Draft Minutes of the August 9, 2021, Virtual Design Review Board Meeting
- Call to Order and Meeting Procedure Review. Design Review Board (Board) Chair Jacinta McCann called the teleconference meeting to order on Zoom, at approximately 5:00 p.m.
Andrea Gaffney, BCDC Senior Bay Development Design Analyst, called the roll and confirmed the presence of a quorum.
Other Board Members in attendance included Board Vice Chair Gary Strang and Board Members Bob Battalio, Kristen Hall, Tom Leader, Stefan Pellegrini, and Andrew Wolfram.
BCDC staff in attendance included Yuriko Jewett, Rebecca Coates-Maldoon, Brad McCrea, Andrea Gaffney, and Ashley Tomerlin.
Also in attendance were Anna Radonich (Planner, Stantec), Dylan Brady (City of Vallejo), Frank Berlogar (Applicant), Joe Callahan (Applicant, CPC), Rusty Case (Project Landscape Architect, Gates & Associates), David Terhune (Applicant), Michael Wilmar (Applicant’s Legal Counsel), Dan Schaaf (Applicant’s Engineer), and Anne Catherine Bowcutt (Community Member and Member of the St. Vincent Hill Neighborhood Association).
Ms. McCann reviewed the meeting protocols.
- Staff Update. Ms. Gaffney updated the Board on several topics:
- Ms. Gaffney read Governor Gavin Newsom’s Campaign and Lobbying Directive regarding new measures taken to ensure that his paid campaign and political consultants adhere to the highest legal and ethical standards.
- Ms. Gaffney reminded the Board Members to complete the online ethics training by December 31st.
- On January 21st, the Commission will consider permits for three projects, two of which the Board has reviewed in the past:
- Alameda Point Site A Phase 1 Waterfront Park
- India Basin 700 Innes Mixed Use Development Project
- Port of San Francisco Shoreline Resilience Project at Heron’s Head Park, across from India Basin
- The next DRB meeting will be February 8, 2021. The tentative agenda includes a second project review for the Mixed-Use Development at 557 E. Bayshore Road in Redwood City.
- Due to a budget shortfall, the DRB will no longer receive Summary Minutes. The audio recording from DRB meetings will be available for 5 years on the BCDC website. Staff will provide a brief summary follow-up email to project proponents after the meeting which will be part of the permit record.
Chair McCann noted how impressed she was with these important waterfront projects opening. She gave her compliments to the Staff and Board.
- Approval of Draft Minutes for November 9, 2020, Meeting. The Board members noted their edits to the minutes.
Ms. Gaffney added a public comment from Roberta Wyn who wrote in on behalf of the Citizens for East Shore Parks in response to considering the Community Plan, a parks and open space plan. Ms. Wyn asked the board to consider the Community Plan as an alternative. Ms. Wyn’s comment had already been shared with the project proponents.
Ms. McCann asked for a motion and a second to adopt the minutes of November 9, 2020 as amended.
MOTION: Mr. Wolfram moved approval of the Minutes for November 9, 2020, San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission Design Review Board meeting as amended with Ms. Wyn’s public comment, seconded by Mr. Strang.
VOTE: The motion carried forward with a vote of 7 yes, 0 no, and 0 abstain with Board Members Battalio, Leader, Hall, Wolfram and Pellegrini, Board Vice Chair Strang, and Board Chair McCann voting approval.
- Second Review of Mariner’s Cove Mixed-Use Development at the Northern Waterfront of Vallejo. The Design Review Board conducted its second review of the Mariner's Cove project sponsored by the City of Vallejo and Callahan Property Developers. The 27-acre mixed-use residential project is located along the Northern Waterfront of the City of Vallejo and includes two parks. The site is bound by River Park and open space to the north, residential neighborhoods to the south an east, and Mare Island Straight to the west. The project's waterfront is in a Waterfront Park, Beach Priority Use Area.
- Staff Presentation. Yuriko Jewett, BCDC Shoreline Development Analyst, provided a staff introduction to the project.
- Project Presentation. Anna Radonich, Planner, Stantec, spoke as extension of City of Vallejo Planning Staff and introduced the project team. She introduced the project and detailed some background, timeline, agreements, and public input.
Rusty Case, Project Landscape Architect, Gates & Associates, provided details on the project with a slide presentation, including the location, vicinity, existing conditions, existing and proposed public access and land uses, construction phasing plan, view corridors, and the conceptual plan in great detail.
David Terhune, Applicant, addressed questions and concerns from the June 8, 2020, DRB meeting regarding the pond capacity, the design of the pond, the tidal tubes proposed and their capacity, sea level rise and resilience to the park features, liquefaction, and seismic factors.
- Board Questions. Following the presentation, the Board asked a series of questions:
Mr. Battalio asked for clarification on which sea level rise criterion and risk aversion criterion were used in the project plans.
Mr. Terhune stated that the City of Vallejo’s flood and wastewater district requirements regarding sea level rise projections were used in the project plans.
Mr. Battalio stated that he appreciated all the work done since the Board last heard from the project proponents. He then asked if there were residential or commercial building developments within the BCDC jurisdiction.
