Approval for Oakland Project in Lake Merritt Area Faces Delays

Oakland, Lake Merritt, East Bay, Bay Area, Wood Partners West Acquisitions, Lake Merritt Area Station Plan, Wood Partners

Oakland, Lake Merritt, East Bay, Bay Area, Wood Partners West Acquisitions, Lake Merritt Area Station Plan, Wood PartnersBy Jacob Bourne

A large parking lot at 226 13th Street in Oakland may become a six-story mixed-use development under the current proposed construction of a 354,930 square foot residential and retail building. Wood Partners West Acquisitions has applied to redevelop the lot to add about 262 housing units and a retail space of around 13,000 square feet facing 14th Street.

Though planning staff had identified the project as being in compliance with the Lake Merritt Area Station Plan, objections from community groups and neighbors at the June 1 commission hearing have postponed the development’s approval. In the interim, the developer and community members are expected to extend negotiations around aspects of the project followed by continued discussion at a special commission hearing on June 22.

[contextly_sidebar id=”5gugDLu12YL2Zcn9qFp0QsXXy8vXKjiy”]The proposed development would encompass an entire city block bounded by Alice, 14th, Jackson and 13th Streets. Under the Lake Merritt Area Station Plan, the area was identified as an opportunity site that would provide necessary housing in close proximity to transit. If approved, the parking lot will be demolished and five stories of studio, one, two and three bedroom housing units will be built over a double height ground floor retail space facing 14th Street and townhouse units facing 13th Street. Ground floor spaces will be devoted to lounge and fitness areas as well as bike parking for resident’s use. A 50-foot wide courtyard in the building’s center along with a rooftop area will provide open space access. According the plan, 0.75 parking spaces are provided per residential unit, but no retail parking spaces will be added based on zoning requirements.

A long line of community members provided comments at the June 1 hearing, many asking for postponement of the commission’s decision on the project to allow for further negotiations with the developer around community benefits and the lack of affordable housing provided by the project. Others raised air quality concerns from diesel emissions particulates that’d be emitted during construction.

Oakland, Lake Merritt, East Bay, Bay Area, Wood Partners West Acquisitions, Lake Merritt Area Station Plan, Wood Partners“In general, developing in Lake Merritt can be more challenging because of the existing residential uses and more active community base,” said Alexis Pelosi, a land use attorney who’s been following the project’s progress.

Though the project isn’t currently required to offer affordable housing units or pay associated impact fees, some in the Lake Merritt community may issue an appeal to City Council if 25-percent affordable housing units aren’t provided. Brian Pianca, representing Wood Partners, has responded claiming that meeting the request isn’t feasible given the high costs of constructing mid-rise wood-frame buildings in Oakland.

However, Pianca met with some neighbors and has been able to find common ground around integrating particular community benefit aspects into the project. For example, some artists of the Black Arts Movement Cultural District in Lake Merritt may have a portion of the building’s retail space available at a subsidized rent. At the June 1 meeting, Pianca also spoke of offering benefits to the nearby Lincoln Square Park, some programs for seniors in area, and allocating fees to the adjacent Malonga Center to offset impacts due to loss of spaces in the existing parking lot.

According to Peter Vollmann, planning staff member, another project consideration is that the lot is framed by large ficus trees that are a nesting habitat for local bird populations. In a decision supported by the Audubon Society, improvement measures are necessary to create alternative sites for the birds. In the current plan, 13 trees will be removed for construction and 34 trees will be newly planted.

West Coast Commercial Real Estate News