McKay Avenue Facility Design Amendment Approved by Planning Board

PYATOK Architects--The new senior facility will have 100 housing units for Alameda County senior unsheltered residents.

McKay Avenue Facility Design Amendment Approved by Planning Board

At its March 28 meeting, members of the Alameda Planning Board approved a design review amendment that will allow for the construction of a new 61,300-square-foot, two-story senior convalescent living facility on McKay Avenue.

The senior living facility will be located on a 3.65-acre site on 1245 McKay Avenue near Crab Cove Regional Park. The McKay Avenue location will also house a new medical respite building. Currently, the site contains two existing main buildings (Buildings 1 and 2) and four accessory structures (Buildings 8, 9, 10, and 13).

The senior living facility will be constructed where the current Building 2 is located — the medical respite building will be constructed where Building 1 is located. In the initial plan, approved by City Council in 2020, Building 2 was not to be demolished, but rehabilitated and transformed into a 50,517-square-foot senior living facility. However, Alameda Point Collaborative officials (APC), the operator of the new facility, and their design team, determined the cost to rehabilitate Building 2 would be financially infeasible.

“This is an amendment that was brought about by the fact that after doing a feasibility assessment on rehab and doing some exploratory demos determined the original buildings cannot safely house the homeless seniors we wanted to serve,” said Doug Biggs, APC Executive Director. “So, we have to start from the ground up.”

As a result, in December 2020, APC applied for a Certificate of Approval to demolish the two main buildings and four accessory buildings on the site. In May 2021, the Historical Advisory Board (HAB) held a public hearing and approved Certificate of Approval of the amendment. The decision was appealed; the City Council later upheld HAB’s decision at its July 6, 2021, meeting.

With the approval, city staff began to review the changes of the design review. The new building maintains a very similar building form, height, and orientation as the existing building but is now setback 20 feet from the front property line with front yard landscaping to meet the setback requirements of the AP District, according to the staff memorandum. The new building maintains characteristics of the existing building with its strong horizontal lines, two-story form, and orientation that faces the width of the structure along McKay Avenue. The new building will maintain the previous plan to build 100 housing units for Alameda County residents ages 55 and older, one manager’s unit, a dining hall and other amenities.

“Staff reviewed the architectural plans, and we think the building design that Alameda Point Collaborative brought forward looks great,” said Henry Dong, a member of the city’s Planning Department. “The project meets the development standards, zoning requirements for the site, so we are recommending the board approve the design review amendments.”

Planning Board member Xiomara Cisneros said she favored the project but was concerned about the new design’s financial feasibility in the event of unexpected issues. Biggs responded by saying, “It’s a challenging time because construction costs are going up due to fuel prices. At the same time, I don’t think we’ve ever been at a time in history when there have been the housing funds that are available now.”

Alameda resident Carmen Reid said at the meeting, broadcast over Zoom, that the previous environmental review was based on rehabilitating Building 2, not demolishing it.

“With this significant change, a new environmental review should be done before moving forward,” said Reid.

However, the staff noted that because this is a design review it is not subjected to a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review. Nonetheless, when staff sought the certificate approval from HAB, the City of Alameda adopted a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) in compliance with CEQA. No further environmental review is required because the project’s environmental effects were already considered and disclosed.

Board member Ronald Curtis favored the project and said residents objecting to the project will be the ones that will suffer.
“The project is going to get built,” said Curtis. “The delays will only cause the project to cost more money. The only one that pays for it is the public.”

The Planning Board unanimously approved the Design Review Amendment in the final vote. With the approval, the facility has the greenlight to begin construction. Biggs said he expects to break ground on the facility this summer.

The new Alameda Wellness campus has been in the works since 2017. APC acquired the property from the federal government. Residents voted in a special election on April 9, 2019, to change the property’s zoning designation from “federal facilities” to “office,” which paved the way for APC to acquire the site.

PYATOK Architects, an Oakland firm, is designing the facility.