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September 2, 2009 > Masonic Homes flatlands project moves forward

Masonic Homes flatlands project moves forward

By Simon Wong

Union City Planning commissioners met on August 24 to study general plan, zoning and land use text amendments to accommodate proposed development of land beside Mission Boulevard at the foot of the hillside.

While the form of the structures that might be built is still conceptual, the Flatlands project team has considered public input about land use received at February and April open house meetings and comments from three joint Council/Planning Commission workshops. Accordingly, the Masonic Homes of California applied to change the project site's zoning from agricultural use to multi-family residential, commercial and civic facility designations to allow such uses.

"The applicant's intention is to have multi-family residential uses at both ends of the project site to complement adjacent multi-family uses. The central areas would accommodate commercial uses, an as-yet-undefined civic facility, educational and agricultural uses and possibly private institutional use," stated Project Planner Nancy Hutar. "The design concept is to maintain view corridors to the foothills through the project site from existing Union City streets."

Multi-use trails are proposed along the eastern side of the site with connections to the existing Dry Creek regional park trail system. Open space adjoining Parcels A1 and A2 is also proposed.

There will be no sound walls or visual barriers along Mission Boulevard to ensure the visual connection between the existing community and proposed project site.

At this stage, the Masonic Homes of California has only applied for changes to land use designations. Conceptually, however, the following is envisaged:

370, three-story (35 ft. high), multi-family residential townhomes on Parcel 1A and two-story (30-35 ft. high), retail commercial (100,000 sq. ft.) on Parcel A2.

"Staff is considering a City-wide increase in building height for townhomes from 30ft. to 35 ft. This will increase external and internal design flexibility for such structures," stated Hutar.

The Masonic Homes may retain ownership of Parcel B which would have a civic amenity; an aquatic center or community center have been discussed previously. Parcel B2 will accommodate about 200, four- to five-story, multi-family residential podium-style units which have ground-level parking with stacked units above. The permitted maximum height is 75 ft but these structures would not exceed 55 ft.

There is likely to be an educational and agricultural use for part of this parcel going up the hillside though who will develop and maintain such a facility has yet to be decided.

Parcel C would have 1,000 podium-style units of which 300 would be for seniors. The accommodation would be available to Union City seniors.

Exploratory trenching for the geo-tech study is complete. There is no trace of an earthquake fault either across or within 50 ft. of the development area. Landslide evaluation studies have also been performed. Previously published topographical and geological maps depict an area that may be susceptible to movement during an earthquake.

Current topographic surveys, geologic reconnaissance and preliminary stability analyses conclude there was an ancient landslide, the probable result of saturation of a thin veneer of soil above the bedrock and some earthquake movement. Control of surface-water drainage and a setback will prevent soil saturation and mitigate any movement

The project is part of the Union City Hillside Area Plan which limits development of the hillside northeast of Mission Boulevard and is part of the General Plan. The Hillside Area Plan was developed following voter-approval of Measure B in 1986. A decade later, voters supported Measure II which requires any changes to the Hillside Area Plan be passed by the voters.

An initiative to amend the boundary of the Hillside Area Plan to exclude the project site is expected to appear on the November 2010 election ballot. If passed, General Plan and zoning amendments and future development of the flatlands can be approved.

An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is being prepared. A public scoping meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 2, 2009 at 6.00 p.m. at the New Haven Adult School's Multi-Purpose Room on the corner of H Street and Sixth Street, Union City.

Community members may comment at the scoping meeting, mail written comments to Nancy Hutar, Project Planner, Planning Division - City Hall, 34009 Alvarado-Niles Road, Union City, CA 94587 or email them to mhflatlands@unioncity.org. The deadline for receipt of comments is September 10, 2009.

"The EIR will analyze potential significant impacts arising from eventual development of the project. The initial analysis for the preparation of an EIR must consider the potential impacts of at least 16 environmental issues, as per the California Environmental Quality Act," explained Hutar.

After completion of the EIR, Council will decide on the proposed General Plan and Zoning amendments. This is expected in early summer 2010 with Union City voters being the final arbiters in November 2010.

The Masonic Homes has filed an application for these amendments and the City's Planning Department must process it; hence, the current discussion.

The project has the attention of the Southern Alameda County chapter of the Sierra Club which will review the EIR before issuing a statement.

The tentative schedule is Council study session (Sept 8), Planning Commission study session on land uses (Oct), Council study session to review fiscal impacts (Dec 09), public review and comment of Draft EIR (Feb-Mar 2010), Planning Commission study session and public hearing (Spring 2010), Council public hearing for final action (late Spring 2010), vote on Hillside Area boundaries (Nov 2010).

For more information, visit www.UnionCity.org, call Nancy Hutar at 510 675 5318 or email mhflatlands@unioncity.org

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