Creekside EIR Scoping Session Tonight

Tonight the Planning Commission will hold an EIR Scoping Session (PDF!) on the proposed Creekside development in Temescal (um, the development, not the meeting).

The project would sit on the site of what is now Global Video and its ginormous parking lot, and would consist of three buildings (one each bordering Telegraph, Claremont, and Clarke) between 4 and 6 stories in height with as many as 120 units. The parts of the project along Telegraph and Claremont would feature street-side retail frontage (total of 7,700 sf) with actual nice retail spaces (17 foot ceilings!).

I admit that I’m personally not a huge fan of these kind of Emeryville-looking buildings, with stuff sticking out everywhere and all the bright colors and such – I’d much prefer it if more new developments looked like 8 Orchids or the back side of Broadway Grand, but I’ll happily overlook it since I’m just so thrilled with the idea of having some street-fronting retail there. That giant parking lot might be nice for people who like to drive their car to rent a movie, but it’s a real nightmare from a pedestrian’s perspective – it ruins the streetscape and is just so unpleasant to walk past. And I’m sure that the neighborhood will have no problem filling up the new retail spaces (hell, even the Wall Street Journal is writing about how hot Temescal is).

That map is probably too small to read – click on it for a larger image. I like the way they’re designing their parking – the structure would sit in the middle of site, between buildings, and the top of the structure would provide the required open space. The project will apparently be a mixture of rental and ownership units, but the precise mix has not yet been determined.

Now of course community members have raised concerns about shadows, noise, and traffic impacts, just like they do with well, every proposed building. The Initial Study (PDF!) found that the only potential significant impacts arising from the development would be traffic related, so the EIR will focus on those. The public comment period on the Notice of Preparation for the EIR ends on January 21.

By the way, if you weren’t already convinced that the zoning in this city (and particularly in Temescal) is a complete mess and needs to be totally thrown out, check this out. The site falls into two different zoning classifications – part of is is C-28 and another part is R-40. Normally the General Plan can take care of this kind of issue, but even that isn’t particularly helpful in this case, since the site is once again divided into two different categories. Part of the land is mapped Neighborhood Center Mixed Use, which permits 125 units per acre, while another portion of the lot is considered Mixed Housing Type Residential, which only allows 30 units per acre. Depending on where you draw the boundary between the two different use categories, the General Plan permits between 85 and 102 units on the property. Which is not a ton, but certainly more appropriate than the outdated zoning, which permits only 48 units, or up to 69 with a conditional use permit.

So if the maximum number of allowable units under any interpretation of the General Plan and the borders is 102, why are they talking about building 120 units? Because of this nifty little thing called SB 1818, or the State Density Bonus Law, which is basically a form of voluntary inclusionary zoning. The developer has committed to reserving five units in the building for families earning 50% AMI ($37,700/year), and in exchange, they get to build 20% more units than would otherwise by allowed under local zoning ordinances and the City can’t do anything about it.

Of course, since the messed-up zoning provides zero clarity as to how many units actually are allowed on the site, it’s not entirely clear what 20% on top of the maximum allowable density is. See the chart below (taken from the staff report on tonight’s item).

What a mess.

4 thoughts on “Creekside EIR Scoping Session Tonight

  1. Steve R

    Looks pretty fabulous and I’d love to see more innovative development like this up and down Telegraph and Broadway, but I assume it’ll be an uphill battle with the no-growth crowd that cherishes the fenced in parking lot and ugly building that’s there now.

  2. Becks

    Though I also am not too excited about the look of the buildings, this sounds like the perfect use for this space. Passing it on the bus yesterday, I imagined how different that corner and the surrounding area would be with the addition of housing and retail. Hopefully STAND won’t hold this project up for too long.

  3. len raphael

    curious why you and your respondents are so confident that retailers can’t stop themselves from leasing some of that high ceilinged retail space. The square footage is too small for economies of scale of a large retailer. only good for a couple of more restaurants. And are restaurant customers supposed to arrive by AC transit express bus?

    The city’s insistence on boutique sized retail space pushes the buildings higher and stresses the overwhelmed infrastructure.

  4. len raphael

    according to one of my developer/landlord buds, for the past 10 years the city of berkeley has started to achieve the higher residential densities and higher mass transit usage which Oakland general planners and smartgrowthers make highest priority goals for main Oakland avenues. many of the residents are yuppies, not just students.

    the peculiar thing he’s observed, is that retail has actually declined along Shattuck. He pointed to the closing of Barnes and Noble, and Ross as examples. Says most restaurants along Shattuck only do so so. His theory, completely unsubstantiated, is that many of the new residents are using public transit to shop and dine in SF, WC, and even Rockridge Bart. His theory is that the stores in SF and WC are much bigger, have huge selection compared to Berkeley ground floor mixed use retail; and are not as charming and boutiquey as Rockridge. These new residents don’t bother with limited inventory, more expensive local retailers if they can buy online or those retailers in SF, WC, Rockridge that provide those other shopping experiences/benefits.

    It’s fine by him because he can make good money from residential rentals.

    if he’s correct and the same thing occurs in Oakland the general planners and smart growthers will succeed in creating a more efficient bedroom community for SF and WC, for both the middle level and below middle workers, but not make Oakland either vibrant or financially viable.

    if there were a place to get sales tax receipts by zip code, plus changes in population density, it should be possible to verify his observations.