Jan 8, 2016
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The 155-unit affordable housing project proposed for 5620 Central Ave. is set to return before Richmond City Council Tuesday, several months after the city and developer settled their differences about the plans.

Council on Tuesday is expected to approve and ratify the settlement after a public hearing. City staff says the agreement was reached after months of good-faith negotiations with developer Alexis Gevorgian, president of AMG & Associates. The council had already approved the agreement during a closed session meeting on Nov. 24, according to city staff.

The Richmond Planning Commission initially approved the project — located on a 2.58-acre former lumberyard between Belmont Avenue and San Mateo Street — on Feb. 19 of last year. City staff said the units would be aimed at entry-level professionals, skilled trades workers and service providers and added the site location was ideal due to its proximity to shopping and transportation, including the El Cerrito Plaza BART station.

Developer, city reach settlement on 155-unit Central Avenue ProjectThe commission, however, imposed conditions on the project — including increases in parking and open space around the property — that Gevorgian argued would make the project economically infeasible. Meanwhile, the Richmond Annex Neighborhood Council had filed a separate appeal over concerns about potential flooding from an adjacent creek along with the project’s impact on traffic, noise, air quality, parking and aesthetics.

Appeals by both the neighborhood council and developer failed after City Council made no decision at an April 21 hearing, rendering the commission’s decision final.

In July, however, the developer filed a legal complaint against the city.

Gevorgian argued against Planning Commission-imposed conditions on parking and how far the building must be set back from an adjacent creek. The conditions also required a 12 foot setback from Central Avenue, as the busy strip is set to undergo the second phase of the I-80 Central Avenue Interchange Improvement Project.

The imposed conditions would have reduced the number of units in the building to the point that the project no longer made economic sense, according to the developer.

After several months of negotiations, however, the city and developer made compromises. The agreement includes a number of changes to the Planning Commission conditions (changes posted in full at the bottom of this story).

The agreement also states the developer must retain a qualified creek design consultant and lead the restoration of the concrete-lined creek that is adjacent to the property. The consultant would determine how far the development should be set back from the creek, which once restored would feature a walking path and would be dedicated to the city.

The settlement also nixes the specific building setback of 12 feet from Central Avenue, and instead requires the developer to meet the minimum requirement as determined by managers of the I-80 Central Avenue Interchange Improvement Project.

As for parking, the city and developer agreed on providing 132 standard parking stalls, 79 compact stalls and five stalls for people with disabilities for a total 216 spaces. Of those spaces, 138 will be utilized for tandem parking.

In earlier stages of the project, plans had called for 172 apartments rather than 155 and a total of 309 parking spaces.

Correction: An earlier version of this report indicated the Planning Commission wanted fewer parking spaces incorporated into the project, when in fact it is the developer who requested fewer.

Here’s all the changes to the Planning Commission conditions that city officials and the developer settled upon:



About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.