Planning commission approves Oakland's tallest residential building

Oakland's planning commission voted Wednesday night to recommend the approval of the city's tallest housing development ever, a soaring 40-floor tower by developer Carmel Partners, that would replace the Merchant's Parking Garage at 1314 Franklin Street diagonally across form the historic Tribune Tower downtown.

"Downtown it seems like it's becoming more of a a better place to be," said Darrell Moore, an Oakland resident who said he's seeing rapid changes in the area.

The $200 million project would fill the city block on Franklin Street between 13th and 14th Streets just one block from the 12th street BART station.

It would include more than 16,500 square feet of retail space at street level and a high-rise tower with 634 housing units, reaching 400 feet into the sky. City officials say the project would require a waiver of the current height limit of 275 feet.

Some resident say Oakland's housing market is tight.

"My mom is paying over 3,000 dollars for her 2-bedroom apartment right now and it's really crazy right now, how rent has gone up, especially for people who don't have full-time jobs," said Juana Ibarra-Ramos, a 20-year-old Oakland student.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement, "We must build new housing to accommodate new residents. Otherwise competition for existing units will result in newcomers forcing current residents out of their homes."

The developer says they will reserve between 27 and 54 of the units for low income families.

Nearby businesses such as the Golden Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant could benefit.

"I think more people live here, more business for us," said Van Dang, the restaurant manager.

But Dang, who opened her restaurant 20 years ago says she and her customers depend on the current garage and its 520 parking spaces.

"Right now downtown Oakland has a parking problem because there aren't enough spaces," said Dang.

The 1314 Franklin project received a wavier from Oakland's previous rule of one parking space per housing unit, and the plans show it will include a parking lot of just 600 spaces.

Customers of the current parking lot worry that could drive up prices.

"It's going to drive up the rates elsewhere. I think housing downtown is good, but there's a lot of changes in Oakland. Some of it's good some of it's not good," said Chris Viadro, a parking garage customer who says his office is just blocks from the proposed development site.

"I think it's always good to have interesting developments come in, but I think it's a shame that places that are convenient and loved because of what they are get ruined because of the process," said Kaytee Miller who often drives to Oakland from Alameda for work.

The developers said they wanted to build the 400 foot tower so it would be slimmer and not block the historic Tribune Tower. There is no word on how much the rents would be for the units. Oakland's city council will consider this and people have 10 days if they wish to appeal.