Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Estudillo/Bancroft Avenues Re-Zoning Update

Here is an update on the re-zoning issue along Estudillo and Bancroft Avenues that I have mentioned in earlier posts.

As background, City staff originally proposed to re-zone about 20 properties from their current designation of P or Professional office space (limited to 30 feet in height) to DA-2 or Downtown Area 2 (which includes mixed-use housing of up to 50 feet in height) in conjunction with the City's General Plan Update.
Many of us objected to the re-zoning as inappropriate in height, use and density for properties in or close to a residential neighborhood. Mayor Pauline Cutter heard our concerns and took action. As a result, staff modified their recommendation. 

In a memo to the City Council that was shared with the public last week, Cynthia Battenberg, the City's Community Development Director, stated, "Following community input, staff is recommending that the P Professional zoning for the Downtown East area (the approximately 20 parcels on Estudillo Avenue and Bancroft Avenue) not be changed to DA-2 Downtown Area 2. The proposed changes to the Professional Use Regulations would allow multi-family and mixed use residential at a density of 24 units per acre as a Conditionally Permitted Use (CUP) and the existing 30 foot height limit would remain. The staff report and tonight’s presentation has been updated accordingly."

I wanted to better understand the process that would unfold should a developer wish to demolish an office building on one of these 20 parcel and replace it with a multi-family, mixed-use residential building.  I sent an email message to Ms. Battenberg asking if a developer would have to take his/her plans to the Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) - with notice provided to the community - for a hearing at which the BZA would approve, deny or modify the plan? Such a review process is critical to ensuring the neighbors are aware of and their views are taken into account before any project is approved.

Ms. Battenberg's answer to my question is "yes." This is specifically what she stated:

"Multi-family development in the P Professional District is a conditionally permitted use ["CPU"]. Projects that require CUPs are presented to the Board of Zoning Adjustments for approval/denial. The BZA would also approve Conditions of Approval for a project. Project notification is sent to all properties within 500 feet of the site and interested parties. 

In the case of 1300-1380 Bancroft Avenue, notification would also be sent to the interested parties list that we have established that includes individuals who have provided input on the proposed Zoning Code revisions. Prior to the Public Hearing to approve/deny, a BZA work session would be held in order for the developer to present the project and hear feedback from the BZA and community. Notification would also be provided for the work session."

Thank you again to Mayor Cutter and everyone that stepped forward and spoke up concerning this matter. 

I recognize that some may continue to object to the revised staff recommendation. You have the right to speak out and let the City Council hear your views at upcoming meetings. I am supportive of the revised recommendation, though ideally I wish the property would be developed as for sale townhouses. 

You can learn more about the General Plan Update and review key documents at http://www.sanleandro2035.org 

The City Council will be reviewing the General Plan and Zoning Code changes at two meetings in July, starting on July 5th. The vote on whether to adopt the General Plan and Zoning Code changes will occur in the Fall.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Grand Jury Report On Eden Township Healthcare District


The Eden Township Healthcare District (ETHD), which covers San Leandro, no longer owns or operates any hospitals. It is running ads on social media claiming that we are in danger of "losing our vote." I don't know what vote the ETHD is referring to. All it does today is manage medical office properties and distributes some community funds. But it doesn't provide any healthcare services. 

The ETHD is running the ads because there is a bill in Sacramento (AB 2471) from Assembly member Bill Quirk to dissolve it. There is sound justification for the bill. This comes from the latest Alameda County Grand Jury report
ETHD spends 88% of its resources managing its real estate holdings and only 12% on mission-related activities. With this balance of resource allocation, the district struggles to deliver (directly or indirectly) adequate healthcare services for all residents. There is minimal evidence of active, informed citizen participation in district affairs. Agency officials do not solicit district-wide feedback or input from other healthcare organizations to evaluate and plan for greater mission effectiveness. Equally troublesome, there is no meaningful strategic planning in place to correct these matters.

