Fremont City
California

Planning Commission Report
2087

STEVENSON BOULEVARD CITY-OWNED PARCEL - (PLN2014-00198) - To consider a General Plan Amendment to change the land use designation of a 2.32-acre City-owned parcel from Open Space to Medium Density Residential, 14.6 to 29.9 dwelling units per acre, and a Rezoning from Open Space to Preliminary Planned District, P-2014-198; and to consider a Mitigated Negative Declaration prepared for the project in accordance with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Information

Department:PlanningSponsors:
Category:General Plan Amendment

Item Discussion

Location:               South Side of Stevenson Boulevard, west of Stevenson Place in the Central Community Planning Area; APN 525-00010022-00

 

Area:               101,027 square feet (2.32 acres)             

 

People:                                           City of Fremont, Applicant/Property Owner

                            David Wage, Staff Planner (510) 494-4447; dwage@ fremont.gov

 

General Plan:               Existing: Open Space

Proposed: Medium Density Residential, 14.6 to 29.9 dwelling units per acre

 

Zoning:               Existing: O-S, Open Space

Proposed: Preliminary Planned District, P-2014-198

 

Body

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The City owns an undeveloped 2.32-acre parcel located on the south side of Stevenson Boulevard, west of Stevenson Place (“property”).  The property was identified as surplus in a City Property Disposition Plan that was received and considered by the City Council on October 8, 2014.  The Council passed a resolution to proceed with the sale and disposition of the property.  The Council also adopted a resolution directing staff to amend the General Plan land use designation and Rezone the property to allow for its future development.  The City is proposing to amend the General Plan land use designation from Open Space to Medium Density Residential, 14.6 to 29.9 dwelling units per acre, and Rezone the property from Open Space (O-S) to Preliminary Planned District, P-2014-198.  A precise plan for development has not been proposed for the property; however, the proposed General Plan Amendment and Preliminary Planned District would allow its future development with residential uses.

 

Staff recommends that the Planning Commission recommend that the City Council adopt the Mitigated Negative Declaration and Mitigation Monitoring Program prepared for the proposed project, and approve the proposed General Plan Amendment and Rezoning as shown on Exhibits “B” and “C,” respectively, based on the findings and subject to the conditions contained in Exhibit “D.”

 

BACKGROUND AND PREVIOUS ACTIONS

 

The City purchased the property for a park as part of a larger 51-acre site, which was subsequently developed as the current golf course driving range.  The property was not included in the development of the driving range and has remained undeveloped.  The irregular shape, proximity to a railway and limited street frontage are all barriers to developing the property with park uses.  As such, City staff has determined that the property’s location is not conducive for park development.

 

In 2011, the City engaged Keyser Marston Associates, Inc. to conduct a financial analysis of public projects that were identified in the proposed Downtown Community Plan.  They identified several financial mechanisms the City could use to capture funds to implement these projects.  One mechanism was to identify unneeded City property and categorize it as surplus property eligible for disposition.  In 2012, the City hired CB Richards Ellis (CBRE) to review City-owned excess properties and make recommendations for their possible development and disposal.  The CBRE report recommended the sale and disposition of ten surplus properties, including the property on Stevenson Boulevard.  In October of 2013, the City Council received and considered the City’s Surplus Property Disposition Plan and adopted resolutions directing staff to proceed with the sale and disposition of the property and also to initiate a General Plan Amendment and Rezoning to facilitate its sale and development. 

 

PROCEDURE FOR TONIGHT’S HEARING

 

At tonight’s hearing, the Planning Commission is charged with considering recommendations to the City Council regarding the following items:

 

1.     Adoption of a Mitigated Negative Declaration with a finding on the basis of the whole record (including the Initial Study and comments received) that there is no substantial evidence that the project would have a significant impact on the environment, and that this action represents the independent judgment of the City of Fremont per CEQA Guidelines Section 15074.

 

2.     Approval of a General Plan Amendment to change the land use designation of a 2.32-acre City-owned parcel from Open Space to Medium Density Residential, 14.6-29.9 units per acre;

 

3.     Approval of a Rezoning from Open Space to Preliminary Planned District, PLN2014-00198 based on the findings in Section 18.110.070(b) of the Fremont Municipal Code to permit development in accordance with the R-3, Multi-family Residence District.

 

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The City is proposing to amend the General Plan land use designation of a 2.32-acre City-owned parcel from Open Space to Medium Density Residential, 14.6 to 29.9 dwelling units per acre, and Rezone the property from Open Space (O-S) to Preliminary Planned District, P-2014-198.  The General Plan states that appropriate uses in the Medium Density Residential designation include garden apartments, condominiums, flats, townhouses, and low-rise multi-family complexes.  Net densities in this land use designation range between 14.6 and 29.9 units per acre which corresponds to units that range in size from 1,450 to 3,000 square-feet.  Projects developed under the Medium Density Residential land use designation are multi-family in character but retain some of the qualities of suburban neighborhoods such as landscaped yards, off-street parking, common open space and low building heights (less than four stories).

