Good project. Wrong place.
A proposed 100-room hotel on the shoreline of Harbor Bay Business Park is facing mounting opposition. If a growing number of residents and organizations get their way, the project will not move forward.
The unlandscaped 1.17-acre waterfront parcel where the hotel is proposed is a short distance south of the Harbor Bay Ferry Terminal and directly next to the public restrooms that accommodate the existing park on both sides.
For over 25 years, this patch of land had been zoned as Open Space. Two years ago, the former mayor and city council rezoned the spot as Commercial Manufacturing with a Planned Development overlay, in order to help the property owner attract a buyer who was interested in building an office with a restaurant on the ground floor. A hotel operator instead became interested in the lot.
The Committee to Complete Shoreline Park believes the hotel project is ill conceived and has rallied the support of residents, the Sierra Club, UNITE HERE! Local 2850 (union), and the Cantamar Homeowners Association of Harbor Bay.
“We’re not opposed to hotels, but they should be planned responsibly,” said Pat Lamborn, an Alameda resident and cofounder of the Committee to Complete Shoreline Park. “A hotel of this size simply doesn’t fit on this parcel.”
On May 9, the project came before the design review board for the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), the state agency that issues permits for shoreline development. The board advises the commission.
Union representative Wei Ling Huber from UNITE HERE! stated that the hotel conflicts with the agreed-upon uses in the zoning change. Gary Thompson, secretary of the Cantamar Homeowners Association, said most residents in the neighborhood were unaware of the hotel project and are opposed to it. The Chair of the Northern Alameda County Group of the Sierra Club, Olga Bolotina, noted that the project is incompatible with BCDC’s public access guidelines, saying the hotel “would neither maintain, nor enhance, visual access.”
The proposed rectangular five-story hotel would be the only obstruction on the otherwise continuous scenic greenway along the bay. “It’s hardly inviting,” said Lamborn. “One of the public paths would go through a covered garage.”
The entire design review board voiced objections to the project and recommended the developer come back with a new design that incorporates a host of public benefits. One board member stated that approving the development, as introduced, “would set a dangerous precedent” because it abuts the shoreline and the public gets little in return. The applicant has done “a minimum to accommodate the public and is shoehorning a building that doesn’t fit,” another board member said.
When Harbor Bay was in its infancy, this small parcel was set aside for the ferry terminal with an open-air canopy. When it was later learned that the water was too shallow there, the ferry terminal was moved to its present location. The next plan was to attract a restaurant/concessionaire (allowed under Open Space zoning) to support the nearby business community, but that plan failed to gain traction because the business park hadn’t yet begun to flourish, as it does now.
The design review board suggested that the hotel developer explore doubling the size of a waterfront promenade or include a public observation terrace or plaza and a restaurant so that it brings in more people, beyond hotel customers, to enjoy the bay. “Make it a place that has a spirit and life,” said one board member.
All eyes are now on the developer.
Originally published in Alameda Sun
DON’T BUILD A WALL ON THE BAY flyer.
Sierra Club comment letter on proposed Harbor Bay Hotel.
Harbor Bay Hotel presentation at BCDC Design Review Board, May 9, 2016.
BCDC Design Review Board staff report, May 9, 2016.
Alameda Planning Board approval of hotel development, November 24, 2014.