Approved: 1314 Franklin Street

By Sam Felsing---After delaying its vote by two weeks, the Oakland Planning Commission Wednesday unanimously approved plans for a 40-story tower set to be built on a one-block lot at 1314 Franklin St. 

The Planning Commission was going to vote to approve the tower at its April 5 meeting, but delayed its vote due to community concerns that the project did not provide enough community benefits. 

Representatives from Carmel Partners, the developer of the project, agreed to sit down with members of the two main community groups objecting to the tower, the Oakland Chinatown Coalition (OCC) and the Black Arts Movement and Business District (BAMBD), to see if they could work out a deal to let the project go forward.

“Carmel Partners has engaged community groups in good-faith discussions regarding the building’s impacts, possible mitigations, and tangible benefits that it will deliver to existing neighborhood residents, businesses, artists, and labor groups,” wrote Ener Chiu, steering committee member of the Oakland Chinatown Coalition, in a letter to Planning Commissioners.

As a result of Carmel’s efforts, OCC voted on Monday to approve a community benefits agreement with the developer and to support Carmel Partners through the entitlement process for the 1314 project. BAMBD also approved the community benefits agreement with the developer on April 19. 

Representatives from the OCC were not at liberty to discuss the details of the community benefits agreement the group reached with Carmel Partners. They did say that Carmel had addressed four main concerns that OCC had outlined in a past letter to commissioners.

In that past letter to commissioners, OCC had pushed for the developer to make 10 percent of the total number of units in the building be affordable for people making 30 to 80 percent of the area median income; to put more thought into the design of the corner of the building facing 13th and Webster streets, so as to make it more welcoming to people coming in and out of Chinatown; to be allowed to decrease the amount of private open space it would include on the 1314 lot in exchange for funding capital improvements to nearby public parks; and to commit to paying the city’s public art fee and putting some of the fee money into funding existing arts organizations servicing the neighborhood.  

Prior to the recent negotiations with OCC and BAMBD, Carmel Partners had already agreed with community groups' requests that it hire local labor at family-sustaining wages to build the tower, to give local businesses a first look at the building's retail space, and to provide affordable housing for the project, among other benefits.

“We’re pleased that Carmel Partners was able to come to a satisfactory agreement with community groups for the 1314 project,” said Jason Gumataotao of East Bay Residents for Responsible Development, a group of four construction trades unions advocating for more equity and sustainability from local developments. “We look forward to seeing this project go forward and providing good paying jobs and homes for local residents." 

When complete, 1314 Franklin will be a 40-story, 634 residential unit tower with 16,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space on a one-block lot between 13th and 14th streets.