Dubbed ‘The Phoenix’ and not to be confused with Phoenix Lofts, plans for a 316-unit development to rise up to 60 feet in height on the western edge of West Oakland, upon the former Caltrans lot now known as 801 Pine Street which was auctioned as surplus land last year, have been drafted and the project team is positioning to break ground in 2019.

While the City’s West Oakland Specific Plan had envisioned that the western portion of the 4.7-acre site would be developed with a mix of light industrial and commercial space to serve as a buffer between the I-880 freeway and residential uses on the eastern portion of the site, the project team is seeking permission to build 101 units of below market rate units on the western edge of the site bordering Frontage Road, half of which would be permanent supportive housing units for homeless families and individuals and the other half dedicated to households earning less than 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).

If approved, 215 market rate units would be developed across three other buildings on the eastern portion of the site along with a 27,501-square-foot “maker space” building (“a place for local artists to practice ceramics, metalwork, sculpture, and other light industrial and custom manufacturing art media”); a 7,837-square-foot office building for case workers, property managers and security guards (to “support the health and safety of residents”); and off street parking for 130 cars.

And while the site has been the subject of environmental investigations and cleanup actions in association with its former use by Caltrans, the Alameda County Department of Environmental
Health has indicated that the site can be safe for residential development with the implementation of a corrective action plan as approved by the Department.

We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

24 thoughts on “Plans for ‘The Phoenix’ to Rise on Surplus West Oakland Site”
  1. Is this the site where those massive steel pipes were stored for decades? If so then good to see it put to better use.

    1. “This approximately 5.5-acre site is located in Opportunity Area #2 on the west side of Pine Street between Shorey Street and 9th Street. The current use on this site consists of storage of large pipes. This site was acquired through eminent domain by the State transportation agency upon the re-routing of the Cypress Freeway, now I-880. It is a long-vacant property, due to the extent of its contamination from a prior heavy industrial use” etc etc

      Quoted from the West Oakland Specific Plan Draft EIR. It doesn’t sound to me like this site is anywhere near ready to permit and build. There’s a letter from the health department to the developer dated less than a month ago, directing them to drill an additional five monitoring wells to characterize the extent of the toxic plume under the site. There are already 15 monitoring wells at the site.

      Personally, I do not really understand why they want to put intensive residential (75 dwellings per acre!) on top of toxic ground. Really the city should be guiding these developers to better building sites.

      1. I do not really understand why they want to put intensive residential (75 dwellings per acre!) on top of toxic ground.

        I suspect that intensive residential might actually be better than low-density residential in a situation like this. If you’re building intensively you can afford mitigation measures, like digging out and replacing huge amounts of soil, or simply sealing it off. Not going to happen if you’re building single-family homes.

      2. “…directing them to drill an additional five monitoring wells to characterize the extent of the toxic plume under the site. There are already 15 monitoring wells at the site.”
        So they can’t monitor the pollution with 3 wells per acre, they need 4 per acre??? They may be of different depth, but that sounds insane.

  2. How effective are the mitigation measures for PM2.5 and PM10 really? I would imagine there is a lot of (diesel) Port truck traffic on this freeway? Which means Camp Fire levels of particle pollution all the time for the poor residents????

    1. I assume you’re using a bit of poetic license (?) even down here AQI levels were exceeding 400 in some places during that event, so not quite the same.

      Be that as it may, sub-optimal (aka: unhealthy) conditions were often the tradeoff that the poor accepted – or were forced to accept – for cheaper living accommodations. Now, of course, they want healthy AND cheap, but the world doesn’t work that way…not usually anyway.

  3. Careful study of a soils map of that area shows that 25-33% of the site may be artificial fill & therefore in the “very high susceptibility” category for earthquake-induced soil liquefaction.**

    As others have pointed out the pollution level is likely to be very high due to 880 & nearby port / railyard. It’s also in a tsunami inundation zone (though the likelihood of a tsunami affecting SF Bay is in general fairly low.)

    **Reference: Page 67, Seismic Hazard Report #081, dated 2003.

  4. lol people, all the same comments about exhaust, port pollution, noise, former industrial uses, etc. effects all of west oakland….where PCL, zephyr gate, station house, station house south, etc. have been built in the last 10 years.

    1. Good point. I was responding, though, to how close this project is to the freeway. But there are certainly widespread legacy pollution in West Oakland, including some of the fancy new condo-fortresses.

  5. Named after the Phoenix Ironworks- a warehouse living space on this site in the late ’80’s that was torn down to make way for the re-directed 880 freeway. Full of skate ramps, structures made from discarded pianos, multistory DIY living spaces and weirdos. Sigh.

