENDATION
 
It is recommended that the Planning Board hold a public hearing and provide direction regarding: the amount of commercial space that should be provided in the project; the parking strategy for the project, and whether the residential component of the project should be redesigned to better reflect the adjacent neighborhood and increase the amount of useable open space for residents.  
 
 
Respectfully submitted,
 
 
 
Andrew Thomas
City Planner                              
 
Exhibits:
1.      Planning Board Staff Report (February 10, 2014)
2.      Applicant's Proposal
3.      Courtyard Housing Guidelines (City of Alameda Design Manual)
4.      Neighborhood Photographs