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Low-income housing complex gets planners' OK

Submitted by News Desk on Mon, 01/26/2009 - 12:11pm

SAN LEANDRO — A 100-unit rental apartment complex for lower-income tenants — described by detractors as a potential "ghetto" and by backers as "the right thing to do for our citizens" — received solid backing from San Leandro's seven planning commissioners Thursday.

The project next to the downtown BART station, the cornerstone of San Leandro's transit-oriented development philosophy, now goes to the City Council on March 2 for a final vote.

The often-renamed first-phase development at 1333 Martinez St., now called "The Alameda," will launch San Leandro Crossings, a proposed residential and commercial area designed to bring more people to downtown San Leandro and to encourage public transit.

Up to 700 rental and ownership housing units eventually could occupy 7.5 acres on the west and east sides of the BART station on San Leandro Boulevard.

Sixteen speakers testified before commissioners Thursday, with 10 in favor of the project and five against. One speaker asked questions about the project.

Johanne Dictor, president of the 1,200-home Estudillo Estates Homeowners Association, said the ?complex "really creates a ghetto," since adjoining housing may not be built for five to 10 years.

San Leandran Bill Young questioned how many children will occupy The Alameda, which will include 24 one-bedroom units, 35 two-bedroom units and 41 three-bedroom units. "You're not addressing the impact on schools," he suggested.

BRIDGE Housing of San Francisco, an affordable-housing builder, will develop The Alameda and will pay the San Leandro Unified School District $338,000 in construction fees.

Tom Breckenridge, a volunteer with the San Leandro Interfaith Homelessness Network, described the housing plan as "the right thing to do for our citizens."

Dennis Davis, a San Leandro resident for 60 years who lives in Estudillo Estates, urged commissioners not to "let misinformation and fear blind us to the opportunities before us."

Commissioners approved the site plan for The Alameda, a four-story apartment complex over a single-story parking garage. The 5.3-acre site is just west of the BART station, between West Estudillo Avenue and Alvarado and Martinez streets. It formerly was the Del Monte Cannery, demolished in the 1980s.

The property is owned by Westlake Development Co. of San Mateo. Westlake is providing 1.25 acres ?to BRIDGE. Commissioners also approved future development rights — but not specific plans — on the Westlake site for 400 more housing units and a future 329-space BART parking garage, which would replace the 329-space ?lot now on the east side of San Leandro Boulevard.

Westlake plans to build a 200-unit, market-rate apartment complex on the 2.2-acre BART surface lot.

The state has authorized $24 million in housing bonds to help build The Alameda, and BRIDGE has requested an additional $9 million in San Leandro redevelopment construction assistance.

Reach Karen Holzmeister at 510-293-2478 or