Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 7, 2015

Same same

Filed under: Alameda, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

At the last Planning Board meeting, in addition to the awesome preview of the container project, there was an agenda item that sounded like it was going to be relatively boring, but turned out to be fairly importantly.  There was a proposal to eliminate the City required design review for the community of Harbor Bay because there have been complaints by homeowners on Harbor Bay.  Harbor Bay has its own internal architectural committee process that — from all reports — is extremely onerous and, at times, even more difficult than the City’s process.  Oftentimes the two processes, the Harbor Bay one and the City one, would overlap each other making the applicant — rightfully– feel as though they were doing double work.

Naturally Harbor Bay was all excited that they could eliminate one layer of bureaucracy for their community members but, in the end, the Planning Board went the right direction of this and voted that proposal down.

While it may seem logical to allow Harbor Bay to take the project on itself and help relieve the burdens of an already slammed Planning and Building Department the problem is that removing the City from this process is not the way to go about lessening the burden of Harbor Bay homeowners.

As one Planning Board member opined, what to stop a sub-neighborhood in Harbor Bay to remove itself from the Harbor Bay process because they produce their own architectural standards and processes.  Or what is to stop other Alameda neighborhoods from deciding that they want to start their own process in order to get the treatment that was being proposed for Harbor Bay.  Essentially it would have been a cluster.

So for now, the Planning Board has said to Harbor Bay, look if you want to make things less of a big deal for your homeowners, you could always loosen your architectural standards.   That’s totally within your control, otherwise, you’re still a part of the City of Alameda, so you’ll have to abide by the same rules as everyone else does.



  1. Lauren,

    I enjoy reading you blog daily. However your blog regarding the design process for the Community of Harbor Bay Isle Owners Association (CHBIOA) includes some inaccuracies that I feel must be responded to:

    -The request to exempt the CHBIOA from the City’s Design Review Process was first suggested by the City of Alameda Planning Staff in September of 2012. It was never a result of complaints of Harbor Bay homeowners. At that time, the City’s design review process, and the CHBIOA’s design review process were compared, and it was clear there was a duplication of services being provided to the residents of CHBIOA. It was further noted that the CHBIOA process was being accomplished in less time (2-4 weeks vs. 3-6 months), and the CHBIOA’s design standards were more detailed in nature, and were consistently being applied. Unfortunately, due to staffing issues, the plan was not brought forward at that time.

    -In July of 2015, the CHBIOA was again approached by City staff; the proposed exemption would be presented at the July 27, 2015 Planning Board Meeting, justification being that Harbor Bay Isle already has strong design standards and a solid architectural review process. The Community agreed, and sent a letter of support and documents documenting the Community design review process to the Planning Board. Staff also attended the meeting. The Planning Board discussed the issue, and voted to deny the request.

    – The Community’s design review process has been in place since 1979, when CHBIOA was first developed. The development was done in partnership with the City of Alameda, and its design review process was clearly modeled after the City’s process. This is unlike any other homeowners association. The concern the Planning Board had that allowing the exemption would be akin to “opening Pandora’s Box”, although understandable, could easily be assuaged by simply requiring any exemption to meet or exceed the current City design review standard.

    -The other concerns by the Planning Board included how appeals would be handled, and the possible loss of control in the design review process – both of which are understandable concerns; and both of which can be addressed by giving the Planning Director the authority to override a Harbor Bay decision, like any other exemption. It was unfortunate that the Planning Board made the assumption that this request was the result of Harbor Bay residents “whining” about an onerous process – that was completely incorrect. It was an attempt by City staff to remove a redundant process so they can better utilize their resources.

    – I am available at any time to discuss.
    George Kay – Executive Director CHBIOA

    Comment by George Kay — August 7, 2015 @ 11:54 am

  2. 1. is good clarification, but I’m doubting the 3-6 months for City design review on standard residential stuff, unless it triggers HAB which could add six weeks to what should be no more than six week process for average project approval ( that is everything, zoning, design review and plan check). I looked at a job on HB where the owner was lamenting having to wait for the meeting cycle to get design review from home owner association.

    Comment by MI — August 7, 2015 @ 12:38 pm

  3. 2. The city took four months to approve my project, which Harbor Bay approved in one week. Construction is now delayed until next spring because my contractor has moved on to other projects and we will hit winter by the time he’s available. The city doesn’t have a building plan inspector on staff anymore, so it sends plans out of town for review by sundry individuals.who are not familiar with Alameda building codes and standards. They question everything and caused me a year delay.

    Comment by Larry Witte — August 12, 2015 @ 4:59 am

  4. I was told they had hired help for Jesse the plan check engineer before he had left. I guess we know why he left. How long was the plan check process itself? They had a ten day response for certain things or you got a fee rebate.

    Comment by MI — August 12, 2015 @ 7:50 am

  5. Harbor Bay is not approving zoning, structural engineering etc. just design review, four months to one week is apples and oranges. Not tosay four months isn’t too long and discouraging. Alameda has always had a rep for “we do it our way”, but it seemed like they were trying to make the system more user friendly. On delay to next year, that is pretty common. I’ve been approached in January by people who expect to break ground in April or May and construction starts in July or August, but that is not always just due to cities. Engineering is bigger part of plans than it used to be. Designs get revised according to city feedback, etc.

    Comment by MI — August 12, 2015 @ 8:21 am

  6. 4, 5. I understand that, as the city’s review covered building materials and the removal of waste. The city’s inability to move this faster is inexcusable, and much of what the reviewer questions was inappropriate, according to my architect and contractor. I’m sure the city wouldn’t advertise a four month review process, as it would be an embarrassment and point to incompetence. BTW, I am a big supporter of government in all forms (local, state, federal, public safety, health care, regulation of all kinds and education to name a few) so to get me to complain takes a lot of incompetence.

    Comment by Larry Witte — August 24, 2015 @ 2:07 pm

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