Mr. Terhune stated that there are no residential developments, but there is a proposed and permitted restaurant use within the BCDC jurisdiction at this site.
Mr. Battalio asked what happens if the promenade trail is flooded and not usable and whether the promenade park would still be usable.
Mr. Terhune stated that the City’s adaptation plan looks at what happens in the event that the promenade Bay Trail becomes unusable.
Mr. Case stated that in the event that the lower promenade floods, visitors can circulate the whole park using the upper promenade.
Mr. Battalio asked who would be responsible for future adaptation to sea level rise as needed., i.e., the residents, the City, etc. He also asked who would be responsible for maintaining the wetlands as needed.
Mr. Case stated that he believes the City is responsible for determining whether there is a need for future adaptation to sea level rise and that the City is undertaking this work now.
Mr. Terhune stated that the park is currently proposed to be public, owned and maintained by the city.
Mr. Pellegrini asked for clarification on the view corridors shown by the drone photography, including where the view axes were located, how those locations connected to the site, and what views those view axes were trying to establish.
Mr. Case stated that these viewpoints were chosen because of concern from the community that people would lose their view of the water. As such, these viewpoints were chosen because they have good visual access down toward the water. View Corridor 3 was the closest to the water from the roads in the vicinity. They weren’t exact, but aimed to address community concern by showing that the project would not significantly impact or block their views to the water.
Mr. Pellegrini asked for confirmation that the view corridors are views that connect private neighborhoods above the site down to the water as opposed to public view corridors that would establish public visual access down to the site.
Mr. Case stated that Mr. Pellegrini’s understanding was correct.
Mr. Pellegrini asked if there was a larger axial meaning behind the diagonal southern cross access that connects between Harbor Way and the waterfront.
Mr. Case stated that people coming across the street or visiting from some of the existing neighborhoods would cross at Harbor Way, and this secondary entry would give visitors at that corner an axial look straight to the water. The project proponents increased the two entry promenades to 14 feet wide to give the park more hierarchy. The angle also contains the dog and play uses to the right of the diagonal.
Mr. Pellegrini asked about the existing bicycle connectivity from neighborhoods to the north and east to the waterfront in this location and what is anticipated to be there in the future regarding the City’s general plan which plans for a connected east-west bike network.
Mr. Case stated that they tried to strengthen the east-west connection with their bike trail by removing plans for the circle that went around the wetland pond and putting the path straight across the Mare Island Causeway, encouraging people to use the open spaces by entering the wetland park instead of using the perimeter roads.
Mr. Pellegrini asked about the opportunity to connect the existing bike facility that runs along Alabama Street up to Sacramento and White Slew and comes out across the Mare Island Causeway to this location at the central wetland park. He also asked whether the City is considering future bicycle improvements to Tennessee Street, which would be another access point for bikes and pedestrians coming into the site.
Mr. Case stated that he was unsure if the bike path that runs up to Sacramento is a legitimate trail in this location, but that it’s an opportunity they can consider. He made a note of the Tennessee Street connection and will follow up. He stated that improving bike circulation was something the project could look at.
Ms. Hall asked for clarification on where the existing public waterfront access locations are, noting that the staff report included a kayak launch and fishing, and that the Marina has private and gated docks, and what is the future plan for public accessibility.
Mr. Case stated that he didn’t think this project had any impacts on current public access, nor would it add any kayak launches.
Mr. Terhune stated that the project extends access until approximately 15 feet from the back of the existing quay wall which is the back of the existing walk. The improvements to the walkway would be minor repair to deficiencies in the asphalt or concrete due to tree root intrusion or pot-holing, or lighting. The project would not restrict any public access, would provide legal access where there previously was none, and would provide maintenance repairs where fit that are required based on the current use.
Ms. Hall asked whether the fishing and kayaking occurs in the area that’s being improved in this project or if it’s closer to the Marina.
Ms. Gaffney stated that the kayaking is north, or to the left of the site in this plan. The fishing occurs intermittently along the edge and closer toward the overpass.
Mr. Wolfram stated that kayaking occurs in area #5 in the Exhibit of Proposed Public Access.
Ms. Hall asked whether the purple area over the wetland that was labeled as future residential in in the staff report was accurate.
Mr. Case stated that the purple was added later.
Ms. Hall asked whether the streets are public and the paseos are private and if they have access from the adjacent sidewalks.
Mr. Case stated that he believed the streets and some paseos are going to be public. One of the main cross connections will be a public walk with an easement over it. Some of the paseos that serve just the residential units will be private.
Ms. Hall asked if people entering the park from the Mare Island Causeway could enter from paseos or only from one of the streets.
Mr. Case stated that all the paseos connect to the wetland park. Some of them are deemed private because they’ll be maintained privately with the HOA, but that wouldn’t stop people from walking down the sidewalk to the park.
Mr. Terhune stated the private courts are proposed to have a delineation at the limit with the public street, i.e., a different type of paving. As shown on the Overall Illustrative Plan, streets A, B, and C will be public. He stated that they are trying to draw members of the public through the wetland pond through interpretive signage and other methods. A member of the public could still walk down the street and go straight to the restaurant or to other commercial uses.
