A 60-unit condo project planned for the Point Richmond waterfront was approved by a 4-2 vote at Richmond City Council on Tuesday despite complaints from neighbors about the project’s height.
Shea Homes’ long-planned Bottoms property project, which is set to be located below the Seacliff development, included a controversial amendment to the city’s general plan to allow four buildings to exceed the height limit of 35 feet.
On Tuesday, council approved both the general plan amendment and environmental review for the project, which includes five two-story shoreline buildings and four, four-story buildings inland on 25 acres.
The height of the four taller buildings has been the main point of contention. Community members were concerned that amending the general plan’s height limit for this project would greenlight taller buildings in other neighborhoods.
Developers and city staff argued the project would not be economically feasible without the additional height to the four buildings, particularly due to geographical constraints.
On Tuesday, Councilmember Tom Butt’s proposed a compromise to have developers drop the height of the four buildings by three-and-a-half feet and compensate the owners of seven homes $350,000 for any loss of views.
Council ultimately voted in favor of that compromise, with the only dissenting votes coming from Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles. The mayor and vice mayor opposed amending what they called a community-produced general plan and echoed concerns that such a change would pave the way for taller buildings citywide.
City staff deny that characterization and say the general plan’s height limit will not change as a policy guideline and that all projects moving forward will face vigorous public vetting, as the Bottoms development has.
Despite the disagreement, most aspects of the project have support from neighbors, including the architectural plans and the preservation and enhancements to the shoreline, including the Bay Trail.
The plan would reportedly house about 170 people, create 353 jobs and generate annual general fund revenues of $313,000 annually, according to city documents, along with an expected $2.46 million in development fees.
“Most of the objections I have read and heard about this project have to do with the height limit and views,” Butt said. “I believe this is a good project. Richmond so far has basically missed the boom that is happening in the Bay Area….every city on the Bay is on fire except for Richmond. We need to bring good development to our [in-fill] sites. We need to create jobs, we need to create business, we need to create activity. We need to bring people out to local businesses and restaurants.”
Butt acknowledged that residents’ concerns about the general plan height limit are legitimate.
McLaughlin called the project’s vetting process “really flawed,” saying she doesn’t believe city planners gave the Planning Commission time to vet alternative project proposals that would not require a height limit change.
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