BART station apartments clear first hurdle
Plans for 350-unit complex, retail space moves on to City Council
Planning Commissioners were on board with plans for a 350-unit apartment complex next to the future West Dublin/Pleasanton BART station. They voted 4-1 to approve the plans, forwarding their recommendation on to the City Council for the final okay.
Windstar Communities, which is also proposing a 150-room hotel, 309 apartments and 7,500 square feet of commercial space directly across Interstate 580 in Dublin, is planning the Pleasanton transit-oriented development (TOD) on a 7-acre parcel off Stoneridge Mall Road, adjacent to where the new BART station will open in 2009.
Part of the development includes 14,000 square feet of retail space, where developers are trying to court a grocery store.
Twenty percent, or 70 units, will be affordable housing. The complex will include a fitness center, club room, pool, spa and tot lot.
While a majority of the commissioners overwhelmingly approved of the project, some had qualms about parking and what should go in the retail portion.
"I think the elephant in the room is parking," Commissioner Kathy Narum said at the April 24 meeting.
Since the complex is within walking distance of BART, Eric Heffner of Windstar Communities said they expect that one out of five residents will be commuters and will not own a car. Parking will be allotted in two garages and an uncovered surface lot to total 460 spaces for residents. An additional 222 spaces will be available for visitors. For a project of this size, city code requires 531 resident spaces and 50 visitor spaces, but Heffner said since it is a TOD, he believes not as many cars will be using the spots.
Commissioner Anne Fox, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said she turned down the project because she felt stricter conditions should have been placed on what allowable businesses could be placed in the retail space, such as those that would discourage residents from having to use their cars to receive services off site.
"We should have mandated a grocery store," she said. "We should have the list of commercial uses narrowed down."
City planner Steve Otto explained that the city didn't narrow the list because they didn't want the space to end up empty if the developer had trouble courting specific tenants.
While commissioners said they shared Fox's sentiment, they also didn't want to overly restrict the applicant.
"It's market-driven," said Commissioner Phil Blank. "TOD is so new, that what defines what types of retail (should) go there?"
Fox said she also felt Windstar didn't have a proper contingency plan for parking should Caltrans decide to take their right-of-way north of the project's border with I-580.
Heffner said should that scenario occur, the company would offer mechanical parking, a system that he said is being used in Manhattan, where a device parks cars on top of one another like a vending machine.
The development is planned to be environmentally-efficient, with a Green Point rating of 76 points, above the recommended 50 points. BART owns the property and Windstar has a 99-year lease on it.
Residents will enjoy easy access to the Dublin side through a pedestrian walkway that will connect over the freeway.