Ms. Hall asked if there are gates or signage planned for those paseos to indicate that they’re private.
Mr. Case stated that there are plans for something like a low pilaster at the end of the paseos to indicate the addressing. Maybe there will be mailboxes elsewhere. There will be small plinths that have each of the addresses on them.
Mr. Terhune stated that there will be some bollards to prevent the public from driving through, but there are no vehicular gates or pedestrian gates proposed that would bar the public and private streets.
Ms. Hall asked if the landscaping and lighting district maintaining the park would cover sediment removal from the tidal tubes and if that was enforceable sediment removal.
Mr. Terhune stated that the maintenance of the tidal tubes will be public. Whether the VFWD, the Flood Control District, or the City maintains it is still being negotiated, but it will be public regardless.
Ms. Hall stated that she asked because a number of different communities with similar tidal wetlands need to specifically set aside money for sediment removal, so it doesn’t become deferred maintenance.
Ms. Hall asked if the shared use of parking, accommodating retail and park uses, reduces the required parking spaces and whether there was surplus parking.
Mr. Terhune stated they were proposing a net increase from the current number of parking stalls. Currently there are about 412 and they are proposing 462. They do not foresee a need to reduce the commercial or restaurant required parking, but that will be looked at in more detail as the specific applications are forthcoming.
Ms. Hall asked how the number of 462 parking spaces was decided.
Mr. Terhune stated that 462 parking spaces was chosen based on the anticipated uses for the park and the existing areas, commercial uses, and restaurant uses.
Ms. Hall asked about the level of residential affordability proposed for this project and what percentage of units would be affordable if any.
Ms. Radonich stated that this is currently a market rate project.
Ms. Hall asked about the results of public outreach including the public’s main concerns regarding the park and waterfront, and how the design team addressed those concerns.
Mr. Case stated that some of the neighbors up on the hill were concerned about their views and that the design team tried to alleviate those concerns by shooting some of the drone images to show the future views. Another concern was the public wanting more parking spots closer to the parks, so the design team added 45-degree diagonal parking in the center on the north side of Harbor Way. There were concerns about the view from Mare Island Causeway down to the water, so the design team shuffled the site plan to open it up more, moved homes away from the front of the park to make it feel more public, and added berming around it to create a sense of separation.
Ms. Hall asked Ms. Gaffney if there will be a separate review for the retail building.
Ms. Gaffney stated that the project will likely come to BCDC as a master permit application applying for authorization for a certain amount of square footage in the BCDC shoreline band jurisdiction. The retail building would be part of that permit application. BCDC has little to say about the design of the building itself, other than how it invites people to the shoreline through public access. She added that there’s an opportunity for it to come back to the DRB or be reviewed by staff if it changes dramatically from the current plan.
Mr. McCrea stated that it would be helpful to BCDC staff if the DRB could gather their opinions and advice on this project now as a last review prior to its going to the Commission. He added that if there are elements of the project deemed necessary to come back to the DRB, those can be built into the permit.
Ms. McCann asked who will maintain the landscape between the paths and the homes.
Mr. Case stated that he believed the city would maintain the landscaping between the paths and the homes, up to the fencing. The wetland park delineator goes right up to the fences.
Ms. McCann asked about who would be responsible for the landscape between the path and the houses on the Interpretive Signage System.
Mr. Case stated that the public access easement extends over the 10 foot pathway and it would be HOA maintained.
Ms. McCann asked if there would be guidelines to delineate how residents can modify their front gardens.
Mr. Case stated he assumed there would be CC&Rs for this community that would delineate what residents can and can’t do to their front lawns and that the HOA would maintain the landscapes.
Mr. Terhune confirmed that the pathways, the access easement, and lawn areas between the pathways and the homes would be maintained by the HOA. He added that the CC&Rs would dictate what the homeowners could do to their lawns.
Mr. Leader asked for more explanation on the dynamics of the tide tubes that causes them to be flushed out, and whether there are any examples of city owned and maintained tide tubes working.
Mr. Schaaf stated that with the volume the pond can handle, the flushing action through the smaller diameter pipes increases the velocity, and the speed of the water keeps sediment from dropping out within the pipes. He referred to Ms. Hall’s earlier question about sedimentation and stated that there isn’t a source of watershed sediment because of the urban area. He added that the concerning sediment is coming up from the Mare Island Strait. The fieldwork he did showed no sedimentation at the outfalls nor in the pipes upstream from the outfalls. He added that they don’t know what the sediment regime of the Bay and the Napa river will look like over time. The high velocity in the river is another reason the design team veered away from an open channel design.
Mr. Schaaf stated that he knew examples existed that use drainage pipe or tidal tubes to pass flow and minimize maintenance, but the best example he could think of was this project’s system because the two outfalls currently in place do not currently have sediment in them.
Mr. Wolfram asked if the three parking lots north of Dolores Huerta Park are public and if they were used in the calculation of parking needs.
