The City Council last week overturned a Planning Commission decision against a low-income apartment complex on Carol Lane, despite strong concerns about the complex voiced by several residents.
The issue concerned a request by the Corporation for Better Housing (CBH) to divide a 10-acre parcel at 67 Carol Lane into four smaller parcels. The corporation made the request in order to get funding to build two more apartment buildings on the site (in addition to the six four-story buildings already there) for low-income residents.
On Nov. 3, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to not allow the parcel split. The commissioners' resolution stated that allowing two more low-income apartment buildings there is likely to cause serious public health problems by concentrating 404 apartments on the northern 11 acres of the 18-acre site, thereby creating a density not envisioned in the General Plan.
That equates to nearly 38 housing units per acre on those 11 acres, which is more than double Oakley's multi-family high-density zoning in that area of nearly 17 units per acre. The overall density on the nearly 18-acre site is about 23 units per acre, higher than the city's zoning limit due to a density bonus granted to CBH for providing low-income housing.
So far, 316 apartments have been built in the complex, a little more than half of them restricted to senior citizens. Another 88 units are planned to be constructed in two additional buildings, bringing the total to 404 units. CBH has received approval to build one more unit on the part of its property currently used mostly open space, bringing the total to 405 units.
Several residents at the Dec. 9 council meeting expressed concerns about concentrating so much low-income housing in four-story buildings (which have been dubbed the towers by some city officials), creating an urban enclave that sticks out of Oakley's flat, mostly suburban landscape.
Bob Hooper, who lives a half mile from the apartment complex, told the council, I don't think this is how Oakley was intended. This was rural at one point, and now it's high-rise. I would not want my family to live there. It's not a conducive area to live there.
If the city must build low-income housing, it would be better to scatter it throughout the city, he added.
Councilman Bruce Connelley was sympathetic to the concerns, saying that council members had not envisioned what was taking place on Carol Lane.
The City Council never approved 405 units, he said. We approved something over 200 units. We were ignorant. We didn't know about a density bonus. We never imagined four stories being built there. They are beautiful buildings. For the time being, they are kind of out of place because of all of the open space around them.
I did not vote to approve this. I was against it because it was on commercial real estate that took away jobs from the people of Oakley. It doesn't matter so much how we got here we are here. You can oppose what's going on. I'm not happy. A serious trust problem has been created here, and we need to work on that.
But Connelley agreed with the other council members to allow the parcel split, pointing out that it won't result in allowing CBH to build any more apartments than the 405 units already allowed on its property. If any more were to be built besides the ones already approved, there would have to be a public hearing and you would all be invited, he said.
The developer has every right to do this (parcel split). We could say no' tonight and how much of your taxpayers' money would you like to spend in court? Other than the volume (of units) and (four-story) elevation, the Corporation for Better Housing has done what they said what they would do. I don't think we should be fighting this tonight, as much as I don't like it (the low-income complex).
Councilman Kevin Romick said he's concerned about CBH's plans for a 6.5-acre parcel on its property that is currently mostly open space with an oak grove but which has been zoned for high-density multi-family housing.
The council voted 4-0 to allow the parcel split. Councilman Jim Frazier recused himself due to a conflict of interest because he was on the Planning Commission when it voted to disallow the parcel split.