At their first meeting, the new city council unanimously agreed on all the issues before them, including moving forward with the Del Monte Warehouse project.
As Councilmember Jim Oddie said at the end of the meeting, “Maybe this is a good sign of good things to come.”
Mayor Trish Spencer explained that “procedurally, the council had a short window of time” to revisit the former council’s approval of the Del Monte project. The agenda item repealing that approval was “the vehicle to give the newly seated council an opportunity to vet and speak on the issue before the project continues,” said Spencer.
The city council did just that after reviewing documents and listening to about 50 speakers. Councilmembers shared concerns and found that the project’s flaws and the legal risks of its 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 city council 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.
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 most needy in Alameda,” said Matarrese. It “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 over 1,000 more housing units than the realistic capacity calculated for and included in Alameda’s state-certified housing element. He wants the 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 contentious four-acre lot next to Crab Cove — will build 380 multifamily housing units within the five-acre Del Monte building. The developer will also build commercial and retail space, contribute $2 million toward Jean Sweeney Park, and extend Clement Avenue.
Councilmember 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 council hashed over concerns that included the incomplete development application, potential exposure to litigation, the late night decision making, and the former 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 were ecstatic 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 Alameda 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 their 15-year-old leaky 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 costly salvage operation paid for by Alameda.
The council referrals that considered directing staff to set up a liaison committee to work with the East Bay Regional Park District for pursuing parkland opportunities, to study a wetland mitigation bank for Alameda Point, and to address a citywide transportation plan, among others, were postponed to the next meeting on January 20.
Originally published in the Alameda Sun.