Mr. Terhune stated that those three lots are public and were used in the calculations of parking needs.
Mr. Wolfram asked if the existing restroom building would be raised or if a new restroom building would be built.
Mr. Terhune stated that the intent is to raise the existing structure to protect it against sea level rise, but that they may need to rebuild all or part of the structure to align with current codes.
Mr. Wolfram asked if it could be built in a different location if it had to be rebuilt and if there was a reason the chosen location was sacrosanct.
Mr. Terhune stated that the restrooms were in that location due to its proximity to ADA parking both existing and proposed. It is also a terminus for at least two connectivity points.
Mr. Wolfram asked if the restaurant building was intended to be single- or multi-tenant.
Mr. Terhune stated that the intent was for a single tenant.
Mr. Wolfram asked the approximate square footage of the restaurant building.
Mr. Terhune stated the target was around 10,000 to 12,000 square feet.
Mr. Wolfram asked if there had been any economic assessment of the survivability of a restaurant of this size, stating that there are several along the waterfront that are vacant and bigger ones are harder to rent than smaller ones.
Mr. Terhune stated that they have looked at the restaurant from an economic viability standpoint numerous times, speaking on behalf of the applicant, Joe Callahan.
Mr. Strang asked who would pay for the improvements identified in the City Adaptation Plan if they are required in the future.
Mr. Terhune stated that the park will be owned and maintained by the City once complete, and that the public infrastructure agreement would determine the extent to which funding from the applicant would be required, but that cost sharing can’t be determined until the study is completed.
Mr. Strang asked if the adaptation measures would be for the parks only, and not for the waterfront.
Mr. Terhune stated that the adaptation measures would stretch along the entire City of Vallejo shorefront, not just for this park but for all other uses as well.
Mr. Strang asked for clarification around the adjacent improvements needed for the adaptation measures to be effective.
Mr. Terhune stated that resiliency and protection were prioritized in the project. Measures such as the seawall and grading aimed to give resiliency to the proposed site. Existing structures such as the finished floors limit adaptability. Certain structures such as the restaurant’s parking lot are outside of the applicant’s property and the City is exploring the best way to approach those as part of their adaptability program.
Mr. Strang asked whether river flow was included in the impacts to the wetland pond.
Mr. Schaaf stated that the project proponents modeled various tides including the extreme hundred-year tide, three feet higher than king tides.
Mr. Strang asked how many people attended the two community outreach meetings.
Ms. Radonich stated that the community outreach meetings in December of 2018 and January of 2019 each had about one hundred and fifty community members present.
Ms. Hall asked what about the quay wall constrained the path’s grade from being elevated.
Mr. Terhune stated that the existing wall is made from rip rap and including the loading within 10 to 15 feet of the existing quay wall could cause the quay wall to need reinforcement, whereas moderate improvements to the path such as pavement overlays would be accommodable.
Ms. Hall asked for further specific insight into the challenge.
Mr. Berlogar stated that raising the elevation of the public trail would add additional loading to the slope and potentially trigger instability. Also, if that area is built up, ramps are needed and access to the boat dock become difficult. He added that if high water became a recurring issue, exotic solutions could be considered, but that’s a rarity.
Ms. Hall asked the grade of the pedestrian underpass that goes below the causeway that links this site to the sloughs to the north.
Mr. Terhune stated that the grade is low, at around elevation eight and a half on the project side of Mare Island Causeway. On the opposite side that conforms with the new concrete path, it’s around elevation eleven. The grade increases toward River Park.
Ms. Hall asked if there had been any discussion about opportunities to cross Mare Island Causeway at any point between the underpass and the signal to the east.
Mr. Terhune stated that the public outreach showed that the underpass as a safer option and the preferred connection point.
Mr. Case stated that this connection underneath the Causeway was identified in the PDMP master plan design guidelines phase. This new improvement will terminate into a trailhead that will pick up in River Park. Most of the focus is in improving the Mare Island Causeway underpass to feel safer and traversable.
Ms. Hall asked about the scale of the Jazz Fest event, but the project proponents were unsure.
Mr. Strang asked for a summary of the public opposition, lawsuits, and the project proponents’ response to the opposition, to determine whether the Board should take those into account.
Mr. Terhune stated that there is a legal settlement agreement between the Vallejo Waterfront Coalition and the applicant, Callahan Properties, that mandates certain things including the size of the park, the minimum width of view corridors, public access, the requirement of a tidally influenced pond, etc.
Mr. Callahan stated that this project has been developed with input from many locals, including some who oppose the project. To the extent possible, their objections have been accommodated. Some opponents don’t want a project at all, but generally a lot of progress has been made in addressing opposer’s concerns.
Mr. Brady stated that the City of Vallejo lawsuit was five to ten years or longer ago, and part of the settlement incorporated the Master Plan as well as the City’s Design Review Board that any waterfront properties are subject to.
- Public Hearing. One member of the public provided the following comments:
- Anne Catherine Bowcutt stated that what was presented looks like a superior project to the original project proposed many years ago. She lodged a complaint that there was improper notice for the community outreach December 2018 meeting and that the notice she received was stamped too late. She was frustrated because she was therefore unable to participate in the meeting.
