Appeal Points 4801 Shattuck

Wednesday, Feb 28, 2007

Case File Number CMDV06-425 & TPM-9235

These points were adapted for this project (and added to) from an earlier appeal -- choose from here or emphasize height, density, neighborhood character, your own stake in the community, etc.

HEIGHT AND DENSITY: The proposed height of this project on every side significantly exceeds zoning and is out of scale with the neighborhood. The allowable scale of infill projects, as the city's General Plan states, should be based on what is compatible with the surrounding fabric. The distinctive qualities of the Temescal neighborhood, such as its scale and architectural heritage, are key community assets that must serve as the precedent in determining appropriate scale for any new development. The city's policy should be to support infill developments that build on what is unique about Oakland's neighborhoods, rather than foster their homogenization. With each new higher building, the community also loses more views of the hills and sky. While this might be subtle, it adds up, diminishing the quality of life for those who live, work, and shop in Temescal.

PRECEDENT: Approval of this project would help developers establish a precedent for more 57-foot, out-of-scale buildings in the neighborhood. Currently there are at least a dozen sites in Temescal and lower Rockridge that developers are eyeing, including several that Ron Kriss and Roy Alper now own and intend to develop. If developers continue to push for maximum density on these sites, the entire distinctive fabric of the Temescal neighborhood will be compromised.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Temescal has a long tradition of being an affordable, diverse neighborhood. Every new infill residential development, including the one proposed for 4801 Shattuck, should include an inclusionary (affordable) housing component to ensure Temescal's diversity is preserved. 80% of average median income is not affordable to most people.

TRAFFIC and PEDESTRIAN SAFETY: The traffic 3 blocks from the proposed project at 51st and Shattuck is likely to back up past the capacity of even the exit ramp to hold it for long periods of time with this and nearby additions to the area. This also impacts heavily the air right under the freeway, which is less than a block away from 4801 Shattuck. Studies right in Oakland of air quality have found a definite significant correlation between asthma and proximity to heavily trafficked areas such as this. It is certain that the health of residents of 48th, 49th, and other nearby streets will be affected by this project.

I believe no traffic study has been done for this site. While there was an inadequate traffic study for 4700 Telegraph a few blocks away, that study failed to consider true cumulative impacts, among other flaws. (It pretended to do so, but left out more known and probable developments than it put in. For just one small example, the developers of THAT project already planned to build this one when they did the traffic study, yet no mention was made of this or of most of their several other planned projects in the area.) It's become a true catch-22 to to go on approving these projects one by one as if there is no cumulative impact foreseeable. The developers can't do a study on projects that haven't yet been built, so if 20 get built in 4 years in this way, what kind of hellish non-community are we creating? A thorough Traffic study is needed that considers various scenarios including the likely one of increased density along several corridors in the area. Clearly several key nearby intersections are already chronically congested. Pedestrian safety at the major nearby intersections already is hazardous as well. Without the developers and the city jointly addressing these conditions, this development will put more pedestrians and drivers in jeopardy. The noise level along Telegraph a block away and along Shattuck are already such that the purported goal of walkability and support for area retail are already quite degraded. We residents have been lectured (in the person of one prominent non-neutral developer standing to gain much by development in the area) about the benefits of transit-orientation accruing from these projects. However, if we are truly serious about encouraging the use of public transit, or, more to the point, of DIScouraging private automobile use, at least the following steps need to occur in marriage with these projects -- as intimately planned into the developments as are the joists holding up the roofs:

LEDs showing real-time locations of buses at every stop, so riders can shop nearby while waiting or do other tasks conveniently.

The reversal of current policy of giving traffic tickets to bicycles parked as tucked-away as possible under the circumstances between parking meters on sidewalks.

A complete infusion into traffic laws of awareness that the optimal sharing of the road by bicycles and motor vehicles means there should be times when bicycles are allowed NOT to stop at red lights if traffic allows an open path through. This is especially needed when there are no bike lanes and when even one bicycle can cause major traffic congestion when it is required to stop at every light.

The re-configuring of many "transit corridors" as one-way streets to allow public transit a lane to itself (especially in the Telegraph/Shattuck area where this is a natural solution.

Where whole communities with sturdy near-extinct old-growth redwood homes and apartment buildings are being demolished in the name of sacrifice to the cause of global warming (diminishing commuter distance),and residents in the area are told that they and their children and elders must breathe dirty poisonous scientifically-proven asthma-causing air -- where that large a sacrifice is being required of those who have their whole lives invested here in money and even way beyond money, surely a sacrifice much less large in the form of restricting driving in the area on certain days by certain license-plated vehicles is much more reasonable. In Athens finally this was done not to save the lungs of human beings, but to save the valuable age-old architecture that was, and still is, being degraded from motor vehicle traffic.

