[Editor's Note: See our from Tuesday's council meeting . Read more about the project . Scroll down to take our poll about whether you plan to shop at Whole Foods.]
Four years after its introduction in Albany, a University of California project set to bring a to the city received approval from all five members Tuesday night.
Following well over an hour of discussion, including lengthy but largely positive public comments, the council unanimously approved the overall shape of the project as it stands.
The 6.3-acre project site includes lots north and south of Monroe Street just west of San Pablo Avenue in . To the north, the university plans a Whole Foods grocery store set to span at least 35,000 square feet.
To the south, has been contracted to build and run a 175-unit complex for seniors in various stages of health. (One Albany resident, during the public comment period, estimated that monthly rents in the complex likely would range from $4,000 to $7,000 per unit. No official rate has thus far been provided.) The southern lot also will include another 30,000 square feet of retail space.
Though many of the details remain to be hammered out before the Planning Commission, officials and the university agreed in the Jan. 17 meeting about a number of core features of the project.
University project manager Kevin Hufferd said Tuesday night that, without this approval, the institution would have been forced to consider other uses for the site.
"We're generally pleased with the outcome," he said after the vote. "It's helpful to have the council provide critical positive feedback at this time."
Issues still to be determined include aspects of to the site; a between the university and about the use of ballfields in the Village; and how to address neighborhood concerns about traffic approaching the site from Dartmouth Street.
Some local residents shared worries about traffic, parking, environmental impacts and effects on local businesses, along with a request not to change zoning requirements, toward commerce and higher density, on the project site.
A number of others, however, said they look forward to a sustainable grocery store within walking distance that will revitalize a less-than-lively stretch of San Pablo; welcome the senior housing facility; and anticipate new businesses coming to Albany to boost the city's economic prospects.
For many, the approval was a welcome relief following where the city and university appeared at odds due to concerns about building height and the future of the Little League fields.
Since then, both sides have agreed on the following refinements and conditions, as detailed in Tuesday night's staff report, which is attached as a PDF along with this story.
- The senior housing facility has been reduced from five stories (62 feet) to no more than four stories (52 feet).
- If Little League fields are displaced due to future development at University Village, the university will pay for their relocation. The university will commit to this promise in a letter to Albany Little League.
- Albany residents will be given a priority for 10 percent of the senior housing units.
- The senior living facility will need to provide no more than 108 parking spaces.
- The senior living facility will not be required to provide affordable housing, "under current development standards," due to its status as a residential care facility for the elderly.
- The project will meet its parkland requirement via open space and trails on or near the site; this includes pathways along Codornices and Village creeks, and the Buchanan Street bike path.
- The project will meet its public art requirement through on-site objects that will be accessible to the entire community. (The city's Art in Public Places Ordinance requires any development that costs more than $300,000 to build to include a public art component equal to 1.75 percent of the total construction costs.)
See the city's page detailing the University Village project here.
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