Monday, October 31, 2005

Vallejo Waterfront deal OK'd

October 28, 2005

Waterfront deal OK'd
Council vote brings out large crowd; opinions still split

By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer

Three decades after Vallejo first adopted a waterfront renewal plan, city officials Thursday finally gave the green light to an ambitious project calling for more than 1,000 homes, shops and parkland.

To the applause of many, the Vallejo City Council voted 4-1 to give preliminary approval to a master plan and a deal with the project developer.

Not everyone was happy. Some residents, including members of a grassroots group pitching an alternative plan, pleaded with the council to reject Callahan DeSilva Vallejo LLC's plan to revamp 92 acres along Mare Island Way.

"I wish there were a way to satisfy everyone with everything they want," Mayor Tony Intintoli Jr. said, adding there will be more opportunities for discussion as the project moves ahead.

"It's gonna take a lot of input, a lot of trust," Intintoli added.

Hundreds turned out for both Thursday's meeting and another session earlier this week when the council approved an environment study. The earlier vote cleared a major hurdle for any development.

Councilmember Gary Cloutier was the lone dissenting vote Thursday, though he had voted to OK the environmental report. Councilmembers Tom Bartee and Gerald Davis earlier this week recused themselves, saying they had a conflict of interest because they own property in the project area.

The controversial project may face legal challenges.

A grassroots group called the Vallejo Waterfront Coalition has threatened to sue if the project is approved. Coalition members also said they would seek a referendum to get the matter on a ballot so voters can decide whether to endorse or reject the council's vote.

In any event, opponents may have another chance to shape the project.

Before any construction begins Callahan DeSilva must seek approvals on individual project areas. The company aims to begin work at the waterfront's end next year developing as many as 1,090 residential units along the waterfront, 562,000 square feet of retail space and about 25 acres of parks and open space on the waterfront.

"This will not be a 'my way or the highway' type project," Councilmember Pamela Pitts said.

In coming months, city officials plan to take a deeper look at the project, including seeking further public input in such area as the development of parks and open space. The city may create a design review board to evaluate the individual buildings and developments.

And officials plan to consider requiring fees for creating such public art projects as sculptures.

Dozens spoke out for and against the project Thursday. Some spectators supporting the plan wore blue T-shirts saying "YES!"

The shirts have become familiar attire at the recent hearings on the project.

Lou Franchimon, a local union leader, asked the council to OK the project. Union officials say the project would create many jobs.

"Make Vallejo a great place to live and work for the next generation," Franchimon said.

Critics said the project needs more open space and is designed to benefit the developer, not residents. Coalition members, for example, said the project's northern waterfront Parcel A should have higher density housing on a smaller area to leave more room for open space.

"I don't want a gated or walled subdivision on Parcel A that doesn't do anything but make money," resident Mark Hutchins told the council.

In the 1970s, city officials originally adopted redevelopment plans for the waterfront. In 1997, the current developer began work on the project.

Callahan DeSilva's first plans to focus on the waterfront's north end, building about 173 town homes and 3.5 acres of parks at Mariner's Cove, near the Mare Island causeway and Mare Island Way.

Next is the southern waterfront. Plans call for developing housing, stores and about 11 acres of parkland and open space near Curtola Parkway and Mare Island Way.

The last area is the central waterfront, where shops, a hotel, office space, a parking garage and open space are proposed near Georgia Street and Mare Island Way. That development depends on moving the U.S. Postal Service's downtown branch to make way for Vallejo station, a proposed $53 million parking public garage and transit center.

- E-mail Chris G. Denina at or call 553-6835.

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