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Big box ban? And affordable site switcheroo

Submitted by on 1, June 23, 2008 – 7:45 amNo Comment

We must have fallen asleep while the City Council talked about big box stores a while back. We thought they only wanted to define what a big box store is and then add layers of review before one could be approved. But apparently, they want to ban certain categories of superstore outright. (Or maybe just certain stores.) Basically, the ban would extend to stores that are 90,000 square feet and larger, with 10 percent of their space devoted to non-taxable items – food and drugs, basically. There are no businesses fitting that description in Alameda right now. Big buildings with multiple tenants (like the Historic Del Monte Building, which weighs in at 250,000 square feet and could hold multiple businesses) wouldn’t fall under the ban. Neither would a much-hoped-for Target in Alameda Landing, which, with Harbor Bay Island, would be exempted from the ban. Grocery stores this big wouldn’t be allowed on the Island, though the biggest one we’ve got now is 60,000 square feet. So who does that leave? Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and Costco, according to a survey included in the staff report. The Planning Board will discuss this one tonight (of course, it’s the last thing on the agenda). The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall and will hopefully be on Channel 15.

Also on the agenda tonight, some development news that may not be altogether bad: A potential housing development for school district staffers on the old Island High site, which is at Eagle and Everett, just east of Park Street. Here’s the sitch: Developer Warmington Homes, which is putting up new homes at the end of Grand Street near the marina, has offered to build nine, and could build up to 18, “affordable” homes on the site, without taking a dime from the city. In return, they’re asking the city to cut in half the number of “below market rate” homes they need to build into their Grand Street development, from 10 to five. Teachers and other Alameda school district employees whose incomes are low enough to qualify – their income, for a family of three, would need to be $59,600 or less – would get first dibs on anything that is built. Of course, this being Alameda, there are a series of big “ifs” surrounding this proposition that rival the challenges faced by storybook heroes storming castles and slaying dragons. In this case, Warmington needs to get the Planning Board to say they can build homes at Island High and also okay a development plan, get a zoning change (industrial to residential) from both the Planning Board and the City Council – and secure the site from the school district. Planning staff is recommending a yes vote. The 10-page staff report is worth a glance, if not for the hilarious misspellings (Knob Hill foods, anyone?) then definitely for this interesting tidbit: “It is hoped that at a future date, retail services and goods will be available at the nearby Del Monte Building” which has been going through approvals to do some upgrades. And if you’re interested in an alternate viewpoint on this, Lauren Do has also blogged it.

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