A West Oakland housing project got the blessing of the Oakland City Council on Tuesday, but not before it caught the eye of California regulators over potential state housing law violations around the supply of housing.
Councilmembers approved the eight-story development at 1396 Fifth St. near the West Oakland BART station, denying an environmental appeal by East Bay Residents for Responsible Development, a coalition of local unions.
Regulators with the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) were watching the outcome of Tuesday’s vote following a request from project advocates about delays to the development.
“HCD is pleased that the Oakland City Council is moving ahead with a mixed-income housing project that will include housing opportunities for more than 200 households at various income levels,” spokesperson Nur Kausar said by email. “Considering that the city council has denied the appeal and approved the project, HCD does not plan to take any action at this time.”
An investigation by HCD involved communicating with city staff and project advocates and monitoring City Council agendas, staff reports, and meetings as well as news reports, Kausar said.
Despite the council’s decision, John Dalrymple, a member of East Bay Residents for Responsible Development, said the appeal resulted in changes that will improve the project for residents.
Additional mitigation of environmental concerns is required because of the appeal, said Dalrymple, an Oakland resident.
One mitigation involves reducing health risks from air pollution. The developer must install air filter devices rated MERV 16 or higher in certain units and electrostatic air purifiers in below-market-rate units. The project is also near Interstate Highway 880.
“We’re very proud of what was accomplished,” Dalrymple said in a phone interview.
The City Council initially supported the appeal by Dalrymple’s group. He said, despite the denial of the appeal, that for the first time the council stood with the community.
East Bay Residents for Responsible Development also wanted the developer, The Michaels Organization, to use union labor on the project.
But Scott Cooper, vice president of development for The Michaels Organization, said that would have made the project economically infeasible.
Cooper said the council’s approval is a “victory” and “more like a relief.”
Cooper argued that the appeal was not about environmental issues but about the union labor issue.
The project involves building 222 dwelling units on a West Oakland vacant lot, which was once the site of the city’s longest running and biggest brewery, the Golden West Brewing Company, according to The Michaels Organization.
The Golden West project, as it is called, will have 16 units for very-low-income households. It will also have studios and one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.