Ms. Bowcutt added that she signed the St. Vincent Hill Neighborhood Association’s response to the project’s environmental impact report, and at that time, the community’s primary concern was a disconnect from the neighboring community to this project. She added that she would challenge Mr. Callahan that the opposition doesn’t want a project. The community understands that this is valuable real estate, and they want to make sure it was at its highest and best use for the community since it is public land.
Ms. Bowcutt stated that if the project proponents raise the grade 13 feet, they shouldn’t be allowed to have 35-foot-tall buildings because then the project is 48 feet taller than what was there before. She asked for someone to address this.
Ms. Bowcutt stated that she is concerned that the entire development is market rate housing. She requested information on the proposed price range and asked why this project doesn’t include affordable housing.
Ms. Bowcutt stated that she thought the project was once considering a public swimming pool. She also stated that parking needs will increase. She also asked if dogs will be able to play in the pond and if there will be safe water access for dogs.
Mr. Case stated that right now there is no intent for anyone to get into the water and it’s currently planned to be surrounded by plant material. He added that they’d have to investigate the biological impact of having dogs in the water.
Mr. Terhune stated that to minimize massing, the project plans to strategically place two-story units along the perimeter of the site. He added that the three-and-a-half-foot rise in elevation is state and federally required, and that the project height limits kick in after that.
Mr. Case stated that they are only raising the sire by three and a half feet, which will raise the finished elevation to thirteen and a half feet since the promenade trail is already at elevation ten feet.
- Ms. Gaffney stated staff received three written public comments, which were forwarded to Board Members and project proponents, and will be attached to the meeting minutes and included in the permit pre-application record as follows:
- Paula Bauer, Vallejo resident, commented on the feasibility and attractiveness of the development.
- Jimmy Genn commented that the design needs to tie back to the community.
- Kay Flavell, Director of the New Pacific Studio and Co-founder of Vallejo Historic Napa River Walk, asked for the EIR to be reconsidered and stated that the waterfront should be more inclusive of the public, referencing the adaptive reuse of the Ford assembly plant in the City of Richmond.
- Board Discussion. The Board responded to questions from the staff report as follows:
Ms. McCann stated her appreciation for the progress made by the project proponents since the last review and the additional materials. She ran through points that stood out to the board in their first review:
- Maximizing connectivity between the city and the park.
- Social equity issues, diversity of the area, and history of the site.
- Adequacy of the community outreach process.
- The drainage of the wetland park.
- Ecological considerations for the entire site.
- Reflection of maritime heritage opposite Mare Island in the park.
- Promenade Park edges, connectivity, and circulation.
- Sea level rise and greater clarity on the vertical capacity.
- The promenade’s importance, the broader connectivity, and the consistency of the promenade as it extends south and north.
- Liquefaction and seismic issues.
The Board responded to questions from the staff report as follows:
- Does the proposed project provide adequate, usable, and attractive public access that maximizes public use, enjoyment, and safety of the area?
- Would the proposed design for the Promenade Park, Wetland Park, and the promenade pathway encourage diverse activities and create a “sense of place,” which is unique, enjoyable, and inviting for people of all races, cultures, ages, abilities, and income levels?
Ms. McCann asked Mr. Leader to take the lead on answering Question 1. Mr. Leader stated that there are ways of being oriented within this plan that are successful. The walk that joins the wetland park out to the promenade is strongly defined by trees which are not overdone. The secondary diagonal move coming from the right that brings people to the water is defined by some smaller trees, and Mr. Leader suggested that some more prominence in terms of identifying the ways to get to the waterfront is key to this plan.
Mr. Leader stated that the programs within the Promenade Park, the dog park, the general idea, and the distribution seem good. He emphasized the importance of small details that tell the diverse community that they are welcome in the park and to the waterfront, including art that tells a local story, details in the play area, the picnic area, etc.
Mr. Leader stated he wished there was a way to have a more interactive link between the upper and lower promenades. He suggested using stadium steps in addition to pedestrian steps to allow users to move between the promenades so that it functions as more of an open space. He worries about the strength of the Palm trees and wondered if they have enough weight to hold the promenade. Perhaps using two rows of palms instead of one.
Mr. Leader stated that there are gaps in the connectivity when you look at the aerial image. The palms don’t give a sense of strength at the waterfront, and don’t connect to the existing promenade toward the parking lot. Mr. Leader asked if there’s a way to create a feeling of connection around the corner toward the parking lot so that people coming from the central waterfront feel welcomed.
Mr. Strang, referencing the parking lot between the Promenade Park and the main park, suggested adding vegetation to screen out the view of parked cars for visitors walking from the wetland area to the waterfront.
Mr. Strang stated that regarding the 2002 plan’s goal of continuing the historic fabric of the upland neighborhood, he didn’t see how people could easily cross Mare Island Causeway. He stated that the primary paths don’t end in a connection to outlying communities, and the roadway blocks circulation instead of inviting people in.