The district’s original purpose is no longer relevant since ETHD no longer owns and operates a district hospital or other direct care assets to deliver acute healthcare solutions. Unless ETHD has a clear vision and a defined strategic plan to be relevant, it should be dissolved. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

How To Follow The Money In San Leandro


Want to know whom gave campaign contributions to a local candidate? You don't have to file a public records request. State law allows anybody to view election documents, such as campaign statements or financial disclosures, by walking into a city clerk’s office and asking for them. 

Even better, thanks to the work of the San Leandro Clerk and IT staff, you can access these records online at http://www.sanleandro.org/depts/cityhall/election/cc/pp.asp

Honoring the Orlando Victims in San Leandro


Let's say no to hate and discrimination, honor those who perished in Orlando, and say yes to love and respect for our LGBTQ neighbors and friends on Saturday, June 18th, at 6:30 pm at Root Park in San Leandro (located at East 14th Street and Dan Niemi Way).

Follow up:  Thank you Brandon Brock, Council member Corina Lopez, Mayor Pauline Cutter, SFPD, the other organizers, and everyone that attended yesterday's rally/memorial for the victims of the Orlando massacre. It was San Leandro at its best!



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Let's Not Shoot Ourselves In the Foot - New Zoning Proposals Will Backfire on San Leandro

To those that say wouldn't it be good if the City assisted in the creation of new, market-rate housing that would attract new residents and thereby generate demand for greater retail, shopping and dining options in San Leandro, my response is - yes, we can have this and without bringing Downtown San Leandro right up and into our residential neighborhoods on the northeast side of the city,


The maps show that city planners are seeking the re-zoning of multiple sites in the core of Downtown San Leandro - many of which are close to the BART station.

That is fine with me. I support new housing in our downtown. In fact, there is one development in Downtown San Leandro well advanced in the planning process that will bring in 60 high-end apartment units within walking distance of BART. There are also vacant lots within eyesight of the BART tracks that would support dense, new housing.

The City expects 15,000 new residents will live in San Leandro by 2040, with 7,000 of these new residents residing in Downtown of San Leandro.  Source:  Land Use section of New General Plan, page 3-38. 

Let's make sure these new residents don't all need to have their own car to get to their jobs. The only way to do this, as set forth in the 2007 Transit Oriented Plan, is to channel new housing in Downtown San Leandro within walking distance of the BART station.

We should not - as now proposed by city staff - redefine/expand the boundaries of Downtown San Leandro by eliminating the zoning of properties along Estudillo Avenue from the fire station to and across Bancroft Avenue as commercial and professional sites and re-zoning these properties as part of Downtown San Leandro.

We would be shooting ourselves in the foot if a large percentage of the 7,000 new residents the city is planning on living in Downtown San Leandro were actually located outside of Downtown San Leandro, beyond walking distance to BART, and thus had to rely on cars for commuting to work.

This sounds absurd but it is entirely possible if the City Council adopts staff's recommendations on the re-zoing of properties along Estudillo Avenue. Unless we speak up and offer reasoned arguments based on the facts against what is being proposed (and not play upon fears or prejudice), I expect that the City Council will approve staff's proposal. 

If your concern is the "wrong" people will move into San Leandro, or other code words for racism, I categorically reject your viewpoint.  Please move out of San Leandro.  The San Leandro of 2016 is a diverse and tolerant community welcoming to all persons. This is the San Leandro I am raising my family in and the San Leandro I will fight to sustain and grow. 

This Thursday night, June 16th at 7 p.m., is our first opportunity to do so at a public meeting of the Planning Commission. The meeting will take place at City Hall in the City Council Chambers. The Planning Commission can make recommendations on the zoning code proposals to the City Council.

The next meeting, however, is one that really counts - the City Council will be reviewing the proposed zoning code changes on July 5th at 7 p.m., again at City Hall. I wish that the City Council was not conducting such an important meeting on a date in which many are away on vacation. There is no reason why the meeting has to occur on July 5th and it is in the power of the Mayor and City Manager to change the date of the meeting.

