Supervisors Hearing August 15
Planning Commission Approves Project
JULY 22 – The Contra Costa County Planning Commission on June 28 gave a green light to Hall Equities Group’s mixed-use Saranap Village project. That leaves just one more hurdle, approval by the board of supervisors, before Hall can break ground on the project. The supervisors will hold a hearing on the development on August 15.
No appeals were filed on the planning commission’s decision. The reason the project needs to go to the supervisors is that it involves changes to the county general plan.
The majority of those who spoke at the June 28 hearing were in favor of the project. No one suggested outright that it shouldn’t be approved, though some asked that changes be made that would essentially derail the project in its current form. Others asked for more time to consider it before a final decision is made.
A number of people expressed concerns about aspects of the project, especially the height of Building A, the centerpiece of the development, which would be located at the northeast corner of the Boulevard Way–Saranap Avenue intersection.
Several speakers asked the commissioners to support the creation of a Saranap-area specific plan to guide future growth in the immediate vicinity of the Saranap Village project, and the commission recommended that the board of supervisors take steps to create such a plan. (We’ll be posting an article about this soon.)
Other speakers at the June 28 hearing included representatives of a number of construction-related trade unions, the Bay Area Building Industry Association, and affordable-housing coalitions. All spoke in support of the project.
The plan the commission voted on was the third iteration of the project since it was introduced in 2012. Responding to feedback from the community, Hall twice returned to the drawing board to scale it back.
In the original version, the highest point on Building A was 68 to 80 feet, depending on one’s vantage point. The highest point on that building in the version going before the supervisors is 30‒67 feet, again depending on where it’s viewed from. Across Boulevard Way, Building B was reduced by seven to 10 feet, to 47–57 feet. Changes to the other two buildings were under three feet: Building B1 is 55–71 feet, Building C, 52 to 60 feet.
The greatest number of floors above retail space or parking in any of the buildings is five, in Building A.
What began as 235 rental and for-sale units in 2012 is now 198. Retail space has been slashed by 71 percent, from 30,000 square feet to 8,700. The current plan calls for seven or eight street-level retail spaces, including a restaurant, a “boutique” grocery, and a coffee shop.
The June 28 vote wasn’t a simple yes-no vote on the project. The commission actually voted to approve a number of elements necessary for the project to be built, among them an amendment to the county general plan giving all parcels in the project a mixed-use designation; rezoning the properties to a P-1, or planned-unit, designation; combining the parcels into a single subdivision; and a development plan, development agreement, and land-use permit.
Speaking for the SCA, board president David Dacus said, “We feel the project offers a new and fresh nexus, or center, in our community and will provide needed ‘walkable’ services, improved traffic flow, parking, safer crosswalks, public art, and attractive streetscape and site furnishings. It will also provide an important financial mechanism – through the parking meters – to support, and eventually expand, this infrastructure in the future for the improvement of the area, while contributing revenue to the county.”
The SCA board voted unanimously to support the project in June, when the previous version was still on the table. In a letter to the Department of Conservation and Development, Dacus noted that in surveys taken at our annual meetings over the past five years, those in favor of the project outnumbered those opposed by a margin of more than two to one. These meetings were all open to the public.
The planning commission vote was four to one, with one member absent and another who recused himself because of prior dealings with the developer.
The August 15 board of supervisors hearing on the Saranap Village project will be held in their chambers in Martinez, at 651 Pine Street, room 107, beginning at 11 a.m.