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Whole Foods Project Clears City Hurdle

The project, set to include a Whole Foods grocery store and 175 senior housing units, won unanimous approval from City Council on Tuesday night. Click the "Keep me posted" button below this story for an alert when we cover this topic.

[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. 

KEY FEATURES

  • 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.)

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See the city's page detailing the University Village project here.

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an alert when we write about this topic. 

If there's something in this article you think , or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at albany@patch.com.

Michael Cabanatuan January 18, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Only for emergencies? Like running out of red quinoa?
Emilie Raguso January 19, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Or a daikon distaster....
Ken McCroskey January 19, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Fettucini famine...
Brian Parsley January 19, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Or in Albany's case a beer blight
Diane January 19, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I will not only shop at Whole Foods, but would love to have my mentally challenged mother in a senior-care facility closer to my home. $4,000-7,000/month is on the cheaper side for this sort of care. By "not be required to provide affordable housing" mean that the senior care center will not take Medicare seniors?
John Doh! January 20, 2012 at 03:11 AM
There are still a lot of steps before this project is fully a go. The EIR has not been certified by the council yet. The council will need to create a PUD which may face challenges. If the council approves less parking spots than required by measure D, it may require a vote by the public, I'm not sure about this one. And, the zoning still needs to be changed. I'm looking forward to having Whole Foods within walking distance, but I'm not excited about all the traffic that will be generated between I-80 and San Pablo.
Kathy A. January 20, 2012 at 09:56 PM
I'm interested in more information on costs, and on why "affordable" senior housing has been ruled not necessary. This article does not make very clear the offerings of the senior housing as a residential care facility. Apologies if this has been covered before.
dgies January 20, 2012 at 11:10 PM
The affordable housing part refers to a (state? city?) guideline that in new residential developments a certain fraction of the units are set aside to be rented/sold below market rate to low income residents. Affordable housing was left out because this is a residential care facility, not a simple condo/apartment development. A major portion of the cost goes to in-home care, which has no guidelines for some residents to subsidize others. It has nothing to do with Medicare.
Kathy Cee February 20, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Well, as a senior-esque Albany resident of 13 years I must say that, at least in the reporting the senior housing part of this project seems to be misrepresented. In earlier stories, advocates were extolling the accessibility for senior residents to shopping, tranportation, community involvement and the like. But that's not what you get with an assisted living facility. It is for people who require a relatively high level of assistance with daily living and it is not people who are out using the bus to go shopping up on Solano. The income from an assisted living facility will only line the pockets of the company that owns it and, compared to 'active senior' or independent living apartments, assisted living will not likely bring in revenue from seniors' shopping, paying taxes or contributing to the community in non-economic ways either. How did this specific type of senior housing get determined? As a someone who must sell my house and leave Albany to retire, I would like to know.
Emilie Raguso February 20, 2012 at 08:53 AM
We wrote about it more in this story: http://albany.patch.com/articles/uc-selects-belmont-village-for-senior-housing-project UC, I believe, is able to contract with whomever they liked, and through their various analysis, it seems they determined this would be the best fit for their project.
Susan April 30, 2012 at 06:31 PM
unfortunately, when I am a senior I will not be able to AFFORD Whole Foods!

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