Oakland considers housing projects

Carlino Giampolo, a resident of South Oakland, voiced his concern about new development projects in the neighborhood. Wenhao Wu | Staff Photographer

If approved, a new Oakland apartment building could house 489 students by the start of the 2018 school year.

But not everyone is happy about this news.

At a community development meeting Wednesday, representatives from Campus Advantage outlined their plans to bring a new 10-story building with one, two and three-bedroom apartments to 3407 Forbes Ave., next to Arby’s. Campus Advantage will market the apartments specifically to students, but other residents could live there as well. 

Oakland Planning and Development Corporation invited Oakland residents to offer feedback at the meeting in the Oakland Career Center before the City Planning Commission briefing Feb. 23, and official hearing March 8.

The meeting’s 75 attendees — primarily Oakland residents and stakeholders — discussed the company’s plans for the new building, including retail and restaurant space, as well as outdoor upper-level courtyards with greenery. But they also questioned how Campus Advantage’s plans would benefit long-term residents.

Jen Bee and Ronnie Macejewski, representatives from Campus Advantage, responded to attendees’ criticisms, stating the purchased lot had been abandoned and can now serve as a space for the community to enjoy.

If the City Planning Commission approves the project, Campus Advantage, which owns more than 45 properties around the country, said construction will start by October 2016 and finish by August 2018.

Oakland resident Carlino Giampolo questioned Wanda Wilson, executive director of OPDC, about why developers are permitted to make money off more student housing when it is detrimental to the community’s non-student residents.

Giampolo said universities around Oakland are pushing long-term residents out of the neighborhood, blaming Nordenberg Hall, which houses up to 559 first-year students, for increasing the number of young people in the area.

“We can testify against this, but those words of ours fade away,” Giampolo said.

One Oakland landlord, who refused to give his name, said large companies that want to build in Oakland will force smaller investors out and asked when additional student housing projects would stop. Bee said Campus Advantage would take community comments into consideration before starting construction.

Though Oakland’s residents and stakeholders questioned the new project Wednesday, Bee and Macejewski said Campus Advantage is already forming plans for the Forbes Avenue residency.

According to Bee, the project architect, the building’s first floor will include one retail building and one fast food restaurant, the second floor will serve as a parking garage and the building will have outdoor courtyards.

Apartments will be fully furnished, with widescreen televisions and private bathrooms in each bedroom and washer and dryer units in every apartment.

Bee said per-bedroom rent will range from $750 to $1,350 per month depending on the unit.

Macejewski, Campus Advantage senior vice president, said the high rental rates are due to the building’s proximity to campus.

“You’re not building for everyone, and when you’re building close to campus, it costs more,” Macejewski said.

The lot is placed in a zone where building heights, floor-to-area ratios and percent-of-property construction are often limited. According to Wilson, Campus Advantage is exempt from meeting with Oakland’s Zoning Board of Adjustment because the building doesn’t require any special accommodations.

Campus Advantage can build 102 feet high — 20 percent higher than the zoning code allows — because of the potential building’s environmental design. Bee said the building also qualifies for Leed Silver, a distinction for environmentally friendly and resource-conscious buildings, under the U.S. Green Building Council.

Bee said she wanted to hear from the community before moving onto the briefing and hearing with the City Planning Commission.

“We will listen to the community’s comments, we will balance those with the zoning codes and we will speak again with Wilson who has a good handle on the community,” Bee said.

Wilson said she felt the meeting was successful, as it opened a dialogue between the community members and Campus Advantage.

“We want people to engage in a transparent and public process,” Wilson said. “It’s important to have a conversation.”

Editor’s Note: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story stated that the Campus Advantage apartment building will go up across from the Arby’s. The building will go up next to the Arby’s. The story has been updated.

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