Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 28, 2014

Ours is the fury

Filed under: Alameda, Development, Northern Waterfront — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

Remember tonight the Planning Board will be talking about the street names for Alameda Landing so if anyone wants to bring my Song of Fire and Ice idea (hint hint) you’re welcome to.

Also on the agenda for tonight will be the Del Monte project from Tim Lewis Communities which s, in grand Alameda tradition, growing quite the negative reputation for itself.   They are presenting a Master Plan for the Del Monte project which is probably the farthest that anyone has gotten on this particular building so kudos for the Tim Lewis Communities.

I think for the case of this particular project I’m going to go with the old standard of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.  In the case of the Del Monte building we have a beautiful old building and, look, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a preservationist by any stretch of the imagination, but even I like this building.   But the building has a lot of problems.  Unlike the Chipman Warehouse site, no one is climbing all over themselves to renovate this puppy.   I can’t even count how many iterations Peter Wang went through for this property alone.  Suffice it to say, it’s a difficult project.

Now we have a developer who is not only willing to redevelop the site but also has committed to maintaining the exterior shell of the building which I know is super important to people.   But there are already rumblings of discontent.

Here’s the thing, we could do nothing and let this historic building crumble into ruins or we could try to be supportive of a developer who is working,  to rehabilitate the historic facade which cannot be cheap.

Here are the floor plans for each floor, there will be five floors for the two middle bays and three floors for the outer two bays.  The highest part will only be an additional two stories, but don’t forget that the whole first floor of the new interior structures is ground level parking which (1) provides parking and (2) hides the parking quite nicely.  I like it.







I’m largely happy with the design.  I actually like the ultra modern look paired with the historic brick because it’s a lot more interesting than trying to make the interior buildings look faux-historic, which I really dislike.  It’s a new building, they’re not going to hide it, they will highlight it’s modernness.

Plus it looks like Clement will be hopefully be connected through to Constitution once the Chipman Terminal gets built out so only the piece that runs through the Penzoil plot will remain unconnected.   If Clement is ever build to flow through past Grand to Constitution, it will help Buena Vista traffic out immensely because it will balance out the load between those two streets.

Another big positive of this development is that it will unbundle the parking from the housing, meaning that just because you buy a place doesn’t mean you automatically will be assigned a parking space.   Essentially the parking spaces will be sold so that a family with only one vehicle, won’t have to pay for an unit with the cost of parking built into the price.   Naturally lack of designated and deeded parking spaces will make people fear that people will then look to the other neighborhoods and snatch up the on street “free” parking there.  I’ll be the first to admit that it will probably happen, but it will be the exception and not the rule.

Anyway, I’m just hopeful that this project doesn’t get tweaked to death so that the interior buildings get some lame-o faux historic overlay.   Want to make it less heavy, cover it in glass.


  1. If it was good, I could get behind it. The problem is simply that they’re underestimating the parking needs for both the tenants (1 per unit in Alameda won’t be enough) and the retail space (they couldn’t or wouldn’t answer the formula used for parking spaces per square footage of retail space, let alone other projects where that formula had been used).

    We were at the Wednesday tour meeting, and they could give almost no concrete answers – save that they had a great deal of flexibility – which is great, but means they can also bait and switch. Furthermore, they don’t even have rights to all the land for the clement street extension, and can’t guarantee that they ever will (or if it would be done at the same time as the buildout). Their plan was the ameliorate that with water taxis from parking lots in Oakland.

    I actually like the design itself, and I deeply want to see something happen there. The architectural design looks good, and I would love a restaurant right there. But they were incredibly vage and non committal about so much that I have an absolute feeling of dread over the traffic and noise that it will bring. I can’t support it until they have guarantees on parking and traffic that are safe and sane.

