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Boatworks plan begins anew

Submitted by on 1, January 27, 2009 – 8:30 amNo Comment

Plans to build a housing tract along Alameda’s northern estuary shore resumed anew Monday night, with a hearing to lay out the parameters of an environmental study of the plans.

Landowner Francis Collins resubmitted his updated proposal for the Alameda Boatworks development in March 2008, roughly a decade after he began submitting a string of development plans for his 9.4-acre site at Clement and Oak streets and two months after losing a state court appeal against the city for stalling the plan.

The plan calls for 242 homes to be built on the site, half of which has yet to be zoned for housing. City officials had once hoped to buy the land as part of a 10-acre park, but city planner Andrew Thomas questioned whether the money for that would ever materialize.

The plan could also be Alameda’s first development to be approved under a to-be-created density bonus ordinance, which would allow a developer to build more housing on a site than city rules (in our case, Measure A) require, in exchange for building a certain amount of low-income housing.

State law requires cities to enact such ordinances, but Alameda has yet to comply. Thomas said the Planning Board could have an ordinance to discuss in March.

In addition to the right to build 35 percent more housing on the site than would otherwise be legally permitted under Measure A (which requires lots to be 2,000 square feet or more), Collins would also have the right to ask the city for concessions to its development rules.

According to a letter submitted by his architect, Collins is asking the city to waive his development fees and to pay him subsidies of more than $7.5 million, adjusted for inflation from 2001 figures, for developing 49 homes for low- and very-low income families. But Thomas questioned whether those requests would be concessions allowed under the city’s ordinance.

More than a dozen people spoke both for and against the project. Some said it’s about time the land, which is not currently occupied, was put to productive use, while others questioned the traffic and other impacts of the development and said they’d still like to see a park there. The planned park would have covered about half the site.

The environmental review would cover impacts like noise, air quality, impacts to public services and transportation.

Some questioned whether the site was still contaminated after almost a century of industrial use. State documents show that a 6.8 acre portion of the site that was contaminated with heavy metals, petroleum hydrocarbons and semi volatile organic compounds was cleaned up to residential standards in 2006, to the tune of $514,000 paid by Collins. The cleanup plan involved removal of 3,200 tons of contaminated soil and replacement with clean fill. It did not include cleanup of contaminated groundwater.

Collins sued the city in 2006 for failing to rezone his property for residential development because it wished to purchase half the land for a park. He lost that suit and a subsequent appeal. The City Council vote to rezone half his property for homes shortly after the suit was filed. The rest is still not zoned for residential use.

The draft of the environmental study could be finished this summer, Thomas said. He said this is the first of many, many public hearings likely to be held to discuss the development plans. Thomas said people who are interested in the project can be added to a mailing list on it, and that a website on the project will also be developed.

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