Ms. Hall stated that public access ways must feel very public and inviting due to the wetland park being situated in between development on both sides. While the park and waterfront are public, visitors will be confused if they can access them from some of the streets, while other streets are private. When you have privatized spaces near public spaces, it creates conflict around who has access. The gateway columns at paseos, thresholds where people might enter, including the two triangular parks leading into the wetland, give a private feel. Ms. Hall questioned whether the paseos should be private at all.
Regarding connectivity, Ms. Hall stated that cul-de-sacs lead to less connectivity for cars. The corner of Mare Island Causeway and Tennessee Street is an important gateway into the community. To make it feel more public, the plan needs more routes for visitors from the surrounding neighborhoods to go through the project’s neighborhoods to get to the public spaces. It would also feel a lot more public if the cul-de-sacs were reimagined as entrances for pedestrians and cyclists to transit through.
Ms. Hall stated that a stronger gateway at the eastern end at the corner of Maryland Causeway and Tennessee Street, combined with a better connection to River Park with a continuous bike path from Tennessee Street would help the waterfront park feel more linearly connective instead of privatized.
- Are the proposed public access amenities sited and designed to maximize public use?
- Will the Wetland Park feel inviting to the public to enjoy and connect to the waterfront?
- Are the components of the Promenade Park (meadow, plazas, gardens, play area, dog park, path, picnic areas) an appropriate enhancement to the waterfront?
- Are there any considerations for the promenade design to make the waterfront an inviting space for the public to enjoy? Design Review Board Staff Report Page 13 December 4, 2020
- Does the Bay Trail design meet users’ needs in this area?
- What advice do you have for events that may occur at the proposed parks?
Ms. McCann asked Ms. Hall to answer Question 2.
Ms. Hall stated that the public facing buildings at key intersections along Harbor Way indicate a public waterfront place and that the restaurant on the water provides good activation. She agrees with Mr. Wolfram that the restaurant might be too large.
Ms. Hall stated that the parking lots surrounding the lower park create barriers for pedestrians. Ms. Hall added that there doesn’t seem to be a clear way for people to walk between the waterfront and the bus stop on Mare Island Causeway to the west of the retail building. This is of particular concern because the vulnerability assessment said that 70% of local residents may not have access to a vehicle.
Ms. Hall stated that Dolores Huerta’s name should be kept somewhere in the project to continue recognizing her legacy in this park. There’s an opportunity for an art piece or a statue of Ms. Huerta.
Ms. Hall stated that just north and south of the promenade park, access is limited. This promenade, which sometimes narrows to ten to fifteen feet wide, will be an important connection for ferry commuters, and it should feel visible and connected. The project proponents should leave the door open to a better connection on to River Park.
Ms. Hall stated that it would be nice to somewhat reduce the parking lot just to the north of Promenade Park to make the park wider and create a green connection northward.
Ms. Hall stated that this development might be the one opportunity in a generation to elevate grades to protect from sea level rise. The elevated area in the Promenade Park is good, but there’s no plan for waterfront access with sea level rise to the north and south. It’s important to maintain waterfront access.
Ms. Hall stated that the Vallejo Jazz Festival is a two-day event each year that brings thousands of visitors, and project proponents should think about how the project could accommodate that use. She suggested making a public events plan that shows where a stage, portable toilets, shuttle drop offs, electricity hookups, and offsite parking reservoirs might go. This is another reason to widen the path from the ferry building along the whole waterfront that wouldn’t flood with sea level rise so that if the area was closed off for a private event, safe accessible public access along the waterfront would remain intact.
Mr. Wolfram, referencing number seventeen in the Promenade Park Schematic Plan, stated that there is a lack of equitable access for some people trying to get down to the waterfront due to there being only steps there.
Mr. Wolfram stated it appears that more than one half of the area south of Harbor Way is parking. A parking needs assessment should be done to see how much parking is needed, as it seems there is too much in this plan. He added that he would like to see the parking taken out of the shoreline band.
- Anne Catherine Bowcutt stated that what was presented looks like a superior project to the original project proposed many years ago. She lodged a complaint that there was improper notice for the community outreach December 2018 meeting and that the notice she received was stamped too late. She was frustrated because she was therefore unable to participate in the meeting.
- Does the arrangement of the various facilities proposed within Promenade Park, the Waterfront Promenade, and Wetlands Park result in the best possible configuration in terms of circulation and views?
- Does the proposed design preserve and enhance important views to the Bay?
- Does the design of the project provide for adequate circulation to and along the waterfront for a variety of users?
Ms. McCann asked Mr. Pellegrini and Mr. Wolfram to take the lead on addressing Question 3.
Mr. Pellegrini commented on the viewshed strategy, stating that the original concept of the site preserved significant public view corridors down to the water. Views of the streets running down to Mare Island Way and framing historic buildings across the channel have been lost by the site’s reorientation. The opportunity for the eastern downtown community and North Vallejo to access the site is missed because of the site being oriented around the wetland facility and the lack of connections across Mare Island Causeway and Mare Island Way. The circulation within the park is missing connections to the outside neighborhoods. The purpose of the line of palm trees along the water is unclear and it feels like it needs to be stronger.
