MORAGA -- The Via Moraga housing development, a proposed 18-unit housing project off Moraga Road near Rheem Boulevard, continues to inch forward in the planning process.

The two-acre former bowling alley site is square and has no drainage issues, making it an ideal infill site for residential development, said consulting planner Bob Pendoley.

"There's access to BART via bus, retail services and medical services available nearby," he said.

The property, currently empty and covered in asphalt, is designated "Rheem Park Specific Plan Area" and subject to limited commercial zoning status. Signature Homes has applied for an amendment to the town's General Plan that would remove the land parcel from the Specific Plan Area and give it a "medium density residential" designation.

Since May 2012, Signature Homes has reduced the total number of units from 26 to 20, and then to 18; changed the design from a single-entrance road to a two-entrance, internal loop street design; added family-friendly, pedestrian and green-space features; and made substantial alterations to address the town's parking, emergency access and aesthetic issues.

A revised model, presented to the commission in October and December 2012, was further updated and finalized in May.

At a special Planning Commission meeting at the Moraga Library Tuesday night, Signature Properties Project Manager Tom Quaglia said the revisions meant they had ended up with "a much better project," and that the detached single-family homes would bring pride of ownership to "a village within a village."


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"We've worked diligently with the staff and we're here to bring you up to speed and ask for your blessings to continue," Quaglia said.

While clearly supportive of the project, continued concerns over parking and the need for a potential crosswalk to the Rheem Park Shopping center dominated the study session. While several commissioners liked the "softening effect" created by modifications to the width of the internal street and increased, frontal green space landscaping, others questioned the adequacy of the parking and open spaces.

"It's still two rows of house and cars," Commissioner Stacia Levenfeld said, after a lengthy discussion of whether the homeowner's association would be able to enforce a "park in your garage" mandate. Jim Kline and Chairman Frank Comprelli suggested additional attention be paid to the parking, the crosswalk and play space for children in the young families they expect will be the developer's targeted buyers.

Quaglia said the commission's concerns were "duly noted" and, reminding them there are compromises in any medium density project, promised to continue working with staff and town agencies to finalize the application and prepare for public hearings and next steps in the process.

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