 

If the City-initiated project is approved, a developer who subsequently purchases the property would be required to submit an application for a Precise Planned District which would include a specific development proposal, including a site plan, building elevations and landscaping plan.  Future development of the property would be evaluated for conformance with the development standards of the Medium Density Residential General Plan land use designation, Multi-family Residence District (R-3) standards and the Multifamily Residential Design Guidelines. 

 

PROJECT ANALYSIS

 

General Plan Conformance

The proposed project would be consistent with the following General Plan goals and policies:

 

Land use GOAL 2-1: City Form and Structure – A city transformed from an auto-oriented suburb into a distinctive community known for its walkable neighborhoods, dynamic city center, transit oriented development at focused locations, attractive shopping and entertainment areas, thriving work places, and harmonious blending of the natural and built environments.

LAND USE POLICY 2-1.7: Becoming a More Transit Oriented City – Plan for Fremont’s transition to a community that includes a mix of established lower density neighborhoods and new higher-density mixed use neighborhoods with access to high-quality transit.

LAND USE POLICY 2-1.9: Thoroughfares as Multi-use Corridors – Enhance the role of Fremont’s major thoroughfares as multi-use corridors that connect the City and enhance civic identity.  Fremont’s corridors should contribute to a more compact pattern of development, be designed to encourage transit use and reduce vehicle miles traveled, provide comfortable walking and bicycling environments, and project a positive image of the City.

LAND USE POLICY 2-1.11: Infill Emphasis – Focus new development on underdeveloped of “skipped-over” sites that are already served by infrastructure and public streets.

 

Analysis: Amending the General Plan land use designation of the City-owned parcel to Medium Density Residential would facilitate medium density residential infill development that is in close proximity to schools, Central Park, commercial services, and transit.  Although the project site is not located within the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Overlay District, there are four bus stops within a quarter-mile radius of the project site that provide access to six bus routes.  The site is also relatively close to the BART station which is 1.4 miles awayThe site is vacant and underutilized, and its redesignation and eventual development with medium density housing would be appropriate and compatible with the property and its surrounding character.  The proposed project would improve the aesthetics of property and contribute to the Stevenson Boulevard corridor.

 

Land use GOAL 2-2: Directing Change – Growth and development that is orderly and efficient, leverages public investment, ensures continued availability of infrastructure and public services, reduces adverse impacts on adjacent properties, and protects the natural environment

LAND USE POLICY 2-2.9: Adequacy of Infrastructure – Allow new development to occur only when the public facilities needed to serve that development are available or will be provided by the development through the payment of impact fees.

 

Analysis: The property can be served with existing public facilities including streets, sewer and water.  As an infill project with compatible surrounding uses, there would be minimal impact on public services, adjacent properties and the natural environment.  

 

Land use GOAL 2-3: Complete Neighborhoods – Compact, walkable and diverse neighborhoods, each with an array of housing types and shopping choices, with parks, schools, and amenities that can be conveniently accessed by all residents.

LAND USE POLICY 2-3.2: Neighborhood Reinvestment – encourage continued reinvestment in Fremont neighborhoods by the public and private sectors. 

LAND USE POLICY 2-3.5: Balance of Services, Amenities and Uses – Promote design and land use decisions which improve the walkability of neighborhoods, enhance the ability to travel by bicycle or public transportation, and minimize the distance a resident must travel to reach basic services, shopping, parks, and schools.  Except where precluded by steep terrain, each neighborhood should include a mix of compatible uses, including housing, parks, civic facilities, and local shopping and services.

 

Analysis: The project would provide an opportunity to develop medium density housing in close proximity to transit, services and amenities.  Future residential development would be complementary to surrounding land uses and contribute to a complete neighborhood.  The project would also encourage private investment in a vacant infill property.

 

Land use GOAL 3-2: Reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled – Improve mobility in Fremont while reducing the growth of vehicle miles traveled.

 

Analysis: The project would provide an opportunity to develop medium density housing in close proximity to transit, services and amenities.  Future residential development would also contribute to a complete neighborhood with a mixture of uses thereby reducing vehicle miles traveled.

 

HOUSING ELEMENT GOAL 3 - Encourage the development of affordable and market-rate housing in order to meet the City’s assigned share of the Regional Housing Need.

HOUSING ELEMENT POLICY 3.02 - Promote existing opportunities to intensify development.

