By Nancy Amdur
Representatives of San Francisco-based Carmel Partners attended a City of Fremont Planning Commission study session on Tuesday to present potential alternative designs for its multifamily project proposed for 1031 Walnut Ave.[contextly_sidebar id=”RoxfCtH1rYAwbmqd0goIctSqMjeuWZYo”]The company began outreach with the community last fall regarding its planned development comprising 882 one-, two- and three-bedroom rental units among five four- and five-story buildings along with underground parking. Many residents voiced opposition to the plan—including via e-mails to the planning commissioners, an online petition and speaking at the study session—citing concerns such as too much density, building heights and the potential traffic, school and water impacts.
“The size and scope of the proposed building is overwhelmingly inconsistent with that of our existing neighborhood in size, density and appearance and character,” says an online petition signed by more than 1,500 residents.
The city will aim to “try to find something that works for residents around the site and conforms to the General Plan,” said Bill Roth, an associate planner with the city.
The 13.7-acre site is now a farm at the corner of Walnut Avenue and Guardino Drive. It is in a transit-oriented development overlay district and is zoned for urban residential development in the city’s General Plan. Surrounding the area are mostly two- and three-story residences, including townhomes and condominiums. Carmel Partners plans to contribute about one acre to the city to expand Guardino and Litchfield Avenue.
Carmel Partners was drawn to the site in part because Fremont is a “vibrant community” and the site is close to BART and the city’s “burgeoning downtown,” said Greg Christopher, vice president of development at the company, who spoke at the meeting. The company purchased the property from the Guardino family in August 2014.
Christopher showed four possible project designs within the approved density range of 50 to 70 dwelling units per acre. The design with the fewest number of residences was a 670-unit option with four-story buildings and an above-grade garage. The design with the highest number of units proposed was 882.
The project, being designed by Oakland-based architecture firm KTGY Group, Inc., was laid out in different configurations with designs carrying three-, four- and/or five-story buildings, underground or above-ground parking and varying setbacks. Layouts offered lower buildings in areas closest to neighboring residences along with view corridors to “bring more light and air across the project,” Christopher said.
Underground parking would provide more property design options, including for incorporating additional open space, Christopher said.
None of the units is planned as affordable, and some residents and commissioners at the study session said they would like the developer to consider adding affordable units into the project, though the city cannot require it.
“This is a missed opportunity to have affordable housing on site, because part of our plan is to have affordable housing across different income levels closer to public transit,” said David Bonaccorsi, chair of the planning commission.
Parking at the site is zoned for between 1.25 and 1.75 cars per unit. Some community members said more spaces should be allotted as many of the apartment residents will have more than one car and would be forced to seek street parking, which is already difficult to find. Also, the site is about a half mile from BART and amenities, including the nearest grocery.
Most planning commission and community members at the study session indicated they would likely support a project in the lower range of density and the highest range of parking. Lower buildings and open space where the project borders existing residences also garnered positive feedback.
No decision was made at the hearing. Another study session with the City Council is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 3.
Carmel Partners is an owner, operator and developer that focuses on residential apartment communities. Other Bay Area projects include the Loft House with 133 units and 7,000 square feet of retail space in Sunnyvale, and Carmel the Village, a 330-unit property with 42,600 square feet of retail in Mountain View.