October Town Hall Report – Big Plans for CCA Re-Use; Zilch for ‘Ridge Shops’ Phase 2

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Rockridge Community Planning Council's (RCPC) October Town Hall meeting was a "twofer": presentations about two adjacent but not connected sets of development plans along Broadway at the eastern boundary of Rockridge. One, the re-use of the California College of the Arts (CCA) Oakland campus; the other, the stalled Phase 2 of the "Shops at the Ridge" project.

CCA Site Development  With CCA planning to move its program entirely to San Francisco within the next couple of years, the audience heard about what's being planned for the re-use of its 4-acre site, located just east of Broadway and just north of the Shops at the Ridge shopping center site.

David Meckel, Director of Campus Planning for CCA, gave the bulk of the presentation, with assistance from John Clawson of Equity Community Builders and Mark Babson of Emerald Fund, the two developers CCA has partnered with to plan the re-use. CCA has been at the site, originally the Treadwell Estate, since 1926 and has built numerous additional college buildings beyond the original mansion and carriage house, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The most recently built college building is Clifton Hall, a student dormitory at the corner of Clifton Street and Broadway at the northern end of the campus.

Meckel stressed that the plans he presented are quite preliminary. He said CCA has hired an Oakland public relations firm, Craig Communications (510/433-0277, http://craig-communications.com), to help it reach out to the East Bay community for comments and recommendations on the re-use plans.

As of now, those plans focus on four goals:
1. Preserving CCA's history and continuing to maintain an arts focus on the site, including affordable artist housing.
2. Preserving the historic buildings and landscaping on the site.
3. Providing a significant amount of new housing to help address the Bay Area's housing shortage.
4. Creating a publicly accessible place that showcases the site's historic, artistic, and scenic resources.

The plans currently envisage four components:
1. An "art walk" along Clifton Street that would include artist housing and studio spaces.
2. A sculpture garden including the historic landscaping and the Treadwell mansion.
3. A promenade that would lead through the campus area in a north-south direction and be flanked by new housing (as much as 500-600 units).
4. An overlook area at the southern end of the campus with breathtaking views of Oakland and the East Bay.

Clawson noted that the site would need to be rezoned since it is currently zoned for institutional use, and that there would be an extensive public review and environmental study process before any plans could be approved by the City. He estimated that would take as much as 2-3 years, which would dovetail with the College's plans for completing its move to San Francisco.

Phase 2, "Shops at the Ridge"

The second half of the program featured a presentation by Darin Ranelletti, Deputy Director of Oakland's planning and building department. Ranelletti was invited to discuss the current status of Phase 2 of the Shops at the Ridge project from the City's perspective – particularly the old Chase Bank building at the corner of Broadway and Pleasant Valley Avenue, the demolition of which was halted last winter by the discovery of asbestos contamination.

Ranelletti explained that plans for redevelopment and expansion of the site, formerly called the Rockridge Shopping Center, had been developed over more than five years, with much community input. Those plans, originally put forward by Safeway and now being implemented by TRC, Inc., a Southern California developer, called for two phases. The first phase, including a new Safeway, a new Chase Bank building, and two one-story retail buildings, was completed more than a year ago. Phase 2 was to follow shortly.

After completion of Phase I, demolition of the remaining old bank buildings, including Chase Bank, began in preparation for constructing Phase 2, which would include two- and three-story retail buildings with structured parking and a shopping street. At that point, asbestos was discovered mixed in the concrete of the roof deck of the Chase Building. While asbestos is highly toxic in the air, Ranelletti emphasized that in its current state, fixed in the building's concrete, the asbestos poses no hazard. However, removal of this asbestos would be much more complicated, time-consuming, and expensive than removing the more common asbestos-containing insulation, flooring, or ceiling tiles. As a result, TRC put Phase 2 on hold while it re-evaluates its plans. Ranelletti said that TRC was also concerned that, with the changing retail environment, the amount of large-scale retail proposed in Phase 2 might no longer make sense.

Ranelletti was very clear that the City was not happy about the site being left in its current condition. He said that if the project remained stalled, the City could and would begin levying fines for maintaining a public nuisance and could eventually sue TRC to force the Chase Building's safe demolition. He commented, however, that it would be far preferable to get TRC to finish revising its plans and complete Phase 2.

In answer to questions from the audience, he noted the City, and many in the community, have long supported including housing in the project, but the property's owner (not TRC but an absentee corporate owner with an outof- state mailbox address) has consistently refused to consider any residential use on the site.

The full Town Hall was captured on video, and a link to the full video (available on YouTube) has been posted on the Rockridge.org website.