HOUSING ELEMENT POLICY 3.03 - Encourage the development of a diverse housing stock that provides a range of housing types (including family and larger-sized units) and affordability levels throughout the community.

HOUSING ELEMENT POLICY 6.03 - Focus future housing near transit nodes.

 

Analysis: The proposed project would redesignate a City-owned parcel from Open Space to Medium Density Residential, which would further the goals of the Housing Element and contribute toward meeting the City’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation.  In addition, future development of the site would be subject to the City’s Affordable Housing Ordinance.

 

SAFETY POLICY 10-8.1: Site Development Acceptable Noise Environment A noise environment which meets acceptable standards as defined by the State of California Building Code and local policies contained herein.

 

Analysis: The General Plan requires a noise study compliant with the California Building Code’s methodology be prepared and submitted to the City prior to the issuance of a permit for all new housing exposed to an exterior Ldn of 60 dB(A) or greater. The major noise source affecting the project site would be traffic noise from the primary arterial road along the project frontage, Stevenson Boulevard to the north, Fire Station No. Nine to the south and the Union Pacific Railroad, which is immediately west of the property. Although there is not a specific development proposal for the site, an acoustical/vibration study was completed by an acoustical consultant, Charles M. Salter Associates Inc., for the project site.  Since a specific development plan has not yet been proposed, the analysis was not able to account for factors such as proposed setbacks, walls, buildings location, outdoor areas, bedroom location and other site design features that may mitigate noise impacts.   The measured noise levels for the project site vary from 65 dB to 73 dB along the rail line and Stevenson Boulevard, which falls into the unacceptable level without mitigation.  Exterior noise levels could be mitigated to acceptable or conditionally acceptable levels through the construction of sound walls, building design and site design.  The study states that specific heights and locations of barriers should be refined based on a future specific site plan and site grading. In addition, interior noise impacts could be mitigated to acceptable levels by incorporating sound rated assemblies. The study concludes that noise impacts could be mitigated to a less than significant level with the inclusion of mitigation measures.

 

An assessment of groundborne vibration was also completed due to the close proximity of the project site to the Union Pacific Railroad to the west.  The Federal Transit Administration establishes significance criteria of 80 VdB when measuring the vibration level of an engine pass-by for “infrequent” events and 72 VdB for “frequent” events.  Based on the worst case vibration levels measured, the residences would need to be setback approximately 80 feet from the centerline of the Union Pacific Railroad in order for vibration levels to meet the 80VdB criteria as required for “infrequent” events.

 

Zoning Regulations

The City is proposing to Rezone the property from Open Space to Preliminary Planned District, P-2014-198, to allow residential development in accordance with the Multifamily Residence Zoning District (R-3).

 

Planned Districts require both a preliminary and precise plan, which may be done in a one-step or two-step approach.  The one-step approach combines both preliminary and precise plan requirements into a single Rezoning, whereas the two-step approach involves Rezoning to a Preliminary Planned District, followed by a later Rezoning adopting a Precise Planned District. FMC Section 18.110.050 gives the Planning Manager the authority to determine the most appropriate approach.  A two-step process with an initial approval of a Preliminary Planned District is proposed for this project given the uncertain and preliminary nature of the development on the site.  Prior to any future development on the site, a developer would need to apply to Rezone the property to a Precise Planned District, which would allow the Planning Commission and City Council to review a specific development plan including but not limited to: detailed site plan, building elevations, landscaping plan, land uses, densities, building intensities, open spaces, amenities, circulation plan and proposed infrastructure.  The proposed Preliminary Planned District and future Precise Planned District would provide a means for effectuating desirable development, addressing site constraints and ensuring land use compatibility. 

 

The future permitted uses and development provisions for Preliminary Planned District P-2014-198 are proposed in Exhibit E.  As previously noted, all future permitted uses and development standards would be based on the R-3 Zoning District.  Due to the preliminary nature of the development, there are no proposed exceptions or modifications to the R-3 Zoning District standards.  Future exceptions or modifications proposed by a developer who purchases the property would be considered as part of a future precise plan.

 

As set forth in FMC Section 18.110.070(b), the Planning Commission and City Council shall consider the following findings for a City-initiated Planned District:

 

1.     The property is in a study area or area of interest identified in the General Plan, and because of the need for specific project design to achieve the objectives of the General Plan, the property can best be developed as P district.

2.     The property has a unique size, shape, topography, historic character, landscape feature, or known environmental or other development constraint or its relationship is close to parcels with such a feature or constraint.

 

These findings are discussed further below.

