Jul 31 2011

Linda Avenue Townhouse Project Returns to the Planning Commission

The townhouse project for the defunct PG&E substation site located at 408 Linda Avenue is on the Planning Commission agenda Monday, August 8.  Developers, Piedmont Station LLC, submitted their application to redevelop the PG&E substation site on March 28, 2008.  The initial California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) study by LSA Associates determined that a focused Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is required.  The fee ($78,136) for the environmental report by LSA  to prepare the EIR was approved by the City Council on March 1, 2010.  Piedmont Station, LLC requested and received permission from the City Council to make the payments for the EIR in several stages rather than in advance of the work. (See staff report.)

The townhouse project was recently considered by the Planning Commission on June 13, 2011 at  an “informational hearing” requested by the developers.  The Planning Commission made no determination on the project, but after public and developer input did make recommendations.

At the meeting, former Mayor of Oakland, Assemblyman, and Chancellor of the Peralta Community College District, now developer, Elihu Harris of Piedmont Station, LLC,  stressed the urgency of moving the project forward.  Arleta Chang, project architect from the Jarvis Architecture firm, is a former member of the Piedmont Planning Commission.

Piedmont residents Debbie Hall, Joe Phillips and Rick Schiller, as well as Council member Garrett Keating, spoke at the June 13 meeting.  Hall objected to the massive size and height relative to her 420 Linda Avenue residence immediately adjacent to the townhouse development.  Schiller questioned many problems including the size of the units and the massing of the design.  Keating, Phillips and Schiller questioned the adequacy of the traffic study and on-site parking.  Michelene Stankus urged approval of the project, complementing the design of the townhouses.

At the meeting, the Planning Commission identified areas found to be incomplete in the application, including: access for emergency vehicles, the location of mail boxes and trash collection, window treatments, exterior surface materials and a number of other required details appropriate for their consideration. The Commission indicated five other aspects of the project requiring further information and recommended consideration of  several design modifications.  (See minutes pages 7 – 10; Response to Comments on EIR.)

Additional items requested by the Commission included:

  • A supplemental traffic study covering four major areas of parking and traffic for the project as well as other areas of the DEIR
  • Inconsistencies between elevations shown in the renderings and those submitted on the computer models require clarification
  • Specific design details are required  (See staff report.) http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/publicworks/docs/408/408_pc_sr.pdf)
  • Modifications to reduce size and mass for the developers to consider, including reducing the number of townhouses to five and reducing the size of some of the units to lower the height and reduce the bulk of the overall structure.

(June 13, 2011 Minutes, pages 7 – 10)

There was a dispute about whether or not the site is a “corner lot” and thus subject to the 20-foot setback.  The draft minutes indicate that the Commission agreed not to require a setback variance.  (“no setback variance was required”) Yet because that was an informational hearing, the variance to construct within the 20-foot setback is again on the Commission’s agenda for August 8.

Following the June 13 meeting, story poles were installed at the 408 Linda Avenue site as required to indicate the massing of some of the seven townhouses designed by Jarvis Architects. The PG&E substation still occupies much of the area designated for the suggested townhouses.  The attached townhouses, if approved as presented, would be a large visible structure at a major gateway into Piedmont-the Oakland Avenue Bridge over Linda Avenue.









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