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Nine years of controversy, hundreds of planned East Bay housing units — and now nothing

By Katie Lauer, The Mercury News, February 9, 2023

“The Terminal One development — sandwiched between the Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline and Richmond Yacht Club near Brickyard Cove — was poised to transform the dilapidated, lead-contaminated property into 92 single-family detached residences, 62 duplexes and 30 junior accessory dwelling units.

“But after more than five hours of discussion [on February 7th], the Richmond City Council voted 5-1-1 to scrap the deal, require the property at 1500 Dornan Drive to be deeded back to the city, and return a $500,000 deposit for the land’s sale to the developer.

“Working within a 75-day window the city had to back out of the land’s sale — which was rushed through in December to meet end-of-year state housing deadlines — officials decided it was too complicated to juggle the development’s design aesthetics, financial feasibility, remote location, toxic soil remediation and vulnerability to sea-level rise.

“The current project lost nearly all support from Richmond’s City Council, Design Review Board, Planning Commission and community members after the developer pivoted away from its previous plans to build denser multifamily housing — claiming it was too expensive to tackle the land’s $10 million price tag and at least $21 million more for seismic improvements, soil decontamination and demolition of an existing 90,000-square-foot building onsite.

“Now that the deal has fallen through, the city-owned property will be subject to the Surplus Land Act, meaning the entire approval process will restart, with the acreage offered to roughly 500 government agencies and nonprofits to build affordable housing there.

“It’s unclear if the property will also be impacted by the ‘Builder’s Remedy,’ a state law that streamlines approvals for developments featuring at least 20 percent affordable housing, after the city failed to submit its Housing Element for approval by the Jan. 31 deadline.

“Councilmember Soheila Bana went one step further, saying she felt optimistic that the council’s vote created several opportunities for Richmond and future developers to explore, both financially and environmentally.

“ ‘While I’m really thankful the city attorney did his best in good faith to try to bring the whole situation to a conclusion, are we on the right path?’ Bana said. ‘We have the fiduciary duty to people of Richmond to get the most out of this deal, and it’s a precious piece of land, even though contaminated.’ ”

Read the full article here. (~3 min., paywall)

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