 

Findings foR APPROVAL

 

Based on the above analysis, staff recommends the following findings:

 

General Plan Amendment Finding:

1.     The General Plan Amendment conforms with and contains the requirements provided for in the City’s planning processes, constitutes a suitable and logical change in the plan for physical development of the City of Fremont, and is in the public interest because the site is suitable for residential development and future development would be required to conform to applicable City standards and environmental mitigation measures.  Furthermore, the General Plan Amendment constitutes logical change that advances General Plan goals and policies as enumerated in the staff report.

 

Planned District Findings:

1.       The property is in a study area of interest identified in the General Plan, and because of the need for specific project design to achieve the objectives of the General Plan, the property can best be developed as P district.While not identified specifically as a study area, the property is located in the Central Community Plan Area, and more precisely, the South of Walnut District.  The General Plan notes the potential for infill residential development in the South of Walnut District due to its close proximity to: BART, bus lines, the Medical Center, the Senior Center and Central Park (page 11-53). The City is proposing to amend the General Plan land use designation for the site from Open Space to Medium Density Residential and Rezone it from Open Space to Preliminary Planned District P-2014-198 to facilitate development of a vacant infill parcel.  The proposed Rezoning of the property to Preliminary Planned District, P-2014-198 would promote consistency with the Central Community Plan Area and advance General Plan goals and policies regarding: infill development, complete neighborhoods, locating residential uses in proximity to transit, meeting the City’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation, and safety.  The site is adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad to the west. General Plan Safety Policy 10-8.1 requires a noise environment which meets acceptable standards as defined by the State of California Building Code and local policies.  The proposed planned district would allow for the review of a future precise plan for development that addresses the noise and vibration impacts through thoughtful site design, thereby resulting in desirable development, which can best be developed as a P district and is consistent with the stated purpose of the Planned District Ordinance.

2.       The property has a unique size, shape, topography, historic character, landscape feature, or known environmental or other development constraint or its relationship is close to parcels with such a feature or constraint. The narrow shape of the property would likely result in challenges in meeting all of the City’s development standards.  In addition, the property is adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad which results in noise and vibration impacts that must be addressed through project design (extended setbacks, sound wall, building orientation, etc.).  The establishment of a Preliminary Planned District and future review and approval of a Precise Planned District would promote desirable development and ensure compatibility issues so the above constraints are effectively addressed.

 

The findings above are also contained in Exhibit "D" enclosed.

 

CITY FEES

 

Future development on the project site would be subject to citywide Development Impact Fees. These fees may include fees for fire protection, park facilities, park land in lieu, capital facilities and traffic impacts. All applicable fees would be calculated and paid at the fee rates in effect at the time of building permit issuance. The future developer may elect to defer payment in accordance with the City’s Impact Fee Deferral Program.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

 

Pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), an Initial Study (Informational Item 1) and Draft Mitigated Negative Declaration (Exhibit “A”) have been prepared for this project. The environmental analysis identified concerns regarding potential significant impacts to aesthetics, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, hydrology/water quality and noise. The Draft Mitigated Negative Declaration includes mitigation measures, which, if implemented, would reduce the identified impacts to less-than-significant levels. These mitigation measures are included as conditions of approval for this project and in the Mitigation Monitoring Plan included as part of Exhibit “A.”

 

PUBLIC NOTICE AND COMMENT

 

Public hearing notification is applicable. A total of 75 notices were mailed to owners and occupants of property within 300 feet of the site. The notices to owners and occupants were mailed on May 27, 2014. A Public Hearing Notice was published by The Argus on May 24, 2014.

 

In addition, a large project courtesy sign was erected April 3, 2014, to inform the public of the pending proposal. Comments received on the project will be forwarded to the Planning Commission.

 

RECOMMENDATION

1.                   Hold public hearing.

2.                   Recommend that the City Council adopt the Draft Mitigated Negative Declaration and Mitigation Monitoring Plan and find on the basis of the whole record before it (including the Initial Study and any comments received) that there is no substantial evidence that the project will have a significant effect on the environment and that this action reflects the independent judgment of the City of Fremont.

3.                   Recommend that the City Council find that the proposed General Plan Amendment conforms with and contains the requirements provided for in the City’s planning processes, constitutes a suitable and logical change in the plan for physical development of the City of Fremont, and is in the public interest.

4.                   Recommend that the City Council approve General Plan Amendment PLN2014-00198 on the south side of Stevenson Boulevard, west of Stevenson Place from Open Space (City Park) to Medium Density Residential, 14.6 to 29.9 dwelling units per acre as shown on Exhibit “B” (General Plan Amendment).

5.                   Recommend that the City Council introduce and waive the first reading of an ordinance approving a Rezoning from O-S, Open Space to Planned District P-2014-198, as depicted on Exhibit “C” (Preliminary Planned District), based upon the findings and subject to the conditions of approval set forth in Exhibit "D."