    Comment by sushispook — April 28, 2014 @ 6:57 am

  2. Here’s a good paper on unbundled parking and pairing that with onsite car shares.

    The parking counts are 309 spaces for residential units; 134 shared by residents, commercial, and visitors; 60 on street for visitors and public. Folks who believe that ~ 1 car space per unit isn’t “enough” are assuming that every household will have in excess of 1 car per household. Given that 41% of the units will be 1 bedroom units the opposite assumption could be made that either those households will only have one, or in rare cases, no cars. According to a 2013 study the average number of cars per household has declined since 2008.

    I wasn’t at the tour so I can’t speak to what information was shared and what was not, but sometimes if it’s not a principle working on the project they may not have all the answers that people are looking for. There is a whole Master Plan document here which should answer lingering questions. According to the Master Plan though, the ratio that they are working on with regard to commercial space (this would include retail and restaurants) is 2 spaces per 1000 sq ft

    Comment by Lauren Do — April 28, 2014 @ 8:22 am

  3. wish I could have been at the tour. Know nothing of parking issues, but this is a great case to be wary of architects drawings, especially full elevations not provided here or in the previous blog about this project. ( The left and right bays seem to be in scale, but if you accept the premise that it’s no big deal that the highest part will ONLY be an additional two stories (only double) then be vigilant about the design and material. I don’t think there is anything inherently good or bad about either trying to recreate old building or using new material, it’s all in the execution. There is no way to argue one over the other, it’s personal taste, but brick for new two stories is sure out of the picture. New material is simply going to be cheaper. Check out the elevation in Alamedan and picture one of those loft buildings at Jack London you see from 880 hovering over the current facade , essentially doubling it. Is that weird? It looks like it to me in the rendering. I hate to get myself lumped with anti-development NIMBYs but when a developer talks about “flexability” they are referring to their own ability to talk out of either side of their mouth. I want to support this project, but I’m wary.

    as a foot note to the rest of the rehab, retaining the facades has to be cheaper than trying to retain the entire structure like Mr. Wang did in his last hotel plan. Retrofitting unreinforced masonry requires foundation up grade which is usually a series of grade beams dug under existing. If that were done first, it might make bracing and retaining the facades for the duration fairly straight forward. Knowing how engineers would approach retaining the facades would obviously give more insight to cost and risks.

    Comment by MI — April 28, 2014 @ 8:39 am

  4. Clement wouldn’t be completed. Wind River owns the piece of land closest to Sherman it sounded like.

    My biggest concern with the uncoupled parking, aside from the overflow onto neighboring streets, is what happens in the secondary market? How will future owners be able to buy a parking space if the first owner of the unit they’re buying didn’t buy a spot because they didn’t need/want one? How will they handle the parking requirements for the units that are rentals since the developer said they could be a mix of sale and rent? Personally, I’d rather see parking spots (from the 310 inside and the 100ish outside – all of which the developer said would be available for sale) assigned to each unit based on square footage and then the owner of each residence could rent it back to the HOA (or whomever else they decide will run that business, maybe whoever does the housing rental) if they don’t need it.

    I like the plans, but I don’t like the parking and how it has the potential to affect neighborhood and park parking. A sticker program, as was discussed, helps with that, but it shouldn’t be considered as THE sole solution. I don’t like that they have no green space and are planning to pay in lieu fees and make Littlejohn even more crowded than it already is on the weekend. There was some discussion of tying completion on this side of Sweeney to completion of their project which could be a good compromise so there was at least some more green space available even if all of Sweeney wouldn’t be completed.

    I think if they can get the parking and green space hammered out in writing so that the developer and the residents come to a compromise that this would be a great project to have at Del Monte.

    Comment by Jennifer — April 28, 2014 @ 8:59 am

  5. Unbundled parking disclosed from the start allows people to self-select whether they want to live in a development where they know that parking is not unlimited and comes with a cost. In San Francisco’s Mission Bay many of the development with 2 – 3 bedroom homes only allocate one parking space per unit. Residents understand this and self-select to buy. Those with parking needs for two or more cars would probably be better served selecting a potential home with more parking.

