San Leandro approves 42-unit housing project that angered NIMBYs

The San Leandro City Council approved one of the city’s most contentious housing projects in years on Monday night amid continuing concerns from neighbors over parking and traffic. 

The project, referred to as the 1388 Bancroft Apartments, is a three-story, 42-unit, multi-family residential development initially proposed to include more than 70 units. The higher density had been vehemently opposed by neighbors for nearly four years, stoked in part, by advocacy from former San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy.

At the behest of residents in the area last February, the San Leandro City Council urged the project’s developer, Tom Silva, to lower the number of units from 42 to 39. Residents had been upset over the city’s previous moves to rezone the property, located across the street from Bancroft Middle School and in an area nested between the city’s downtown and residential areas. 

The council’s decision early Tuesday keeps the proposed green building at 42 units, but with two units reserved for below market-rate tenants, another two pegged at 120 percent of Annual Median Income. The developer will pay in-lieu fees for two additional affordable units. A parking management plan will need to come back to the council for final approval of the project later in the process. 

The council voted, 4-1, with one abstention. San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter, Councilmembers Pete Ballew, Deborah Cox, and Corina Lopez backed the proposal. Coucnilemmber Victor Aguilar voted no, and Councilmember Benny Lee abstained. Councilmember Ed Hernandez was absent on Monday night.  

The property had been originally zoned for 24 units per acre, a key fact often raised by neighbors who believe city leaders had acquiesced to the developer’s wishes for higher density.

At 1.27 acres, the 1388 Bancroft Apartments property would have previously been allowed up to 31 units of housing. The range in potential units–from 73 to 31 units–led both Silva and residents who opposed the project to posture over who was compromising and who was not. 

San Leandro developer Tom Silva at a community meeting in 2018 to discuss the 1388 Bancroft Apartments project with neighbors.

“We all got to get along to move along,” Silva said. The political landscape at the state-level has changed drastically since the project last came before the council in February, he added. For instance, the onset of a pandemic and a number of new state laws on the way that will further take local control of housing approvals and zoning away from municipalities. 

“We think we could put 81 units here,” Silva told the council. “We wanted to compromise. Compromise is needed more than ever.”

Some councilmembers took Silva at his word. Councilmember Cox, who represents the area where 1388 Bancroft is located, said she struggled with the Monday night’s vote. “I’m worried that I won’t be able to walk in my neighborhood,” she said. “There’s been a war of words and I understand and appreciate the side of my neighbors and studying this so closely,” Cox said, before adding, she believed Silva could have built far more units at the site. “I wished it would have come in [at 39], but it didn’t,” she lamented.

Councilmember Ballew repeatedly quizzed San Leandro’s city attorney about the ramifications of voting no against the project amid changes in state housing laws, including whether the city could be at risk for a lawsuit. “I don’t believe we have a strong prospect of winning,” said Richard Pio Roda, San Leandro’s city attorney.

When asked whether Silva would contemplate a lawsuit against the city if the council voted down his project, he said, “Will I do something about it after? I reserve the right to do so.”

Sentiment by some councilmembers to increase the number of below market-rate units will add an additional $800,000 in costs to the project’s bottom line, Silva said. “We’re close to the fine line of making this project unfeasible.” But a counteroffer by Silva to designate two below market-rate units at 120% of Area Median Income, essentially making them potentially workforce housing, was accepted by the council.

For several reasons, the project ticked many boxes prized by housing and environment groups. It’s slated to be green-certified and is predicated on future residents accessing transportation other than cars. High-speed internet included in the buidling’s design aims to attract tech workers who may be eyeing the ability to work from home. It is also within a mile of the San Leandro BART station.

In addition, while many municipalities have chosen to build a raft of new market-rate homes and developments in recent years, while lagging behind on building affordable housing, San Leandro has it reversed. 

The city has stumbled over the past decade in attracting market-rate units, while approving a steady number of affordable housing units. The 1388 Bancroft Apartment project could fill the up-market void in San Leandro’s housing market, city staff said. Silva told the council rents for a two-bedroom-two-bathroom unit would run up to $4,000 a month.

Councilmembers Lopez and Aguilar equated the high rents to redlining and gentrification. When Mayor Cutter disagreed with the characterization, Aguilar said the comment was an example of “white privilege.”

The amount of enmity between some councilmembers has festered for years between the project’s future neighbors and the developer. Silva, a thoughtful, but sometimes brash local developer who eschews business suits and perfectly coiffed hair for sweatpants, flip-flops, a thick ponytail and long goatee, has often jousted with neighbors at community meetings in recent years. Silva flashed similar discontent with some councilmembers on Tuesday night.

