EL CERRITO -- An affordable housing project that has significance for a range of other city concerns -- historical preservation, economic development and blight -- is moving ahead again after a yearlong lapse.
The $25 million, 63-unit housing complex planned for 10848 and 10860 San Pablo Ave. just south of City Hall will be developed by Hayward-based nonprofit firm Eden Housing.
El Cerrito staff members will be preparing an environmental review required before Eden can proceed with construction, said city housing program Manager Hilde Myall.
The major ground floor tenant will be the Samuel Merritt Clinic, a community clinic and training center for students at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, she said. The clinic will occupy 1,780 square feet with 1,000 square feet set aside for retail.
El Cerrito bought the one-acre property in 2009 with the intention of developing it for affordable housing.
"Our housing staff will begin negotiations with Eden and transfer the land to them," Myall said. "The project cannot be considered for approval until the (environmental) document is completed."
The project was held up when the state of California dissolved city and county redevelopment agencies in 2011, throwing into doubt the method by which the city could transfer the land.
"Part of the redevelopment funding has been denied by the state," Myall said. "The chief financing source will be the federal low-income housing tax credit."
There are three decades-old structures on the site that must be analyzed for historical significance, Myall said.
The Mabuchi florist shop once operated by a Japanese American family that was interned during World War II, may require historical preservation, she said. Eden is proposing to save the building that faces San Pablo Avenue as part of the development.
The El Cerrito Historical Society has lobbied heavily for the building's preservation and raised the issue again at its annual meeting last Sunday, calling on members to contact the City Council.
"That building is one of our really important historical resources and I'm not sure the city has gotten that message," society board member Kathleen McKinley said. She asked members and the public to contact the city about "saving that building and making sure it's incorporated into that site."
The small structure is tied to the city's past quarry industry and the Japanese-American flower-growing trade that flourished in West County over most of the past century.
The society otherwise does not oppose the project.
"It's very important to get the store front removed and have something that provides revenue for the city," said historical society member Tom Panas. "No one wants to move in beside an empty store front."
The largest structure on the property is the former Tradeway Furniture showroom, composed of "an agglomeration of structures (built) over time," Myall said.
Tradeway, which closed in 2008 after 72 years in business, once specialized in sales of overstocked and distressed furniture. There is also a house on the property that Eden plans to demolish, Myall said.