    The whole point of parking maximums as opposed to providing a potential parking spot for everyone who wants one is to reduce the impact of that development. Find families and households that are okay as a one or no car household and those household are less likely to choose their car as their first mode of transportation.

    Comment by Lauren Do — April 28, 2014 @ 9:20 am

  6. But what about the parking impact of those who visit people living there? What about the traffic impact overall to the island? We’re already heavily congested during commute times and events (like the antique fair). This is just too much without enough planning and guarantees to the people who live there.

    Comment by sushispook — April 28, 2014 @ 9:57 am

  7. “Raise the bridges! Flood the tubes! Don’t let anyone else in!” -every clueless Alamedan.

    Comment by BMac — April 28, 2014 @ 12:00 pm

    • “Dramatic hyperbole to dismiss legitimate complaints!” – every nuance-less internet commenter ever

      Comment by sushispook — April 28, 2014 @ 12:09 pm

  8. If the option is between “no development” and “development” certainly “no development” will have less traffic impact than the “development.” However then you are left with an unimproved Del Monte building which I think most will agree is something that should be saved.

    So then you are left with the option of attempting to figure out which kind of development will (1) pay for the historic renovation and (2) generate the least traffic impact. I believe that this unbundled development will be much less of an impact than a development that provides parking at a “worst case scenario” option meaning 1 parking space per bedroom per unit.

    As to the height of the buildings, remember that the new modern building will be replacing a “pop up” that currently exists (you can see the profile of it in this rendering it’s the red dotted line) which shows that the new building would be maybe 10 feet above the height of the existing building. But certainly when you look at the flat elevation and consider the distance between the lowest part of the historic Del Monte front and the highest part of the new building, it’s going to come out looking like it’s a towering monstrosity. But flat front elevations are rendered one dimensional and don’t take into consideration perspective given that it will be set back quite a bit.

    Comment by Lauren Do — April 28, 2014 @ 12:17 pm

  9. Wind River has TONS of unused parking spaces — try walking around their lot even right in the middle of a workday; you’ll see hundreds of empty spots. Apparently when the company built its campus, there was some city requirement that they had to put in a bunch of extra parking in case they expanded and built more buildings. That’s probably never gonna happen, especially now that they’re owned by Intel. I wonder if some kind of swap could be worked out. It would be ironic if parking for the Del Monte building was scarce while there was a sea of unused spots literally a few yards away.

    Another bonus tip, the free Estuary Crossing Shuttle to Lake Merritt BART stops at Wind River’s campus. That might be enough to convince some folks that they don’t need to own a car.

    Comment by trow125 — April 28, 2014 @ 12:55 pm

  10. Ok…. I love the the underground parking. I love the unbundled nature of it. I want more houses to be built in Alameda, close together.

    Comment by BMac — April 28, 2014 @ 12:55 pm

  11. Also, parking minimums make traffic worse and cities less livable.

    Comment by BMac — April 28, 2014 @ 12:58 pm

  12. We live on an island. No matter what we’re going to have traffic problems at choke points (bridges & tubes). Blocking the Del Monte project for traffic is silly considering we’ve also got the development at Chipman, Target, and the Point going on which will add to the traffic even if Del Monte is blocked and at least the developer is trying to incentivize public transportation over more cars. As was mentioned at the Wednesday meeting, it’s too expensive to build another bridge or tube and even if it weren’t, there’s no land in Oakland that the other side could land on.

    While I recognize that wishing they would assign at least one parking spot per unit (even if the unit owner chose not to purchase it), I understand that it doesn’t match what they’re trying to do. However, I’m still concerned about how this is going to work in 10 years, if there is no allotment of parking spaces, when units are being resold and a prospective new owner with one car cancels a deal because all the existing parking spaces were sold to other units so there are none left. The short-term, first occupant situation sounds great for the uncoupled parking, but I haven’t seen or heard them detail how well uncoupled parking continues to work once there is turnover.