16 thoughts on “San Leandro approves 42-unit housing project that angered NIMBYs

  1. First off san leandro should be happy to have a responsible property owner like Mr Thomas Silva, unlike the previous owner of 1300 bancroft. I worked in that disgusting dump for 8 yrs. IT NEEDS TO BE TORN DOWN!
    The “traffic” you speak of is due to the school, parents pick up kids (cluster f*ck) 1300 bancroft park lot. I was late from lunch everyday! The “size” of the building is not the concern, it’s about the responsibility of the owner to screen qualified tenants. Mr Silva has mastered this! I was ran out of san leandro 19 yrs ago by owners who didnt like my cats or children. I was blessed to have found Mr. Silva, his compassion and empathy during the 2008 crash saved my family of 5 from living in a car! Best landlord in bay area! I’m sorry to see san leandro residents reflective attitude is.. “not in my neighborhood..those people” AREN’T YOU A LITTLE OLD FOR TEMPER TANTRUMS?! SHAME ON YOU! Prevention of progress due to your own fears, that is so sad.


  2. I’ve lived in the neighborhood which will be effected my entire life. Rich techies from SF and elsewhere ruined a great place to live.


  3. Perhaps the author should have checked a few details before publishing such a biased article. First, Silva isn’t my neighbor. He doesn’t even live in San Leandro. Second, the five story monstrosity he wanted to build across the street from a school, a church, and a convalescent home, with its car stackers and complete lack of traffic mitigation would have been a nightmare for any one who lived within a mile. Third, if you consider being four or five blocks away as being “nested between the city’s downtown and residential areas” then your sense of distance may be a bit off. Did Silva pay you for this ? If not, he should have.


  4. Donrohill, painting the opposition, that is those that disagree with you, with a brush of socialism is reflective of the advent of McCarthyism which thrived in San Leandro in the Fifties and Sixties. The language in your post, proclaim your bias. Your choice of words are chosen to inflame and incite the fascist base to rise up in defense of perceived moral high grounds. Free market and laissez faire are the same concept-critical components of American Capitalism. Cannabis sales are legal. Pornography is legal. Cigarettes are legal. Rents are legal. Socialism is not the issue. The rule of the majority is the issue. If you want more land accessible to the public, gather your brothers and sisters around you. Vote as a group. You will win if you are a majority. If you are a squeaky wheel without a message or consensus you will lose. Join the majority and exercise your rights as as American. If you prefer to be a hater, keep it up. You will not win until you represent the majority who vote. Voting is what you want. Work through your Council Person, your Supervisor, the SLPD, the Sheriff, your Assemblyperson, and your State Senator. Of course you can just bitch if you are afraid to be an American.


  5. Donrohill, Anarchy happens when the oppressed receive no redress of grievances. Anarchy happens when government oppresses the people. Look to your history to see the impact of Anarchy in the United States, in California and in the Bay Area. These are the topics not presented in school, not tested for by school districts, and debunked and discredited by government, who all want to make sure that you the oppressed see the world the way you the oppressor wants them to see. Out of that comes Revolution and Change. We are living the dream today.


  6. Mutei, White folks ae upset about Brown, Black, Yellow, Rainbow and any others taking over San Leandro. This is unlikely to change until those White Non-Hispanics over the age of 50 are less than 15% of the population.


  7. Democrats mean well, but have shown that they are utterly lost. Anarchy is inevitable when you hand power over to kids who can’t tell you the diameter of the earth or the year the Civil War started, but who are certain they know right from wrong.


  8. Those who use “gentrification” as a criticism are (consciously or not) hiding their socialist leanings. If you don’t believe in free markets, especially if this is done selectively (weed and porn sales yes, cigarettes and rent no), you are evidencing a “might makes right” philosophy. That is what socialism is: the might of the majority takes what it wants (eg, land values) from the individual. I live near this project, and would love more open space (sans dopers, ideally), but IT ISN’T MY PROPERTY.


  9. What’s not to love? I live near Siempre Verde Park. We never take the kids there in the evening or the weekend, because of all the weed smoke, from loving parents sitting in their cars, or toking up right there in the playground. And now with Covid-19, there are the large group birthday parties which are always a joy to see, combined of course with lots of weed smoke wafting over the whole park. As an added bonus, all across San Leandro you get to hear the wonderful sound of ear-splitting cars racing around, men proclaiming their manhood with a sonic assault. San Leandro. It’s a WONDERFUL place. Just don’t tell anyone how wonderful, because any person who doesn’t like these things, well hey, there must be something wrong with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve lived here forever, infact my moms whole side of her family lived here. Most are all gone now, but you sure hit the nail on the head in regards to it not being the same anymore. Definitely starting to look like Oakland. Did or have you noticed our 580 freeway and all the trash along the side? Terrible. Never did it look like that when I was a kid.


  11. We’ve lived here for decades having raised a family. The daughters and their families have moved out of town. The younger one and her family are loving Texas. Have to admit, San Leandro isn’t what it once was. Sad that it has turned into just a smaller version of Oakland.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hoorah for Gentrification! No Parking. Expensive Dining. No Infrastructure improvements. More lanes for cycling separated from traffic. High Density transportation. Rents go up. Less housing for support employees. Some vision. Looks like the dreams of Limited Diversity are well on their way. So much for San Leandro.


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