EL CERRITO -- City officials are seeking community input on a sweeping plan to guide development in its main transportation and shopping corridor over the next 25 years.

The San Pablo Avenue Specific Plan could allow for more than double the current amount of housing in the 206-acre plan area that runs the entire 2.5-mile length of the avenue through the city.

Based on Association of Bay Area Government projections, the development area has the capacity to add 1,706 housing units by 2040 to the 1,340 that existed in 2013.

Commercial space, including retail, would rise far more slowly, from 2.02 million square feet in 2013 to 2.26 million square feet in 2040.

The plan specifies a building height limit of 65 feet, but building up to 85 feet is allowed if a development meets certain state rules for affordable housing.

Ray Pendro, who will help write an environmental impact report on the plan, acknowledged that projections show the city becoming more residential and more dense, with higher buildings, especially near its two BART stations.

One-story retail and commercial space should increasingly give way to so-called mixed-use development that can sometimes have retail space on the ground floor with apartments and condominiums above, said Pendro, a project manager for MIG in Berkeley at an April 10 meeting at City Hall to gather public input to help in writing the EIR.


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Similar development is already in motion in El Cerrito with two such projects, Ohlone Gardens and Creekside, approved by the city within the planned development area. Ohlone Gardens is now under construction.

There are five others on the drawing board in the plan area that would be covered under the EIR for the strategic plan, Kavanaugh-Lynch said.

A couple of residents at the meeting expressed concern about height limits of buildings and the density of construction that could be allowed under the specific plan.

Howdy Goudey, a member of the city's environmental quality committee, noted that high-rise apartment buildings could block sunlight from existing homes and possibly be an impediment to installing or using solar panels on residential roofs, among other issues.

City Developmental Services Manager Margaret Kavanaugh-Lynch said the EIR does not deal specifically with the issue of shade cast by buildings, but said the city could regulate that on a case-by-case basis when developments are under review.

The EIR will consider issues such as aesthetics, air quality, cultural and historic resources, noise and 12 other categories that might be affected by development that might be allowed in the specific plan area.

Details about the San Pablo Avenue Specific and Complete Streets plans are online at http://ca-elcerrito.civicplus.com/index.aspx?nid=396.

Residents can ask questions and make comments about the specific plan that will be considered in writing the EIR by e-mailing Kavanaugh-Lynch at mkavanaugh-lynch@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us before a May 8 deadline.

A draft EIR for the specific plan will be completed in June and be available for a 45-day public review with a final EIR to appear in September, followed by public hearings, Kavanaugh-Lynch said.

A Notice of Preparation for the EIR and a description of the specific plan are posted on the city website, www.el-cerrito.org.

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