September 22, 2004

Neighbors of Proposed Development Speak Out at Community Meeting

Neighbors of the proposed low-income housing development at the corner of Estabrook Street and E. 14th Street spoke out against the development at a meeting Tuesday night at the First United Methodist Church.

The September 21, 2004, meeting was the second of four community meetings held by Resources for Community Development (RCD) to discuss the development proposal for the southwest corner of the intersection of Estabrook Street and E. 14th Street across the street from McKinley Elementary School.

The 2.2-acre site is currently occupied by Sir Richard's, a used car lot, and a Salvation Army Thrift Store. RCD is proposing to build 94 units of low-income rental housing along with ground-floor retail space at the location. The development would also include 171 parking spaces, just meeting the City of San Leandro requirement for the number of parking spaces per unit. The 94 units would be a combination of one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. Rents for the apartments would range from $430 to $740 for one-bedroom units, $514 to $979 for two-bedroom units, and $601 to $1,235 for three-bedroom units. According to RCD, their typical tenants have one to two cars and two and a half children per household. Occupancy of the units would be four people in a two-bedroom unit and six people in a three-bedroom unit.

Community Development Director Hanson Hom, Senior Transportation Engineer Reh-Lin Chen, and Planning Manager Debbie Pollart were among the City of San Leandro staff on-hand to answer questions about the proposed development. Sergeant Tom Overton of the San Leandro Police Department was on hand to answer questions about crime and related issues.

The first question from the audience was about the presence of members of the San Leandro City Council and specifically, Vice-Mayor Orval Badger, who represents the area in which the proposed development is located. Neither Vice-Mayor Badger or any other members of the San Leandro City Council were present. Vice-Mayor Badger was present at the beginning of the August 19, 2004, community meeting, but appeared to have left when the meeting was moved to a larger meeting room at the San Leandro Library.

The next question from the audience was from man who noted that he worked two jobs in order to buy a house in San Leandro and move his family from Oakland. However, he was unable to enroll his children at nearby McKinley Elementary School for nine months because of overcrowding. He asked whether there were any representatives from the San Leandro Unified School District, but there were none.

One member of the audience spoke up in support of the proposed development, claiming that housing projects in San Francisco and Berkeley did not bring down property values of nearby homes. The audience expressed skepticism at her claim and she was nearly drowned out in the resulting din.

Dan Sawislak, Executive Director for RCD, said that City of San Leandro regulations would allow up to 140 units to be built at the proposed location while RCD had only proposed 94-units. He also said that no study has shown that projects similar to that proposed by RCD have brought down nearby property values and that some studies have shown an increase in nearby property values. He challenged the audience to use an Internet search engine to search for studies about the impact of affordable housing projects on nearby property values. He also sought to answer a question that he has been asked repeatedly: Why did RCD choose the location at the intersection of E. 14th Street and Estabrook Street? His answer: because the City of San Leandro had identified the site for the type of housing project that RCD develops.

Information provided by RCD included a printout of the document Myths and Facts About Affordable & High Density Housing, a report by the California Planning Roundtable and California Department of Housing & Community Development and a handout making RCD's case for the project. On display at the meeting was a drawing showing an aerial view of the area of the project, poster boards of statistics about the housing, and pictures of tenants at other RCD projects.

Lauren Sanborn of the John Stewart Company, stated that her company would provide property management services. She said that her company managed 20,000 units of housing with a focus on affordable housing. In response to concerns about possible increases in crime from the new development, she stated that tenants are subjected to rigorous screening including a credit check, criminal background check, and two landlord references.

In response to concerns about parking in the area, Rick Williams, the architect from the architectural firm Van Meter Williams Pollack designing the project noted that he looked at surrounding apartment buildings and estimated that they needed between 70 and 77 more parking spaces to meet current parking City of San Leandro parking requirements. Existing buildings do not to meet the current parking requirements. This helps to explain why it is difficult for visitors to park on Estabrook Street and Estabrook Circle. The architect also noted the problem of traffic that cuts through the neighborhood on its way from Marina Boulevard to Sybil and suggested that speed bumps on Estabrook Street or a stop sign at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Estabrook Street could be a possible solution to the problem.

In the subsequent session of questions and answers, every person that was selected spoke out against the proposed project or asked questions that indicated they were concerned about the impact of the project. Most members of the audience were very passionate about their opposition to the proposed development, including one young woman who spoke of her concern that the 1930s art deco house built by her father might be devalued. Audience members expressed concerns about traffic, overcrowding at McKinley Elementary School, parking, crime, vandalism, visitors to the development, and depressed property values. While RCD intended to answer some of the community's concerns expressed at the first meeting, it was unable to assuage most of the concerns expressed by the audience. So many people wanted to ask questions or make statements opposing the proposed project that the meeting ended with numerous audience members not having had the chance to ask a question or make comments.

Community Development Director Hanson Hom noted that the project is in a very preliminary stage and that RCD has not yet purchased the property, but information from RCD indicates that RCD has entered into a purchase contract with the current property owner.

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Posted by Mike Katz-Lacabe at September 22, 2004 3:25 AM | TrackBack

Nice write up of what seems to me to be a nice development proposal. I was sorry to see so much viceral neighborhood opposition. I won't say anymore 'cause I don't want Marga kickin' my a**.

Posted by: Rob Rich at November 17, 2004 10:30 PM
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