‘Minor’ Modifications Made To South Hayward BART Project

By Steven Tavares

Plans to revitalize the area surrounding the South Hayward BART stationcould be greatly downsized as the developer team, including 49ers great Joe Montana, cited the potential loss of state funding and a down economy as the impetus.

Once a 788-unit housing development featuring a 60,000 sq. ft retail component on Dixon Road near Mission Boulevard when it was approved two years ago, may now look different than initially proposed. The developers Wittek Development and Montana Properties is asking the city for approval to make what it called “minor” changes to its plans by reducing the number of housing units to 346 without retail once envisioned to feature a grocery store.

Kurt Wittek told the city council Tuesday the group is worried a $47 million loan approval from Proposition 1C funding could be in jeopardy or lowered to $32 million by the state Housing and Community Development. “We made it absolutely clear [two years ago] that the project hinges on Prop 1C dollars,” said Wittek.

Safeway was identified as the potential tenant for the South Hayward BART project. Wittek characterized the retailers interest as non-existent to the extent it rebuffed offers for an initial period of free rental at the location. If the modification is approved by the city, Wittek said, groundbreaking for the project could be begin in Sept. 2012.

Although a majority of councilmembers agreed with the developer’s proposal, some disagreed with calling it “minor.” “This is not what the public wanted,” said Councilman Marvin Peixoto. “This is not what the community wanted. It is not what we envisioned and it is not a transit-oriented development project.” Peixoto has experience with the South Hayward BART project. Before election to the council last November, he sat on the planning commission for six years.

“This is not what the planning commission envisioned for this project,” he said. “I see this, as it is, that is to replace market place rate housing with rentals.” Peixoto says the housing function of the project is its simplest aspect. “Everybody wants to just build the housing. I want the whole enchilada,” he said, including various types of housing, retail and an urban experience. Mayor Michael Sweeney agreed the plan’s revision is not minor, reasoning the matter would not have come before the council if they were not significantly different than the original.

Others were more amendable to moving the project forward. “I think this is a good plan,” said Councilman Jim Quirk. “We have so many who are poor and homeless. We need this housing.”

Similar to other cities, uncertainty over redevelopment is also putting the South Hayward plan in jeopardy. According to City Manager Fran David, $7.1 million in funding is obligated by the city’s redevelopment agency. “The state giveth and the state taketh away,” added Councilwoman Barbara Halliday. “The project is in jeopardy because of the state taking away redevelopment.”

Until the city can find a mechanism to secure the funding, the lack of those dollars could easily halt the deal, said David. Quirk and others made it clear they would not support using the general fund to keep the deal afloat.

Councilman Mark Salinas says regardless of the more robust original plan, the city is in a very different economic climate than even two years ago. “We’re in a unique time right now,” he said. “If we need to tweak projects like this, I think we need to do it.”

NOTES: Peixoto asked the city’s public works director about rumors an Indian burial site lies beneath some areas of the downtown. Bob Bauman said they had expected to uncover artifacts at other downtown sites, but found none…Mayor Sweeney continued his tough talk aimed at the State Legislature. At the conclusion of Tuesday’s work session, he urged lawmakers to remember local cities, telling them, “Get out of Sacramento for awhile and breathe some fresh air and make decisions that are good for the people of this state and not just good for Sacramento.”