If you can't make the July 5th meeting, please share your views with the City Council by contacting them via email at citycouncil@sanleandro.org  

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Proposed Changes To San Leandro Zoning Code Expand Downtown San Leandro To Residential Neighborhoods

We need to have a community conversation on the degree of development that should be permitted outside of San Leandro’s downtown.  Specifically, should buildings appropriate for our downtown be built next to residential neighborhoods?

For context, in 2007, after a multi-year process with extensive public input, the City Council adopted a Transit Oriented Development (“TOD”) Plan to "guide new development in downtown San Leandro for the next 20 to 30 years."  The plan’s objective is to channel the majority of new residential growth to downtown San Leandro, within walking distance of BART, thereby lessening residents’ dependence on cars.

As shown in this map at page 35 of the TOD Plan, a buffer of lower density professional, commercial and multi-unit housing was created between downtown San Leandro and the residential neighborhoods on the northeast side of the city.  


The buffer is reflected in the City's current zoning code (below).  Dense development, marked as Downtown Area 2 or DA-2, is to occur close to East 14th Street.  Less dense development, including office space for professionals (dentists, doctors, accountants, lawyers, etc.), marked as P, was to remain along Estudillo Avenue between the downtown and residential neighborhoods starting at Bancroft Avenue.



Today, as part of updating the City’s General Plan, staff has proposed changes to the zoning code which eliminate this buffer.  Over 20 properties along Estudillo Avenue from the Estudillo Fire Station to Bancroft Avenue are to be re-zoned to allow for mixed-use apartment complexes that can reach 50 feet or 5 stories in height in stead of their present designation as P or professional office building.  

Here is the new zoning map for the area, reflecting staff's proposed changes:







Over time, the professional office buildings will be demolished and replaced with mix-use apartment complexes that yield a much greater profit for the property owners than if the sites remain zoned exclusively for office space.  

This violates the City's Transit Oriented Development Plan which calls for future residential growth to be channeled into the core of Downtown San Leandro near the BART station thereby lessening resident's dependence on cars.


A developer has already purchased one site at 1300 and 1380 Bancroft Avenue, which consists of two office buildings at the intersection of Estudillo and Bancroft Avenues immediately opposite Bancroft Middle School.  Although the site is zoned exclusively for office space, the developer intends to demolish the existing buildings and replace them with a 47-foot tall, mixed-use 51-unit apartment complex.

What is Next?  How Your Voice Can Be Heard

Neither the Planning Commission nor City Council have voted on the zoning changes.  The Planning Commission will be reviewing them on June 16th.  The City Council will examine the zoning changes on July 5th

Both meetings are at City Hall and start at 7 p.m.  The meetings are open to the public and public comments will be taken.  If you cannot attend the meetings, please contact the Mayor and City Council at CityCouncil@sanleandro.org and share your views.  

Background Information on the General Plan and Zoning Code

The City is updating its General Plan, which is required by state law.  The General Plan covers a wide variety of concerns and issues, including land use.  

The proposed General Plan Update would replace the City’s existing General Plan, which was last comprehensively updated in 2002. Along with the General Plan Update, the proposed project also includes Zoning Code amendments to implement the proposed General Plan.  

The General Plan is a narrative document.  It doesn't define the use of specific properties.  That is what a Zoning Code does.  The City is also looking at its Zoning Code and making certain changes in conjunction with the General Plan update.  

In a nutshell, a zoning code tells everyone how a property can be used.  Zoning codes create predictability and regulate land use.  If a site is zoned to be an office building which can be 250 feet tall and someone buys that site and wants to build a new, 250 foot office building, the city has to approve the project.  The city can't say no. If neighbors don't like having a tall office building next to them, that doesn't matter.  The zoning code permits construction of the building. Staff would have to issue the permits to authorize the project to proceed.