    I can see why uncoupled parking works in SF. There’s lots of things to do in the City and public transit is easily accessible and runs decently late. But Alameda is not SF, so if the developer really wants it to work, there has to be more than just ferries or shuttles that run only around business hours.

    Comment by Jennifer — April 28, 2014 @ 1:43 pm

  13. I would imagine that as a homebuyer the onus would be on the homebuyer to perform due diligence about whether the property is right for them. Even if the price is right, I wouldn’t buy a Victorian home because I am not handy and I don’t want to live through a renovation project. If a secured and deeded parking space is important to a homebuyer then that person should probably pass on buying a condo unit without a deeded parking space.

    Trow125 made an awfully good point about the seas of parking available at the Wind River campus, maybe Wind River should put up a gate and offer those parking spaces for rent for people who need an extra one or two spaces. Or maybe they can just be a good neighbor and let the Del Monte residents park there for free since it’s going to waste anyway. Also, as trow125 pointed out the Cross Estuary Shuttle is a great resource that with a stop super close to the Del Monte project and free to use!

    Comment by Lauren Do — April 28, 2014 @ 1:52 pm

  14. Jennifer, I’ll predict that some day long after I’m gone there could be a bridge from the foot of Grand St. to government Island, to the Embarcadero, and onto the freeway. naturally it would happen after the Coast Guard leaves.

    Comment by John P. — April 28, 2014 @ 3:21 pm

  15. 6. the antiques fair? that is one hour a month when everybody is leaving at once. No relevance as a meter of anything.

    9. Lauren, yeah perspective is legit, but if you stand at the elevated park across the street the view will be pretty much as in the elevation drawing. Same for the entire row of houses at the far side of the park. From the sidewalk on the same side as the building the impact will be much reduced. From Oakland, do we care? Do we care what they put on the Oakland side? Ironic that in your first blog post I warned Jack R. not to get fooled by one of the examples of a similar retrofit in the city where the new building behind did tower in the street view, after he said it looked like a Winnebago parked behind a model T Ford, and then when I saw this other elevation I realized that I maybe screwed up after all.

    On height and facade, my thinking is that just as I did for my neighbor with our addition, they should erect story poles and make sure people with a vote look at them. When it comes to materials, if I had to vote on the project I’d feel most comfortable seeing large slabs of the material first hand or better, seeing mock ups in photo using the materials rather than relying on these drawings, which by the way aren’t that impressive. John P., with Bridgeside in mind, are you with me on this last point?

    Comment by MI — April 28, 2014 @ 5:49 pm

  16. Mark, absolutely, drawings or even 4″inch by 4″inch pieces of material just don’t work.

    Comment by John P. — April 28, 2014 @ 9:49 pm

  17. listening to PB right now. Chris Buckley just asked for story poles to help “streamline the discussion” on height. He seemed to reflect Lauren’s sentiment regarding perspective. He also asked for building material samples ASAP. Second guy to speak invoked Russia with regard to assigned parking, but the generally the speakers seem well informed and are making their points with economy. Regarding parking Bill Smith just invoked Google buses which I’m sure we can all rally around. Great meme Bill. One fellow almost said Sweeney Todd while referring to Jean Sweeney open space. Regarding my point in 16 about what people in Oakland think of height, I’m reminded that Oakland side will be towers at Brooklyn Basin so forget what they think.

    Comment by MI — April 28, 2014 @ 10:40 pm

  18. There is a lot of talk, but I like the designs. But at some point you stop building out and taking up farm land or start building up and in. We would be fine with one car…the only reason we keep the Jeep it to take the dogs to the dog park because of their hair. Otherwise I can be dropped off at Bart or walk to the ferry…and a few times I have taken the 51 bus.

    Comment by Joseph — April 29, 2014 @ 1:16 am

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