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Notes on Planning Board Meeting – Boatworks Project

Dear Editor,

Notes on the Planning Board meeting, 26 January 2009 by Joseph Woodard

The Planning Board met to consider the Boatwork Projects on the Estuary Park site at Clement and Oak, proposed by Francis Collins, the property owner. He wants to build 242 units on the 9.5 acre site from Clement to the water, but is not now planning to add boat slips.

The City of Alameda, in response to the application by Collins for permits and approval for the development, has begun the Environmental Impact Report process (EIR). The Planning Board meeting asked the public for any items to establish the scope of that report, including environmental and design issues.

If you want to be notified of City actions and meetings about this project, contact either Andrew Thomas at 747-6881, or Dennis Brighton at 747-6873. If you live with 500 feet of the project you are already on an ‘interested parties list.’ Otherwise you can be placed on such a notification list by calling Andrew or Dennis.

The EIR, as currently envisoned by Andrew Thomas, will consider issues of transportation, air quality, noise, hazardous materials during construction or inherent in the property from previous industrial uses, water quality issues, alternatives to Collin’s proposed development and their merits, whether they be a so-called Environmentally Superior Project, or No Project.

The EIR process is lengthy, about 6 months. Thomas expects to write the EIR by summer. Then the Planning Board will consider design issues. But the two aspects, environmental impact and project design, are closely related.

Andrew summarized the project history. (See also the EPAC history document, on the web at Scroll down the page to see links to the report in various formats.) In 1991, the General Plan envisioned a large, active park on the site at Clement and Oak. The City only began to look for funding after Councilman Frank Mataresse earmarked $1,000,000 seed money. In 2004, Recreation and Parks department applied for Proposition 40 money to acquire park land on the site. The application was turned down.

Collins enlarged his land holding by acquiring the adjacent Fox property, and began to propose a large housing development there.

The City Council decide to rezone half his land holding so that the part along Clement could be developed for an appropriately sized housing project, while the half along the water remains zoned for the park. This zoning still stands. Collins is now proposing to build much higher density housing on all the land.

Collins is invoking a CA State Law that gives him a density bonus if he incorporate low cost housing. The law applies because Alameda has no density bonus ordinance itself. The density bonus would allow Collins to build up to 29 units per acre, about 35% higher than Measure A density law allows. Collins is asking that his developer’s fee to the City be waived and that the City compensate him about $7,500,000 for the difference in profit he’d make if he didn’t include the low cost units. Andrew Thomas explained the Planning Staff is working on a density measure they hope will contain such high density to more modest levels, but the application of such an ordinance remains unclear. The density bonus can be disallowed under State law if a project has a bad environmental impact or threatens structures registered as historical buildings.

Andrew said that Collins doesn’t own the water’s edge. That is controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers. The edge is in bad shape and crumbling. Andrew explained that he is concerned about the history of pollution on the Collins’ property, including the edge and responsibility for such known problems isn’t clear.

The public was concerned about traffic, pollution, infrastructure costs for fire, police, schools, and public utilities, noise, destruction of the character of the neighborhood, and the loss of the park and denial of access to the water.

The board agreed, though several didn’t seem to know much about the history of the proposed Estuary Park nor the struggles to contain development by restrictive zoning. They all agreed that a serious look at pollution history and remediation is necessary. They will try to organize public forums on the project issues, and hope to conduct a site tour, inviting interested parties.

Andrew made a point that the Depart of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) must investigate the area and proposed cleanup plans. Other board members hoped any development would integrate with the nearby North Of Lincoln improvements. All agreed traffic is a major problem.

Andrew Cunningham, board member, suggested that planning staff evaluate the money that could be saved by a more modest development (by lowering infrastructure costs) and the opportunity to devote such savings to acquiring the park rather than allowing higher density housing.

If you have additional comments about the meeting you wish people to know about, please send them to me and I’ll forward them to my list of EPAC members.

– Joseph Woodard, Alameda

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