Emerald Views project goes to Design Review Committee today

So my attempt to not blog this week doesn’t seem to be going very well. There’s just too much going on!

So, in case anyone had any doubts on how anti-development idealogue Dr. No, aka Dan Lindheim, current Director of Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency, felt about the Emerald Views project, they can put them to bed now.

Normally a project would go to Design Review after the Environmental Impact Report is completed, but someone has decided that this project deserves preliminary review, except, of course, that the comments staff requests from the DRC aren’t really about design at all. Instead, the report requests the DRC provide comment on 5 subjects, 4 of which they really aren’t tasked with addressing.

Here’s the conclusion to the staff report (PDF!):

Staff recommends the DRC provide preliminary comments and direction on the design of the proposed project subject to the discussion above Specifically, staff wishes the DRC comment on:
1. The demolition of an A1+ historic resources and possible precedent setting implications.
2. The appropriateness of the site given the number of vacant lots.
3. Compatibility with the neighborhood in terms of height/scale and building design/materials.
4. Potential ability to make the required findings
5. Comments from the LPAB

Staff will return to the DRC after publication of the DEIR for final design review comments.

The report seems more focused on the “garden” than it is about the building that’s supposed to be reviewed and features a bizarro-world description of the one large public input meeting on the project.

We have a process to address to address the concerns listed above (except for “appropriateness of the site given the number of vacant lots” – WTF?), and that process, the EIR, is underway. This tone of the report strongly suggests to me that some would prefer we circumvent that process and just kill the project now, and I find that highly disturbing.

And since I know that bringing up Emerald Views and Schilling Gardens will inspire comments on the appropriateness of tall buildings near Lake Merritt, can I just point out one more time that Swig has submitted applications to build two commercial high rises just as close to the Lake as this project, immediately behind the Kaiser Center, one of which would be significantly taller that Emerald Views, and nobody is saying a damn thing about them.

6 thoughts on “Emerald Views project goes to Design Review Committee today

  1. Robert

    I’m sorry, I guess that in Oakland the words “Design Review” do not have the same meaning as they do in other places in the country. Other than item 3, what do any of these things have to do with the design of the building? Items 1 and 2 could be legitimate discussions items for the city, they are not design.

  2. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    This same thing happened when the developers of 444 Embarcadero (currently the Jack London Inn) went to the DRC. They were basically doing a reality check on what the PC would and would not be interested in. It wasn’t really design review in terms of actual design, but more a preliminary what if. From a developers stand point I can see that this step would be good so that you could get input from the PC and THEN spend the big bucks going in that direction. No sense spending money on something that the PC is going to be totally against.

    A rendering of the Jack London Inn project was on the front page of the Jack London News back in April 2006 – http://jacklondonnews.com/volume2/JLN_V2_4.pdf – huge pdf! Very cool idea, but the big question was whether the PC would want something that tall, which would require several significant variances. I suspect this project, along with several others have been land banked because of the housing market.

  3. Robert

    Now that would have been a real design statement. Should give pause to those folks who are worked up bacause the glass is green on Emerald Views.

  4. James H. Robinson

    Interesting how much controversy there is over development near Lake Merritt, yet East Oakland is desperate for development! Why not build some office buildings or retail out there?

  5. Robert

    Except under very unusual circumstances development tends to spread outward from a core. But East Oakland does benefit from development downtown because the tax base will keep increasing to help pay for improvements throughout the city – in theory.

    Those unusual circumstances, well that would include a city goverment that did not blindly oppose almost any change that would encourage meaningful, possible development, instead hoping that industry would someday come back to Oakland. Although there are some aspects I am not fond of, Emeryville did successfully redevelop its abandoned brown fields, so why hasn’t Oakland?

  6. oaklandhappenings

    I just read the Swig link–thanks, V! I had missed that these last few weeks. I hope that they succeed, although I would like to see any additional tall officer towers spread throughout downtown–not just clustered together with some of the tallest buildings in Oakland.