A Sign of Things to Come

Richard Bangert

The pole at right shows the projected height of the new structure that will arise from within the Del Monte warehouse above the building’s existing facade.

New Council working well together

At their first meeting, members of the new City Council unanimously agreed on all the issues before them, including moving forward with the Del Monte warehouse project.

As Councilman Jim Oddie said at the end of the meeting, "Maybe this is a good sign of good things to come."

The Del Monte

Mayor Trish Spencer explained that "procedurally, the City Council had a short window of time" to revisit the former City Council’s approval of the Del Monte project. The agenda item repealing that approval was the vehicle to give the newly seated City Council an opportunity to vet and speak on the issue before the project continues.

The City Council did just that after reviewing documents and listening to about 50 speakers. Councilmembers shared concerns and found that the flaws and the legal risks of the project’s rescission did not outweigh the benefits of moving forward with the project as previously approved.

They called on staff, however, to prepare a report for an upcoming meeting on the procedures and impacts of granting housing density bonuses to developers. A density bonus allows housing developers to build more market-rate units, if affordable units are increased.

Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese, who said the project should have been reviewed within the context of the city’s overall development, noted that the city’s density-bonus ordinance lists a set of requirements that must be met before a density bonus can be granted.

He said that the requirements are meant "to make sure the affordable housing that a project promises is delivered in a configuration that meets the highest and best use for the neediest in Alameda and "guarantees we know what things are going to look like."

The Del Monte project was approved without the required affordable housing drawings.

Matarrese also pointed out that granting a density bonus at every available site zoned for residential development could lead to producing more than 1,000 more housing units than the realistic capacity calculated for and included in Alameda’s state-certified housing element. He wants the City Council and the community to understand potential impacts. He said he doesn’t want to gridlock the West End.

Tim Lewis Communities — the Roseville-based developer that walked away from building 48 single-family homes on the controversial four-acre lot next to Crab Cove — will build 380 multifamily housing units on the five-acre Del Monte site. The developer will also build commercial and retail space, contribute $2 million toward improving Jean Sweeney Park and extending Clement Avenue.

Councilman Tony Daysog, who voted against approving the Del Monte ordinances last month, praised the mayor for bringing the issue back for review so that controversial issues could be discussed.

After the City Council hashed over concerns that included the incomplete development application, potential exposure to litigation, the late night decision making, and the former City Council’s approval of this project in isolation from other projects citywide, Mayor Spencer said, "We can do it better in the future."

Spencer, Matarrese and Oddie were elected in November.

In other business

Councilmembers expressed their satisfaction over Wrightspeed, Inc., a growing clean tech company that makes powertrains, locating its business at Alameda Point. They agreed that a job-creator like Wrightspeed is exactly what’s needed at the Point. They voted to approve a seven-year lease with two five-year extensions and an option to buy one of the hangars.

The City Council also approved accepting an $80,000 grant from the state that will go toward purchasing a new police patrol boat and boat trailer to replace a 15-year-old boat. Alameda police are partly responsible for seeing that boats are not abandoned in the Oakland Estuary, which, if they sink, could create a hazard and a costly salvage operation paid for by Alameda.

Councilmembers also aired three referrals; one that considered directing staff to set up a liaison committee to work with the East Bay Regional Park District for pursuing parkland opportunities; one to study a wetland mitigation bank for Alameda Point, and a third to address a citywide transportation plan, among others. They postponed these for discussion until their next meeting on Jan. 20.

Read more of Irene Dieter’s writings at https://islesay.wordpress.com.