20 June 2006

Estuary plan moves forward

After a long give-and-take process between developer Signature Properties and Oakland-based environmental and affordable housing groups, the long-awaited Estuary (Oak-to-Ninth) development appears to be moving forward. Only a city council vote next Tuesday remains, and once that happens, you can officially cross one more site (one touted by Ignacio De La Fuente last year) off the list.

I was excited by the Estuary site last year as well, at least until I understood the grueling process it took to get to the actual planning of the development. This included passing legislation at the state level to approve of the land sale and numerous hearings with the aforementioned community groups so that they could have a say in the plan. Issues such as the height and placement of buildings as they related to the view from the hills, the amount of public parkland, traffic, and the preservation of historic structures all came into play.

One of the keys to getting this deal done was Signature's willingness to pay for site cleanup. However, they got a huge discount in the land price as a result. The Estuary plan's size makes it a better comparison to a potential Wolff-Fisher development somewhere than anything else in the works in the Bay Area. Compromises were made by all parties to get it done, and it took a long gestation period (ongoing). One neat little concession is that Signature is going to allow around 15% of the housing to be termed low income and senior housing - but it doesn't have to build it all at the Estuary. It could shift some of the units to one of its other Oakland projects, though it would have to build more of them. Considering the prime waterfront location, this shift sounds likely.