Union City plans to sell $ 90 million land, which could mean 535 homes

UNION CITY – Union City officials plan to sell much of a former state-owned property to a developer for $ 90 million to help finance a controversial major road project, with rough plans for the land calling up to 535 houses and apartments.

The developer of Irvine City Ventures plans to acquire 26 acres of land in Union City to develop a mix of hundreds of townhouses, apartments, duplexes and triplexes.

City Ventures’ plans represent the only formal proposal the city has received to develop the large land on the city’s southern outskirts, according to a city official.

It’s roughly bounded by Osprey Drive, Alvarado-Niles Road, the city limit of Fremont, and Old Alameda Creek, according to city reports.

The city council has voted to negotiate exclusively with City Ventures for a period of two years, during which the details of how the land should be developed will be discussed in public meetings and during reviews by city staff. , and environmental impact reports will be prepared, according to Mark Evanoff, deputy city manager.

“It’s a great opportunity, but it will also be an expensive development,” said Evanoff. He said other developers have called and expressed interest in the land after the city issued an availability notice in June, but none have submitted formal proposals.

Council members said they were impressed with City Ventures as it plans to fund the entire operation itself, not relying on other partners.

“I’m really happy that we are progressing well. We have the developer and we’re happy to have City Ventures take on the project, ”board member Pat Gacoscos said at the December 14 board meeting.

The land is part of a 36-acre surplus area that Caltrans transferred to Union City earlier this year, so the city could continue with plans to build a four-lane connecting road across the area, more recently called Quarry Lakes Parkway. The proposed road has planning roots stretching back decades when local authorities planned to build a four-lane motorway on it.

City officials said the pavement will ease congestion on Decoto Road and improve traffic flow to thousands of new and planned homes in the city’s “Station District” near Union City BART station.

However, the project has been the subject of criticism for years since Union City took over management from the Alameda County Transportation Commission. Some residents said the project was unnecessary and too expensive for Union City.

Others argue that adding a wider road through this area would ultimately result in more traffic, as it could be used as a cross road between Niles Canyon and the Dumbarton Bridge.

City Ventures staff attended meetings where the civil engineer for the boardwalk project was interviewed, Evanoff said. Union City plans to work closely with City Ventures to determine how to build the promenade and the housing development in part at the same time, he said.

“We view City Ventures as an integral part of the development of Quarry Lakes Parkway,” Union City public works manager Marilou Ayupan said at the meeting.

Among the 26 acres is Petersen Ranch, “one of the few surviving farms from the 1800s associated with the commercial fruit industry,” according to city and developer reports.

City Ventures are said to be required by the state to create a park in the area near the farm and to make efforts to preserve the house and other parts of the property, but it is not clear if the old building will survive to redevelopment.

Also on the land are the Ramirez Farms, run by Ramón Ramirez, 78, whose company rents farmland for his produce stand, which he stocks with corn, as well as tomatoes, peppers, onions. and other vegetables.

Ramirez had been in business for four decades, primarily in Fremont, before a development forced him to relocate to that land in Union City.

He said that if this development forces him to leave the earth, he is not sure he will be able to continue his activity.

Ramirez is yet to hear any details about the development.

“There is no more land available here for agriculture,” he said on Thursday. He said he might consider moving his business to Gilroy or Morgan Hill, but it would be a long drive for him, a longtime Union City resident, and he would likely lose a lot of his clients, he said. -he declares.

“Maybe this will be the end for me,” he said.

Union City owes Caltrans just over $ 86 million for the larger piece of land and will use the money from the developer’s purchase of the 26-acre section to pay off the transportation agency. Once repaid, Caltrans will redistribute nearly all of the money into a local transportation improvement projects fund, with the bulk, around $ 60 million, going back to the boardwalk project.

The Quarry Lakes Parkway project is still not fully designed. Ayupan said earlier this year that the project could cost at least $ 288 million, although the price could be much higher.

The city plans to use $ 83 million of Alameda County Transportation Commission funds, mainly under Measure B of 1986, along with the $ 60 million from the land purchase, to help to finance the project. Measure B is a half-cent transportation improvement sales tax approved by voters in Alameda County.

Ayupan has previously said that Union City is also hoping for around $ 112 million from the 2014 BB measure, which increased the sales tax on transportation. Even if Union City received this money, the project would still fall short of its funding needs.

Liz Ames, director of the BART board of directors for the Union City area and president of community organization Save Our Hills, said she believed the development plans were too dense for the land, which is located in an area at risk of liquefaction. She also believes the city should focus on improving Decoto Road and areas closer to the BART station, instead of building the promenade. Houses near the proposed causeway would be almost a mile from the station.

“It really is a highway on the backs of local taxpayers,” she said Thursday.

“If they were really thinking about transit-oriented development,” she said, “you wouldn’t need this four-lane road. They could reinvent Decoto Road and install cycle lanes and protected intersections there, ”she said.