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Sunday, February 6, 2011

'Ocean Lofts' Project Gets 2 Year Extention

Ocean Street Project Intrudes On 'Zone Of Stability'

The city council Tuesday granted an out of town developer a two year extension on permission to tear down a house in north Emeryville and replace it with two new residences, a reversal of their stated goal that the neighborhood should be a "zone of stability".  
The vote (4-1 Nora Davis dissenting) reversed a Planning Commission decision to not allow the two year extension of the project called 'Ocean Lofts'.  

The house located at 1258 Ocean Street, has been a point of contention amongst the neighbors since the owner, Ali Eslami bought it in 2005 and left it vacant and unmaintained while he attempted to get permission to tear it down and replace it with two residences.  The house continued to fall into disrepair and dry rot set into the structure.  Neighbors charged that Mr Eslami purposely let the house rot in an attempt to exacerbate its blighted condition as he sought permission to tear it down.  The council ultimately gave permission to tear the house down but scaled back Mr Eslami's earlier redevelopment plans.
Mr Eslami has contended that the house was not worth saving even before he boarded it up and he has said people have been living on the property illegally trashing the house and adding to the general blighted condition.  A 2006 independent inspection report offered up by Mr Eslami, supports his allegation of pre-existing decay.

Even though permission for the project had previously been granted, Mr Eslami says the tanking economy has delayed the start up.

Before the vote Tuesday, Council member Jennifer West expressed concern that the developer has been involved in a contentious housing project in Berkeley ultimately receiving a 'stop work' order imposed on it from that city.

One neighbor spoke out Tuesday against the project calling it incompatible with the neighborhood and cited Emeryville's general plan and its provision that the existing residential neighborhoods in the eastern part of town should be 'zones of stability', meaning this sort of density increase is off limits.  The new configuration essentially doubles the previous density on the Ocean Street lot, a rescinding of the general plan's stability concept.  The existing house could be torn down presumably and be replaced with a new single family residence of comparable square footage and remain in compliance with the general plan.

Mr Eslami's attorney, former  Emeryville council member Greg Harper said what his client is attempting to do should be encouraged by the city, citing its new found goal to increase family friendly housing.  He told the Tattler, "The two units this guy wants to build have been the best examples of family housing the city has seen in my experience".   The two proposed residences have three bedrooms he noted.  Mr Harper added, "He's done everything asked of him and he hopes to complete this project he started five years ago".  


  1. Harper should be ashamed of whoring himself out to this slimeball.

  2. "The two units this guy wants to build have been the best examples of family housing the city has seen in my experience".

    You mean the ONLY examples...

  3. Nice. Two more years of blight. The council should be ashamed!

  4. 6 years of not-maintaining a blighted house is too long to get a "free pass". There is nothing onerous about re-applying for another permit. I am pro-development but development is subject to checks and balances - the law is the law. Absent truly extenuating circumstances, no extension should have been granted.

    Also, why are neighbors being subject to this blight, a boarded up, dilapidated house in their neighborhood? Don't we have any laws or controls to ensure public health and safety? There could be a fire hazard, this could be an "attractive nuisance" for drug users or criminal activity.

    Finally, were any conditions imposed on the extension, like requiring a clean up? Were neighbors satisfied with the result?