Mr. Pellegrini stated that stronger connections are needed to the neighborhoods to the east and south of the site. Bike plans are key to making this site a hinge point between the waterfront and the neighborhood and Bay Trail systems. One opportunity is the northeast spur that connects between Mare Island Way and the wetland park that would open connections up through Alabama Street and Sacramento Street. Another is either on the city side of Tennessee Street or the Tennessee Street and Mare Island Way intersection.
Mr. Pellegrini stated that another area for improvement is prioritizing public access and pedestrian connectivity in the northern corner of the site where there is currently a cul-de-sac for vehicle turnaround. Additionally, he stated that there’s still ambiguity around the park’s intended future use, noting the need for large events and large groups of people promenading along the waterfront. The 10-foot public access around the wetland park feels quite suburban for a location walking distance from downtown Vallejo, one of the largest cities in the Bay Area.
Mr. Pellegrini stated that respecting discussions around this project within the city, perhaps connectivity could be maximized toward the promenade through the Promenade Park via minimizing grade changes between the upper and lower promenade. The speaker wondered whether enough was being done to accommodate informal open space uses and activities such as barbecuing, lounging with friends, etc., while enjoying views of Mare Island.
Ms. McCann asked Mr. Pellegrini to comment on the interpretive panels that give maritime context, character play equipment, and other objects people see as they find their way to the park.
Mr. Pellegrini stated that stories of Dolores Huerta, workers’ rights, and the high number of people who used to be employed at Mare Island with its industrial history when there was a military production presence, could be tied together to orient park visitors to the site history. Visitors to the site could take in the history and reflect on Mare Island Causeway as the primary entry point to the view of Mare Island over to the Tower Bridge, and Tennessee Street’s connection to military history.
Mr. Wolfram stated that the restroom would ideally be moved to serve the park instead of the parking lot, possibly near #13 on the Schematic Plan. It would then be out of the viewshed of the Bay.
Mr. Wolfram stated that for visitors coming from Mare Island Way, the first view they get is of the restaurant instead of the Bay. Restaurants of this size (10-12,000 square feet) often go out of business and sit empty for years. He recommends breaking it up into several spaces, perhaps two or three, with spaces in between to provide more view corridors. A more manageable cluster of smaller tenants allows more views to the water and more economic stability. Mr. Wolfram recommends putting the restaurants’ primary entrance on the south side facing the water.
Mr. Wolfram stated that the landscape buffer between the restaurant terrace and the promenade creates a disconnect and a feeling of privatization. The generic restaurant design doesn’t compliment the waterfront or the historic shipyard view across the water.
Mr. Wolfram stated that the seat wall along the promenade seems ideal for skateboarding. The design could be improved to be less desirable to skateboarders.
Mr. Wolfram stated that the stone pillar looking gates into the park from the residential area felt forbidding and private instead of complimenting the ecological wetland park, and should be eliminated or revised to feel more natural.
- What advice do you have for designing the public access areas and amenities to be resilient and adaptive to sea level rise?
- Board Summary and Conclusions. The Board made the following summary and conclusions:
- Trees and other park elements should be positioned to create physical connectivity to help the public feel welcome and help them understand where to go.
- Relate the project to the diverse surrounding community and its rich maritime history by integrating their cultural stories into the park.
- Connect the project to the surrounding area at the southern and northern ends so that the plan serves the broader neighborhood. Design the gateways to welcome the public instead of creating a barricade between public and private.
- Develop the connection between the wetland park and Tennessee Street as the plan is refined.
- Enhance the bike connection routes through the north of the site, and along and through the site.
- Reassess whether the parking on Harbor Way is effective.
- Reassess if the amount of parking proposed along the waterfront is necessary, and whether some of the parking planned to be in the BCDC jurisdiction can be eliminated
- Name the park to speak to its cultural heritage, perhaps tying in Dolores Huerta’s name.
- Reassess the promenade elevation regarding sea level rise risk.
- Create a plan for how this project will accommodate large events such as the Jazz Festival.
- Improve connections between the bus stop on Mare Island Way and the waterfront to ensure equitable access.
- Consider how topography frames different view corridors as the plan continues to be refined.
- The loss of the historic grid takes something from the plan, but the DRB understands it. Maximize the view corridors and accessibility in the plan.
- Reassess the character of the wetland park and whether it fulfills the urban character of the waterfront and the city of Vallejo.
- Consider changing the restroom’s location to be more in the park instead of serving the parking lot.
- Consider reducing the size of the restaurant building or splitting it into a village of restaurants that will be more economically viable and arranging them to allow more views of the water.
- Remove the buffer in between the restaurant’s terrace and the waterfront trail.
- Rethink the seat wall between the upper and lower promenades to be more generally accessible as stadium steps and address skateboards.
- Customization of a selected furniture line to make the furniture act as a unifying element for the different parts of the open space.