Commuter checks should be part of what buyers of the units are paying for, but to a larger extent should also be considered part of the price developers pay for the privilege of building here. They should, for as long a period of time as possible, be required to be subsidized by the builders of these projects.

This site at 4801 Shattuck and all new development sites should become city car-share locations.

Buses need to be clean, safe, and comfortable. If that means they cost more, then the money needs to be found, as it was all through the first part of the century up through the early 70s, by taxing those who can afford to buy up whole blocks and whole cities an amount considerably closer than now to their fair share of taxes. If this is determined finally not to be possible on a city-wide basis without losing business to less taxing locales (and the many benefits of business being located in this area may very well outweigh any additional costs under such a scenario -- such as retaining employees and management who enjoy the climate, decreased costs associated with the climate here, the many attractions of the area, forward-thinking consumers as well as related suppliers, etc. etc. etc.) then these projects should be vastly curtailed until Oakland takes a stand in encouraging a national movement to get fair taxation policies that support human life on the planet.

We believe the Planning Commission should compel the developer to mitigate the impact their project will have on traffic in our neighborhood. Mitigation could include, but is not limited to: pedestrian bulb-outs at the intersection of 51st and Telegraph, improving the AC Transit bus stop at this intersection, as well as transit improvements listed above.

: Only recently have changes in the building code allowed 5-story wood frame construction over a podium. This type of construction is not standard in California, and we're just beginning to see it in Oakland. Buildings of this type in Seattle and Portland, and a project in El Cerrito have begun to show problems in the upper stories due to wood shrinkage. The wood shrinks and warps, tie-downs become loose, and the slop in the system produces cracking in the upper stories. It¹s likely that significant damage will result in the event of a major earthquake. The result is a poor quality building and quite probably a blighted building in the event of an earthquake. One blighted building in a neighborhood is bad enough, but a whole series of similarly constructed buildings could cause an entire neighborhood to become blighted. This is an untested construction method. At the very least, to make sure that this building is engineered correctly, construction plans should be submitted to peer review.

: This project has been described as a "transit-oriented" "pedestrian-friendly," "infill," development. But these terms, so much in use today, must also be looked at very carefully and in context if they are to have any meaningful application. For instance, there is no evidence that those who buy into this "transit-oriented," market-rate condo project will stop driving, as long as bus service on Telegraph remains unreliable and inconvenient. One urgent reason given for building these "transit-oriented" projects is to conserve the use of fuel warming our planet from commuters from afar. However, careful analysis of fossil fuel use reveals that a high percentage, if not a majority, of fuel is used for transporting food and other items IN to dense urban areas. It turns out this arrangement of human dwelling is NOT the most optimal for simply material resource use, let alone emotional resource conservation. As for the "pedestrian-friendly," nature of this project, without building in enough retail space to allow for the wide range of neighborhood-serving businesses that had existed in Temescal before Highway 24 and the widening of 51st St. wiped them out in the 1960s, Temescal will never become the truly pedestrian-oriented community it once was. "Infill" projects here will do little if anything to counter suburban sprawl, as the developers have claimed, until Temescal is able to offer the better schools, a greater sense of safety, ample open space, and affordable housing that those moving to the suburbs seek.

The developers of this project represent one vision for this neighborhood. Their vision is to use the most generous formula allowed under the General Plan to calculate a maximum density on the site. Only then do they figure out how to actually fit 44 units on the site. The result is a project that is physically out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood. Our vision for in-fill residential development in our neighborhood, to the degree we are saddled with the General Plan that was decided with very few delegates from this area, is aligned with ALL of the General Plan not just the increased density called for in the plan. We are in favor of increased density in our neighborhood . However we believe projects in our neighborhood can achieve these goals and still be consistent with the fabric of our neighborhood. Maintaining the existing fabric of Oakland¹s neighborhoods is also a goal of the General Plan. We ask that the Planning Commission compel the developers of this site to reduce the height of their proposed project to bring it more in scale with our neighborhood.

CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act)

We feel that this project, as it has been proposed, requires, at the very least, an initial study as to the possible environmental impact this project would have on the neighborhood. According to Section 15332 of the California Environmental Quality Act, a categorical exemption is granted if ³the project is consistent with the applicable general plan designation and all applicable general plan policies as well as with applicable zoning designation and regulations." As stated previously this project may be consistent with the maximum possible density that the General plan will allow on this site but the scale of the project is not consistent with the existing fabric of the neighborhood as also called for in the General Plan. Furthermore in no way is this project consistent with the zoning for this site. It exceeds the allowable height, and setbacks for its respective zoning. (57 feet where 30 feet is permitted in R-50 Zone, front setback of 0 feet where 10 feet is required; 0 feet for rear yard where 15 ft is required; side yard for the portion in the R-50 zone 0 feet proposed where 4 feet is required. The developer has stated that since Oakland's General Plan supersedes city zoning, the only issue is whether or not their project is consistent with the General Plan. If Staff is of the opinion that a categorical exemption is warranted, we ask that Staff cite in writing relevant California case law where the courts have ruled that when a city's general plan and zoning are in conflict a categorical exemption is still applicable if the project is consistent with a city's general plan but not with its zoning. As written, the in-fill exemption in CEQA doesn't have this as an option.

The traffic impact of this project also brings up the need for an adequate study that considers true cumulative impacts as stated above. As the developer has stated, 51st Street and Telegraph Avenue nearby is one of the busiest intersections in Oakland. The intersection of Shattuck and 51st Streets nearby is very congested, especially with nearby on-and off-ramp traffic moving during rush hours. On a grading scale of "A" to "F", these intersections are already an "E." Adding 44 units of housing at 4801 Shattuck so near two other large, out-of-scale recently approved projects (4700 Telegraph, 51st and Telegraph) is going to have an adverse impact.

However the impact goes well beyond these intersections.

The traffic 3 blocks from the proposed project at 51st and Shattuck is likely to back up past the capacity of even the exit ramp to hold it for long periods of time with this and nearby additions to the area. This also impacts heavily the air right under the freeway, which is less than a block away from 4801 Shattuck. Studies right in Oakland of air quality have found a definite significant correlation between asthma and proximity to heavily trafficked areas such as this. It is certain that the health of residents of 48th, 49th, and other nearby streets will be affected by this project.

Note that from 49th Street to Aileen Street, Telegraph Avenue has six metered intersections. This is a span of only 8 short blocks. Along 51st Street from the Highway 24 exit to Shafter Avenue there are three metered intersections, a span of only 4 short blocks. Already at multiple times during the day, not just rush hour, it is possible to be stuck at one of these metered intersections for more than one complete cycle of the traffic light (especially Berkeley-bound on Telegraph Avenue.) 51st Street and Telegraph Avenue is already a difficult intersection for pedestrians to cross. Adding even more vehicles to it will only make it more difficult for pedestrians to navigate.

In conclusion we ask the Planning Commission to carefully consider the precedent-setting impact this project will have on Temescal and Lower Rockridge. You have before you two competing visions for the future development of our neighborhood. One is the vision represented by this project, of maximizing density to the detriment of the fabric of the neighborhood and the other is our vision, one of higher density development but that still honors and compliments the existing neighborhood.

> > __________________________________ > > >

More Relevant info about the General Plan:

The General Plan provides a specific formula for determining maximum density, i.e. the number of residential units that can fit on a site. But it is silent about height limits, which are set by the city's zoning regulations. The developers of the project at 4801 Shattuck still are required to apply for variances because the project exceeds allowable zoning heights, but they are arguing that the maximum density they have designed for the site is permitted by the General Plan, which supersedes zoning. In fact, this is one of those ambiguous situations which our city¹s competing set of regulations create, leaving it up to the Planning Commission to decide. And that is the problem. The Planning Commissioners have all been appointed by Mayor Brown, who is pushing his 10K residential program. The Planning Commissioners' orientation, as well as the Planning Department, is "maximum density" regardless of the costs to Oakland¹s neighborhoods in terms of their character, traffic impacts, pedestrian safety, and the poor quality of construction that this attitude fosters. In fact, the General Plan is exactly that --a general plan. It clearly states that it is intended as a general guideline for determining things like density, and that each site needs to be evaluated independently. The General Plan also requires developments, even in Growth and Change areas and along designated transit corridors to be compatible with their surroundings. Furthermore, the General Plan states that the formulas for determining maximum density on a given site are guidelines, not entitlements. An essential question in this debate, which is relevant for neighborhoods all across the city, is: Who determines what height is appropriate -- the developers, who have a direct economic incentive to maximize density and height? The Planning Department which has a mandate from the mayor to maximize residential density throughout the city, regardless of whether distinct qualities of individual neighborhoods may be lost in the process? Or we, the community.



STAND Mission Statement——— Standing Together for Accountable Neighborhood Development

STAND's Response to Proposed Zoning Guidelines

Design Guidelines for Temescal

Stop the Condo-Glomeration in North Oakland

Standing Together for Accountable Neighborhood Development
510 654-8925