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March 8, 2005 > Union City Plans for More Transit-Oriented Housing

Union City Plans for More Transit-Oriented Housing

As planning continues to create an "intermodal" station in Union City, nearby housing projects are also being designed and constructed. TCV asked Mark Leonard, director of Economic and Community Development, to expand on Mayor Mark Green's comment at a meeting of the Dumbarton Rail Policy Committee that his city expects to approve over 1,000 new housing units within a small radius of the intermodal station.

TCV: Can you tell us about new housing planned near the intermodal station?

Leonard: Starting with the housing currently under construction, there are 119 single family homes by KB Homes on the Pacific States Steel property. This is the area between the railroad lines south of the PG&E property and north of Fremont city limits. In addition, construction of 218 townhouses will begin this summer. The townhouses have been approved and are in "plan check" now for building permits.

TCV: Is there an affordable housing inclusion requirement?

Leonard: Yes, at least 15 percent of the units need to be affordable (low and moderate income). We have had extensive discussions regarding this property and affordable housing.

TCV: Is each construction phase required to include affordable housing or can KB Homes combine single family homes and townhouses, allocating affordable units as they desire between both projects?

Leonard: In this case, all affordable units will be provided in the townhouse units. There were extraordinary costs associated with cleanup of the steel mill property, so through negotiation, all affordable housing units will be townhouse units.

Along the BART tracks near Union Square, Avalon Bay has purchased the six acre former Litke site. They will be building 471 rental units in two five-story buildings. We want to "densify" housing close to transit.

TCV: What demographics are you expecting in these units?

Leonard: The units will be 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms. There will be some families, empty-nesters and singles.

TCV: Is the Avalon Bay project a public-private partnership?

Leonard: It is entirely private. There is no public assistance of any kind. They are in the preliminary application stage. They have not filed a formal application but we expect one within 30 to 60 days.

TCV: How much acreage will be covered by these developments?

Leonard: Avalon Bay covers six acres. Pacific States Steel totaled 60 acres; Highway 84 is about four acres. The area that contains slag is approximately 17 acres. This leaves about 40 acres for the single family homes and townhouses.

TCV: Do plans include a greenbelt around or through these developments?

Leonard: No. The single family homes will have a small neighborhood park. Each will have a large back yard. The town houses will have two common recreation areas with one or two swimming pools and small, private usable open spaces. The apartments will have typical amenities that are associated with apartments.

TCV: What happens to the other acreage?

Leonard: Of the 21 acres, about four to five acres will be used for Highway 84. You can see where we have already started excavating for the roadway; it is under construction now. The waste containment area - where the slag is located - will be used for offices and light industrial space.

TCV: Will Union City go ahead with that section of Highway 84 no matter what happens with ACTA?

Leonard: Correct. Highway 84 will be built - absolutely - between Mission Boulevard and Alvarado-Niles Road. We hope to extend the roadway at least to Paseo Padre Parkway. If not, the traffic will feed onto Isherwood Way and the residents will have to deal with it.

The last housing project of the area will be on the former PG&E site that the city purchased a year ago. That is along Decoto Road behind the existing BART station. We are expecting approximately 500 units on that site. There will be other types of development including office space and retail as well. This housing will be primarily "for sale" condominiums with some rentals. We do not know the exact mix yet. These will be a minimum of four stories with five or six stories likely.

TCV: Is this the beginning of a Union City skyline?

Leonard: We think of it as a densified, transit-oriented development and a downtown area.

TCV: Is there a plan to move the civic center closer to this transit-oriented area?

Leonard: Civic center will remain where it is, but it will grow in its current location. The area around BART can be thought of as a job-producing node as well as a center of new housing construction. There will lots of jobs generated around that.

TCV: This will serve not only as an area for outbound commuters, but also inbound as well.

Leonard: Yes.

TCV: Is the commercial growth focused in any particular area?

Leonard: This will be a mixed use development including light industrial, high tech and office space. We know there is no market for office space right now, but we feel we can put up the first building - fairly modest in size - but the bulk of the office space will not be developed until eight to 15 years from now. This is a long term growth plan. We will see the beginnings of the development within two to three years; the transit portion has already started.

TCV: What retail services are planned for the people living in these new units?

Leonard: We will be building neighborhood-serving retail/commercial uses. These could be on the ground floor of condominium buildings. There will be some open space for community activities and either a performing arts center or a community center which will house fine arts, day care, public services and meeting room space. There is about four acres set aside for this.

TCV: Is this seen as a regional development?

Leonard: From the standpoint of transportation, it is definitely a regional hub. It will also be a job center with 1,200 to 1,300 new housing units in the area.

TCV: How will this development be phased?

Leonard: We are seeing construction of KB Homes now. On the city-owned site, we will see housing construction within two years and the first office building within three years. Housing will be built out in logical phases within six years beyond the start of the first unit. Within three years, we will see office space begin and that will not be built out for 15 years. Some of the open areas will be built as part of the first phase, but the community center or performing arts center will not be built for probably four or five years.

TCV: The intermodal transportation center may include additional services (high speed rail, BART express, etc.) in the future. Does the land use plan take this into account?

Leonard: Yes. Within the station platform area there is room for two other rail lines. Some services will share a line. For example, the Dumbarton Commuter Rail Line will share the same line used by the Capitol Corridor. We are providing room for the ACE train, Capitol Corridor, BART and if high speed rail interconnects, we will have space for that too.

TCV: Are there plans for noise mitigation for housing near the intermodal station?

Leonard: Yes. These will be "super insulated." The sound transmission class of the walls and glass will be designed to meet proscribed decibel levels. In some cases there will be extra insulation, triple-paned windows and solid core doors; all this will be taken into account in the design of the structures.

TCV: Do you have any idea of the price range of these housing units?

Leonard: We don't know for future units. Those under construction at this time - single family homes - will be in the $900,000 range. The future condominiums and rental units will be sold or rented at prices sensitive to the market so this could encompass a wide range of incomes.

TCV: It sounds like Union City has embarked on an ambitious plan for housing growth and as a transportation nexus.

Leonard: We feel the future is very bright for Union City.

 
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