- Create an adaptation plan that is considers medium-high sea level rise risk and how 6-7 feet of sea level rise will impact the resilience of the Bay Trail, residential buildings, and the restaurant, in 2050 and 2100. Include local land settlement predictions in the adaptation plan.
- Consider connecting one or more of the cul-de-sacs to Mare Island Causeway, potentially with signal lights or stop signs at the intersection to connect this site to the broader green network to the north.
- Make the connection accessible between the major diagonal path and the lower promenade so that people with accessibility challenges don’t have to go out of their way to access the lower promenade.
Ms. McCann asked Mr. Battalio to take the lead in answering Question 4.
Mr. Battalio stated that he is concerned about the Bay Trail in this site being frequently inundated with rising sea levels and thinks there needs to be an adaptation plan that clarifies how the project proponents will maintain access and functionality of the Trail.
Mr. Battalio stated that he was unsure whether 3.5 feet of sea level rise was an adequate design criterion for the managed tidal basin park (wetland) because residential buildings might be impacted with a higher level of sea level rise. An adaptation plan for the wetland park is important. The project proponents should consider a plan for a level of sea level rise higher than 3.5 feet. The state guidance is for a medium-high risk scenario, which is 6 or 7 feet of sea level rise by 2100. Perhaps the buildings or something else will have to change, but this should be addressed in an adaptation plan.
Mr. Battalio stated that the restaurant, which is in BCDC jurisdiction, should be included in the sea level rise adaptation plan that considers the state’s medium-high risk level aversion scenario. The adaptation plan should also include local anticipated land settlement.
Mr. Strang stated his concern regarding who would finance future adaptations that would need to occur to make the project effective. Single family homeowners would likely not be able to take on improvements of the magnitude necessary, either organizationally or financially.
Mr. Strang commented on Ms. McCann’s furniture question, stating that he was unsure which guidelines the project proponents were following. He stated that the furniture is an easy and affordable way to tie the site together and create coherence. He suggested a customized or high-quality line of furniture with a broad range of items to help the entire area mesh together.
Mr. Strang stated that even though it’s a great idea, it’s clear the grid of the old neighborhood isn’t going to be continued. The plan would be improved if the cul-de-sacs weren’t there, and the streets connected and formed intersections with stop signs that would have a traffic calming effect. With no intersections and few if any crosswalks in the current plan, people will speed their cars along Mare Island Way, which is dangerous and causes more of a separation between this and outer neighborhoods. It also makes the narrow sidewalk uninviting and used less.
Mr. Leader stated his concern that the only changes to the existing out of scope promenade are pavement repairs, and the triangle of grass by the parking lot doesn’t really have a waterfront use or expression. Trees connecting the great double row over to the row of palms and over to Mare Island Way could help. There might be something wrong with the scope that this design is not maximizing waterfront use.
Ms. Hall stated that this is not creating a robust green network considering that the only connections to River Park to the north are an underpass that will frequently be flooded due to its low grade and the wide intersection at Mare Island Way and Mare Island Causeway.
Ms. Gaffney asked whether the Board would like to review the project again, adding that there seems to be enough unknowns that the project proponents should be given an opportunity to come back and present in light of the Board’s feedback.
Mr. McCrea stated that the Board’s review was comprehensive and that the project team deserves the opportunity to come back and respond to the Board’s comments.
Ms. McCann asked BCDC staff to distill the Board’s suggestions down to three or four key critical areas including connectivity and adaptation. She stated that the advancement of the designs and program layout is positive, and that the project team should focus on the Board’s key topics and bring the project back for the Board’s review. The Board agreed.
Mr. Battalio stated that regarding the sea level rise adaptation plan, dealing with higher amounts of sea level rise does not have to be fully designed, but it’s important that the plan is reasonable and realistic and accounts for components that will need to be reconstructed or otherwise modified if 6-7 feet of sea level rise occurs.
- Applicant Response. Mr. Callahan stated that the Board has suggested extensive changes to a plan which is years in the making and involved hundreds of people in the community. The applicant is interested to hear the city’s view on the Board’s suggestions since the city is the property owner and the entity that rules on discretionary entitlements required to build a project.
Mr. Brady agreed that the city needs to weigh in on the adaptation and the Board’s suggestions.
Mr. Terhune appreciated the Board’s comments and stated that the applicants will take them into consideration. He stated for clarity that the project proponents are providing sea level rise to the city of Vallejo and are about a foot above the city’s published minimum flood control design requirements for both the residential and restaurant buildings. He also clarified that the net bar dining area in the restaurant is 5,000 square feet. The parcel is half an acre.
- Adjournment. Ms. McCann thanked the participants and asked for a motion and a second to adjourn the meeting.
MOTION: Mr. Strang moved to adjourn the December 14, 2020, San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission Design Review Board meeting, seconded by Mr. Wolfram.
VOTE: The motion carried with a vote of 7 yes, 0 no, and 0 abstain with Board Members Battalio, Hall, Leader, Pellegrini, and Wolfram, Board Vice Chair Strang, and Board Chair McCann voting approval.
There being no further business, Ms. McCann adjourned the meeting at approximately 9:00 p.m.