    1. Ahh, the good old days when unpermitted fire-trap art spaces were considered among Oakland’s creative crown jewels. It’s all fun & games until somebody (or 30 of them) die in completely-avoidable/preventable fire.

      1. The inherent problem is that low-margin or completely non-profit producing arts and crafts simply can’t support the “too damned high” rents required for permitted commercial properties. I think The Crucible is about a mile away from this site and they’re pretty much the sole exception to that rule. Of course, they’ve had to move a few times. Maybe they own their current site.

  6. Emeryville was once the most polluted municipality in the US. Today all but one site has been mitigated. In 2017 the EPA finally got working on West Oakland’s one superfund site. While West Oakland has one superfund site -it has never made any list of “most superfund sites” like Emeryville. As for air quality, Bay Area Air Quality Management District 2010 data shows most of SOMA to have ten times the concentration of particulate matter per cubic foot of air than most of West Oakland. The worst areas of SOMA are ten times higher than this specific site even though it’s right next to I-880. Additionally, the Port of Oakland now requires cleaner trucks on its property and ships are slowly being connected to land power while at dock. Regarding liquefaction, with exception to Rincon Hill SOMA is the winner of this sleeping danger -it’s classified as “very high” susceptibility to liquefaction. This project’s site is merely “moderate”. Many of the concerns in the comments are actually unfounded.

    1. Thanks for that perspective. When you put it that way, it makes San Francisco’s decision to concentrate development in SoMa sound pretty irresponsible.

    2. Maybe you’re looking at coarse-resolution general liquefaction hazard map, which shows the curve of 880 as the boundary of “very high” risk. But the several versions of that map out in general circulation may not be accurate.

      Did you study the map I linked to in my above comment re: liquefaction very carefully? It takes some zooming in & reference to present-day street maps to locate the parcel but once that is done, assuming that 2010-era map’s boundaries for soil types are accurate, it’s very clear that at least 25% of the parcel is artificial fill, which is “very high” susceptibility for liquefaction.

      At the very least, the existence of conflicting maps calls for special care to to investigate & resolve discrepancies. This would require evaluating soil texture & bearing capacity down to a reasonable depth (~50 feet or more) across the entire site. Maybe they took the opportunity to do soil texture analysis / core sampling when they drilled the toxic waste monitoring wells.

      If the map is accurate & it turns out that 25% of the site is artificial fill, maybe they’ll put surface parking or open park space there. I think the only other workable alternative is to drill piers down to bedrock so that if liquifaction occurs the fixed piers may allow soil to flow around them while keeping the buildings above fixed in place in all 3 dimensions.

      It’s this sort of small detail that, if overlooked, might allow permitting of multistory housing, part of which cracks in half and sinks 2 feet into the ground at an odd, jutting angle, during the next quake. (If that happens the affected sections or buildings will likely be a total loss.)

      1. But do you really think this is going to be “overlooked” ?? It’s not like earthquakes, or even liquefaction, are some 21st C discovery that engineers and building departments have never dealt with; and I doubt very much that some low-resolution map they find thru google will be the source for evaluating soil conditions.

        Now if you want to argue that the codes have been politically compromised and this a a danger that’s so great that only “solid ground” – however you might define it – should be built on, well tha’st another argument…and one which, of course, would make the small amount of available land even smaller.

        1. Yes, future development is better suited for Sacramento – out of the flood plains… or Redding, outside the areas at fire risk…
          Maybe Reno will work – do they have flood zones or earth quakes there?

      2. Some Guy, a detailed geotechnical report is required for any new building -it determines hazards and helps determine the foundation design. The USGS’s 2005 Susceptibility Map of the San Francisco Bay Area shows the parcel as entirely “moderate” risk for liquefaction. This makes sense as their 2006 Geologic Map of the San Francisco Bay Area shows it consisting of “Qs Beach and dune sand (Quaternary)”. I think this issue can be put to rest.

  7. ” rise up to 60 feet”. … No matter how bad the liquifaction is this will still be safer than the Millennium tower – which is 640 feet tall and leaning Before there is even an earthquake…

  8. This is a great location for dense housing and a badly needed supermarket. Safeway Paknsave is out at 40th, and the long awaited co-op is planned for around 27th street i think. All of this talk of liquefaction and air quality… these are known issues that don’t stop people from living here. I love the data from Matt of Uptown: All the PM mask-clad bicyclists in SOMA shopping for their organic vegetables.

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