HERCULES -- The City Council, with one member dissenting, approved a deal with a San Francisco developer this week to turn a half-finished building, hulking over the city skyline as an advertisement of its financial failures, into upscale apartments with some ground-floor stores and restaurants.
Councilwoman Myrna de Vera, after joining the majority in approving an addendum to an existing environmental impact report, voted no on five other motions, including a General Plan amendment, zoning amendment, approval of a development plan and approval of a development agreement between the city and UC-BNB Partners LLC to complete Town Centrale, previously known as Sycamore North.
The zoning amendment and the development agreement were approved by ordinance and so will have to be ratified at a second reading before the council, likely at its next regular meeting on Nov. 13.
Some critics had urged the council to delay a vote until after the Nov. 6 election, in which three incumbents whom de Vera opposes are running for re-election against four challengers, three of whom de Vera supports.
UC-BNB will take over the project for a nominal amount of cash and has said it expects to pump about $30 million into it. Construction on the four-story, two-wing structure on Sycamore Avenue west of San Pablo Avenue halted in March 2011 after the city had spent more than $35 million on the project.
UC-BNB wants to build up to 147 apartments and 12,777 square feet of stores and restaurants. It has agreed as part of the conditions of approval recommended by the Planning Commission earlier this month to make at least four ground-floor residential units available for live-work space to foment the feel of a commercial streetfront.
The deal also allows for top-floor units to be sold as condominiums; the rest of the residential units as well as the commercial space would be rental.
De Vera, echoing the concerns of several residents, suggested delaying Tuesday's action to address issues such as noise in the alleyway that runs between the back of Town Centrale and houses on Lewis Street, which is part of the adjacent Bayside neighborhood; garbage disposal, which, if done via the alleyway, could impede access and egress for Lewis Street residents during collection times; and parking provisions for Town Centrale that some residents say are inadequate and could cause spillover into the adjacent Bayside neighborhood.
The council majority hailed the deal as the solution to what one described as a nightmare and another as a "big, ugly, white elephant."
UC-BNB Principal Mark Conroe, responding to a resident's complaint that she and her neighbors had not had a voice in the process leading up to Tuesday's vote, noted that he had held two widely noticed public meetings in the spring and that he had answered all emails related to the project.
Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at Twitter.com/tomlochner