Developers Present Revised Plans for CCA Campus — Tower Not Included

Land Use Committee plans to discuss changes at its May 27th meeting.
Saturday, June 6, 2020

The constraints created by the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t prevent the Rockridge Community Planning Council’s Board of Directors and Land Use Committee from holding a highly unusual joint virtual meeting on the evening of May 7. At the meeting, they heard about the revised proposals for the redevelopment of the California College of Art’s (CCA) Oakland campus. The plans were presented by Emerald Fund and Equity Community Builders, the two developers chosen by CCA.

Last summer, after numerous community meetings over a two year period, two developers presented Oakland with a plan calling for building nearly 600 residential units, along with 24,000 sq. ft. of affordable arts production space; 6,300 sq. ft. of affordable nonprofit office space; and 1.71 acres of public open space. The proposal also preserved several designated historic structures, including the Treadwell mansion and carriage house, the entry staircase off of Broadway, and a renovated facilities building.

The plan also included 35 units of low-income artists’ housing and a 19-story tower containing market-rate units plus parking. The tower created a large amount of controversy. Some praised the plan for adding new housing to the area. Others decried placing a high-rise building on the campus and questioned the potential traffic and safety impacts of placing such a large project on a site with only one automobile access point.

With work having already begun on an environmental impact report (EIR) for the project, at the meeting the developers presented highly-revised project plans. Those plans included a few alternative options. Gone from the plans was the 19-story tower.  Instead, the highest buildings would now be six to eight stories tall, stepping down towards Broadway. 

There would now be a mixture of commercial and residential space, with the number of residences reduced to between 300-450 units, depending on the option chosen. The developers also discussed preserving more of the site’s historic buildings but presented financial data indicating that much of the potential historic preservation wouldn’t pencil out financially.

Gone also were the 35 affordable artist’s units. The dormitory that would have held them will now be sold off and developed separately. Further, the developers said that the economic analysis allowed for no more than 10 percent moderate-income units (size undefined),and no nonprofit office space. If anything beyond Mackey Hall and the Carriage House were preserved, no on-site affordable units would be included. Instead, the developers proposed just paying the City’s in-lieu fee towards building affordable housing elsewhere.

The developers acknowledged that the recession likely to follow the pandemic would depress market prices for both commercial and residential space but said they felt that the proposal would still be viable, at least in its most pared-down form.

The Board and Committee peppered the developer representatives with numerous questions, but also praised their openness in providing financial details that would normally not be made available to the public. While there was disappointment about the lack of affordable units, some of those present applauded the increased open space in the new plans, especially the more open southward views.

The developers said that the revisions would require extending the EIR’s preparation, and expect the draft EIR to be released for review and comment in the fall. Publication of the final EIR (including responses to comments received) and City consideration of whether to approve the project would be expected sometime in 2021. Details of the revised project plans will be made available on the project website (https://www.5212broadway.com/) within the next few weeks.

The Land Use Committee plans to discuss the new plans at its May 27th virtual meeting.  The meeting will be open to the public via advance invitation.  For an invitation, please RSVP to landuse@rockridge.org or text your request (including name and address) to (510) 504-0154.

Those wanting to comment on the plans can mail a letter to The Rockridge News mailbox, 4123 Broadway PMB 311, Oakland CA 94611, or send an email to editor@rockridge.org. Comments for the Land Use Committee should be sent to landuse@rockridge.org, and comments for the RCPC Board of Directors should be sent to chair@rockridge.org.

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