In November 2013, a divided city council voted 3-2 to approve the development agreement to put 547 units of various housing at Cannery. However, that was not the end of the story, as the project has been riddled with controversy from the failure of the grade-separated crossing to the CFD (Community Facilities District), approved 3-2 by council after the fact, and now several weeks after the city hired Cannery’s former project manager for the planning department, Cannery is back requesting more.
On February 3, 2016, the city received a letter from Bonnie Chiu at the New Home Company, outlining the proposed changes to the Cannery Stacked Flat Condominiums for consideration. This proposal would add 24 units, increasing the number of stacked flat condos from 96 in the originally approved development agreement to 120.
On March 5, the Vanguard wrote the article noting the hiring of former Cannery Project Manager Ashley Feeney. In a release from Mike Webb, he noted, “After a lengthy search, in which a number of qualified applicants were considered, I’m pleased to announce that Ashley Feeney will be joining our team as the Assistant Community Development Director. Ashley (or Ash as he likes to be called) comes to us with a background that includes both public and private sector experience in planning and community development.”
On March 14, 2016, Mr. Webb wrote a response letter to Ms. Chiu, outlining the proposed changes to the stacked flat condos. Wrote Mr. Webb, “The proposal also includes minor adjustments to building setbacks and height. The changes potentially affect the Planning approvals and analysis related to The Cannery project and may require amendments and revisions to allow the proposed changes.”
Mr. Webb noted that “an amendment to the Preliminary Planned Development (PD 1-11) for the additional units is required.” The changes “would not affect the Tentative Subdivision Map or Final Maps” and therefore, “No revisions to the approved maps are required.”
On affordable housing, “An Affordable Housing Plan was approved as part of The Cannery project and identified the project’s affordable housing obligations. Consistent with City requirements the Stacked Flat Condominium units did not trigger any affordable housing obligations… The proposed additional units would not add or change any of The Cannery’s affordable requirements.” Therefore, “No amendment to the Affordable Housing Plan is required.”
However, it would require an amendment to the development agreement. “Proposed changes would affect sections of the Development Agreement relative to the number of units on the Stacked Flat Condominium parcels and the overall development of The Cannery.”
The proposal includes adjustments to building setbacks and height to: “Reduce 10′ setback from building to property line to 9.4′ for four buildings on the east side of the west parcel.” “Reduce 10′ setback from building to property line to 7.8′ for one building on the southeast corner of the east parcel.” “Increase the maximum height of the building to 56′ from the 45′ height limitation in the Design Guidelines.”
Mr. Webb concluded, “Proposed changes may be approved with the Design Review as a minor deviation.”
With respect to the EIR, Mr. Webb found the increased units to be consistent. “The proposed increase of 24 units is within the assumed number of units analyzed in the CEQA documents for the project,” he wrote. “Although the proposed project for The Cannery consisted of 551 units, as described in Chapter 2.4 of the DEIR, the CEQA analysis was based on the NOP project description and assumed an upper limit of 61O total residential units and 236,000 square feet of mixed-use commercial, office and high density residential uses. “
He concluded, “The proposal for 24 additional units would be within the project scope of The Cannery EIR and consistent with the EIR analysis and conclusions, including Land Use, Traffic, and other topic areas.”
The Cannery was a controversial project throughout its inception. Council ended up approving it with a 3-2 vote, with concerns expressed about the connectivity that were never fully resolved.
The Cannery then came back in 2014 and 2015 for council approval of a CFD.
Mayor Dan Wolk, in supporting the motion and providing the deciding vote, said, “There is no free lunch.” He said, “The homeowners are going to pay for infrastructure one way or another.”
However, Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis, while agreeing there is “no free lunch,” said he is “worried that people don’t pay for it more than once.” He argued that the reality is that, in this housing market, the demand is inelastic, and that “people won’t be able to bid down” the purchase price of their housing to accommodate the Mello-Roos.
Councilmember Brett Lee argued, “My concern here is that the residents here would be unwilling to support parcel tax measures in the future, the lion share typically going to support the schools.”
He added, “I also have a problem with the 40-year time horizon, it sets up a troublesome public policy dynamic to have a subset of the population paying essentially twice the number of taxes compared to the neighbors.”
To add fuel to the fire, it was later discovered that Dan Wolk during his 2014 State Assembly campaign had received sizable contributions from Ashley Feeney and the New Home Company. In 2014 and 2016, Mr. Wolk has received more than $14,000 from the New Home Company and its principals.
Now the New Home Company is coming back for more in the form of 24 additional units.
—David M. Greenwald reporting