WALNUT CREEK -- After eight years of wrangling, the City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to move the BART Transit Village apartment-and-retail project toward its first construction phase.
The major hurdles passed Tuesday were the certification of a final environmental impact report, amendments to the city's general plan and zoning and approval of a tree removal permit, which are all needed to begin construction.
The project has undergone many revisions since it was first brought before the council in 2005. By 2009, its future was in doubt as the bad economy forced developers to put plans on hold.
Walnut Creek Transit Lifestyles Associates, a joint venture of developer Transit Village Associates and BRE Properties, is looking forward to starting Phase I.
"It's been a long road -- we're excited about going forward," said Frank Arthur of Transit Village Associates. "We hope to start construction within a year."
The council still must have a public reading of the zoning amendment, scheduled for Nov. 6 at 5 p.m.
Because the proposed mixed-use development will be built on top of the existing parking lot, Lifestyles Associates will be required to build a new BART parking structure that includes BART Police offices and a bus facility on the ground floor. This will be done during Phase I.
A sticking point of negotiations was whether the developer could be required to provide additional parking spaces, not just replace the existing ones. In the end, city staff determined it was not within the city's jurisdiction to demand that. The developer has said temporary off-site parking would be provided during the construction of Phase I, which also will see a new traffic signal installed midway along the North California Boulevard border of the BART property, to allow pedestrians easier crossing.
Developers plan to build 596 apartments and up to 12,000 square feet of commercial space during Phase II, along with a separate underground parking structure for apartment residents and patrons of the businesses.
In Phase III, estimated to start in 2014, 238 more residential units and 26,700 square feet of mixed residential and commercial space is planned along the eastern side. More underground parking stalls for the two new buildings would be included.
Chip Griffin, associate planner for Walnut Creek, said the city's planning commission must approve plans for each phase.
The conditions imposed on the developer Tuesday are designed to address traffic and environmental issues raised in the project's environmental impact report. Such conditions include special filters for the residential units to improve air quality. Also, the developer will be required to pay traffic impact fees to help pay for possible improvements on city streets.
Lifestyles Associates achieved some concessions from the city. At the request of the developer, the city agreed to lower its standards for storage space required for new multifamily units.
The developer group hopes that the four decisions Tuesday by the council will allow them to begin construction in 2013.
No improvements to the BART station itself were included in this project's scope, and the city is encouraging BART to handle other improvements separately.