However, if the developer wanted a housing complex, e.g. not a permitted use for that property under the zoning code, then city could say no.  

The city could also say yes, allowing a variance to the zoning code.  Prior to that decision being made, notice would have to be given to neighbors and community.  There would be an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the matter at a public hearing. The decision whether or not to grant the variance would be made by a public body (in San Leandro's case the Board of Zoning Adjustments with the potential for appeal to the City Council).  

To understand Zoning Code maps, you need to know what the zoning codes stand for.  Relevant to the discussion above are the following codes:

DA-2 (Downtown Area 2). To implement specific provisions of the Downtown San Leandro Transit-Oriented Development Strategy by providing for designated areas on the periphery of the Downtown core where new development shall be sensitive to and of a scale consistent with adjacent Residential Districts and where mixed use developments are allowed and encouraged but not required.

P Professional Office District. To provide opportunities for offices at appropriate locations, subject to development standards and landscaping requirements that prevent significant adverse effects on adjacent uses. Retail activity is not appropriate.

RS Residential Single-Family District. To provide opportunities for single-family residential land use in neighborhoods, subject to appropriate standards. 

RD Residential Duplex District. To provide opportunities for two-family housing at appropriate locations.

RM Residential Multi-Family District. To provide opportunities for multiple residential uses, including town houses, condominiums, multi-dwelling structures, or cluster housing with landscaped open space for residents’ use, and apartments. Single-family and duplex dwellings are permitted uses in these districts. Four (4) types of multi-family districts are established:
  • RM-3000 District, where the density is 14.5 dwellings per gross acre.
  • RM-2500 District, where the density is 17.5 dwellings per gross acre.
  • RM-2000 District, where the density is 22 dwellings per gross acre.

  • RM-1800 District, where the density is 24 dwellings per gross acre.

Conclusion


Many people, city staff, the City Council, Planning Commissioners have worked long and diligently on developing the City's new General Plan. There is much as that is positive in the document. However, certain zoning code changes proposed in conjunction with the new General Plan will, if approved by the Planning Commission and City Council, have a significant, negative impact on our neighborhoods.

Friday, June 3, 2016

San Leandro Cherry Festival Parade, Sat. June 4th, 10 a.m.


What are you doing Sat. (tomorrow) at 10 a.m? I hope to see you watching the Cherry Festival Parade! Come to San Leandro Blvd and celebrate what's unique and charming about our city at the parade and festival. 

Learn more at San Leandro Cherry Festival

San Leandro City Council To Discuss Charter Amendment To Repeal Term Limits


The Mayor and City Council will be discussing whether to place an amendment to our City Charter on the November 8, 2016, ballot revising and/or repealing the charter's term limit provisions.
Currently, the Mayor and City Council Council members are limited to serving 2 consecutive, four year terms. 
This is not a life time prohibition. You can serve 8 years, leave the city council, and then run again in the future for office (Tony Santos did this). It's also specific to the position, e.g. you can serve 2 terms as a Council member then serve as Mayor for 2 terms (so 16 years total on the City Council). 
On May 16, 2016, Vice Mayor Ursula Reed proposed that the City Council hear this matter. (You can watch the discussion at http://sanleandro.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=816 - go to item 14.) 
Vice Mayor Reed is in her 8th year (her final year of her 2nd four year term) on the City Council.
The majority of the City Council agreed to hear the matter on Monday, June 6, 2016 - without it first going to the Rules Committee - which would be the normal course of events for consideration of an amendment to the City Charter. 
Council member Jim Prola said he wished to hear the matter only if the charter amendment would not apply to current city council members. No one voiced support at the time for Council member Prola's position. Again, the matter is coming back to the City Council on the Monday June 6th agenda.
If you wish to voice your opinion on the matter, please attend the June 6th City Council meeting or send an email message to the City Council at CityCouncil@sanleandro.org

Update

On June 8, 2016, the City Council decided not to pursue any amendment to the term limits for the Mayor and City Council members.