Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 18, 2013

Gateway drag

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Development — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

On Tuesday the City Council will be considering the Park Street North of Lincoln (Gateway District) rezoning, update of design manual, and certification of the EIR for the project area.    Just quickly to review, back in 2008 the City Council approved a plan for the Gateway District and since then City Staff has been working on zoning fixes and form based codes to essentially streamline the process of developing that area.

In the comment section there was a mention about the height limits for the area that I just want to touch on for clarification purposes because I think this may come up during Tuesday night’s meeting.   There has been some suggestion that the original plan for the Gateway District was to set the height limits at 40′ but that the Planning Board — or someone else — hiked the height limit to 60′ instead.

In the Staff Report, there is clarification on this whole height limit discussion:

Height Limits: The draft Zoning Ordinance reduces the height limits on Park Street from 100 feet to 60 feet. (The height limit along the rest of the Park Street commercial district is 60 feet.) Some speakers requested that the Planning Board reduce the height from 100 feet to 40 feet to reflect a 1990 General Plan Land Use Element policy, which reads as follows:

”Policy 2.5.i: Amend the Zoning Ordinance to limit building heights in the Park Street and Webster Street business districts to three stories above grade, measuring 35 to 40 feet, depending on roof configuration. Parking structures are to be limited by height only. “

Despite this policy, in 2000 the City of Alameda adopted a comprehensive update to the Zoning Ordinance for the Webster Street and Park Street commercial districts. At that time, after extensive discussion and participation by the affected business district associations, the City Council determined that a “one size fits all” approach to height limits would not work for the two business districts and adopted a variety of height limits: Webster Street was given a 40 foot height limit and Park Street was given a 60 foot height limit in some areas and a 40 foot height limit in other areas.

At the January 15, 2013 Planning Board hearing, staff recommended that the Board recommend that the City Council delete Policy 2.5.i from the General Plan to eliminate the conflicts between the General Plan Policy and the existing and proposed Zoning Ordinances. In response to speakers who felt that not enough public discussion had occurred regarding the General Plan amendment, the Board recommended that the staff schedule a well noticed public hearing for the Planning Board at a later date to discuss the merits of the General Plan policy that would include Webster Street merchants and nearby residents as well as Park Street interests. (The West Alameda Business Association requested a change to raise their height limits in 2010.) This General Plan update will occur in the future.

So even though that might have been a desired Land Use Element policy in 1990, what remained in the municipal code for the Gateway project area was a 100′ height limit.

This Zoning Map shows the general area of where the Gateway district is with current zoning:

zoning map

It includes these zoning designations, which have the following height limitations in the municipal code:

C-C Community-Commercial District = 60′
C-M Commercial-Manufacturing District = 100′
M-1 Intermediate Manufacturing District = 100′
M-2 General Industrial District = 100′

So what this zoning update will do will align the height limitations by lowering the other zoning designations to the Community -Commercial District as opposed to raising the height limitation as it has been suggested.   I think it’s worthwhile to notice that in the decades that have passed with the height limit being 60′-100′ feet in that area, no building has been erected that has been anywhere near that height.   I’m not sure that this zoning and form based code effort will suddenly start a rush to build 60′ buildings in every available Park Street frontage.



  1. The Park Street North of Lincoln hearing has been continued because the agenda online didn’t have all the supporting documents, so you’ll have to wait until April 2.

    Comment by Lauren Do — March 18, 2013 @ 10:03 am

  2. I’m not sure when the 100′ zoning dates from– the 19th century or the go-go 50’s, but it was probably always a little overambitious for our city. There has apparently never been a use for tall office space downtown. Housing could have been built before the 1970s but the zoning practice at the time was to discourage mixed uses. And once Measure A passed in the 1970s, no one could build multi unit housing anyway. We still have underutilized office space in business parks. The new density bonus changes the equation. Multiple units can now be built and with the housing market heating up recently, there is reason to think that given the right conditions, taller buildings with housing could be built in Alameda.

    The zoning is now 100′– but that is anachronistic and virtually everyone agrees it should be changed. The proposed zoning code went through 5 public meetings between 2010 and 2012 and the height limit for the proposed code at all those meetings was either 40′ or 50′, but not 60′. The draft code appeared at a November 2012 Planning Board meeting as 40′; at the January Planning Board the draft said 60′. So prior to January, people would have been reading and responding to the draft ordinance with a 40′ height limitation. It would have been good to have discussed the 60′ limit earlier in the process to find out if there is really a need for it.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — March 18, 2013 @ 10:41 pm

  3. I think 100″ is better….we live in a city and my view is it is better to build in the populations zone rather than go out and take more undeveloped space which can be farmland, orchards, ect. If you want to live in a small town move to a small town….Alameda has over 70,000 people…it is not a small town. SF has a little over 700,000 people and jobs, highrises ect Alameda is 1 tenth the size and will grow. If you want a small town move to Tracy…which is not that small anylonger. Keep the farmland, orchards ect…

    Comment by joelsf — March 23, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

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