PROPERTY OWNERSHIP AND DEVELOPMENT QUESTIONS
1. Who owns the property south of Gateview condominiums?
The property is owned by Golden Gate Hill Development Corporation, which is a California corporation based in San Francisco. From property tax records, it appears this corporation has owned the property since at least 1969.
2. Does the City have an easement over the property?
City staff is not aware of the City having any express property rights over the Golden Gate Hill Development Corporation property. If a development proposal is received in the future, a title report will be requested as part of the City’s review process. The Fire Department has property owner permission to conduct patrols during fire season and for fire road maintenance.
3. What is the zoning of the property?
The property is designated as “Residential Hillside Development.” In 1994, Albany voters approved a development density of 6 to 9 units per acre on the parcel. In addition to density limits, the zoning ordinance contains a wide range of development standards that would be applicable to any future development project. It should be noted, however, that State law allows applicants to request waivers or concessions from the City if if some of the housing is designated for low and moderate income households (e.g., so called “Density Bonus Law").
4. What are the City’s General Plan policies and implementing actions related to this parcel?
There are a variety of polities and actions in the City’s General Plan that are applicable to the Golden Gate Hill Development Corporation parcel, including the following:
- Policy LU-5.1: Albany Hill - Ensure that any future development on Albany Hill is designed and planned to respect natural topography, minimize grading, respond to soil and drainage conditions, minimize impacts on parking and narrow streets, and protect view corridors. The entire crest of Albany Hill shall remain a non-urbanized open space area. In addition, the City will work with local and regional open space advocacy groups such as the Trust for Public Land to promote open space conservation and additional land acquisition on the Hill.
- Action LU-5.A: Albany Hill Vacant Parcel - Work with the owners of the vacant 11-acre parcel on the west side of Albany Hill to cluster the site’s allowable development in a way that enables a majority of the property to be conserved as open space.
- Policy PROS-1.2: Albany Hill - Designate the crest of Albany Hill and adjacent upper slopes for open space and require dedication of this area for conservation and public access as a condition of approval for any proposed development on parcels along the ridgeline. Albany Hill should be considered an essential and valuable regional open space resource.
- Action PROS-1.C: Albany Hill Conservation Easements -Work with the owner of the 11-acre vacant parcel south of Gateway Towers and land conservation organizations to develop a site plan for the property which maximizes the conservation of open space on the upper slopes and ridgeline portions of the site. Continue to work with owners of other private properties on Albany Hill to reduce fire hazards and manage the Hill’s unique ecosystem.
- Policy PROS-6.7: Albany Hill - Maintain and expand the system of trails on Albany Hill, including connections between Creekside Park and the neighborhoods on the Hill’s perimeter.
- Action PROS-6.B: Albany Hill Trails - Provide for a dedicated trail easement through the 11-acre parcel on the west side of Albany Hill, with connections between Pierce Street, the end of Hillside Avenue, and existing trails in Creekside Park. Future trail alignments on Albany Hill should be sensitive to topography and avoid excessively steep grades.
- Policy CON-1.3: Conservation of Albany Hill - Protect and restore natural features, native vegetation, and wildlife on Albany Hill.
- Policy CON-2.6: Hazardous Trees - Remove trees that threaten human safety due to unstable growth, disease, hazards to life and property, or serious fire danger. In wildland areas such as Albany Hill, remove understory debris and fire ladders to reduce fire hazards and improve trail access. The Albany Hill Creekside Master Plan may be consulted for further direction on management, removal, and replacement of trees on Albany Hill.
- Policy CON-5.3: Monarch Butterfly Roosting - Consider potential impacts to Monarch butterfly roosting sites on Albany Hill in any future applications for development, park expansion, trail construction, and fuel reduction on the Hill.
- Action CON-5.D: Monarch Butterfly Surveys - For construction projects that would affect eucalyptus, pine, and cypress groves during the period between September and March, require pre-construction surveys by a qualified biologist to determine if roosting Monarch butterflies are present. In the event winter colonies are identified, require appropriate measures to avoid impacts, such as postponing tree removal until butterflies have left or by designating buffer areas around the affected trees.
- Policy EH-2.1: Vegetation Management - Implement vegetation management and fuel reduction programs in the highest hazard areas on Albany Hill, including areas adjacent to homes and areas of heavy recreational use.
- Action EH-2.A: Albany Hill Eucalyptus Forest Management - Manage the eucalyptus forest on Albany Hill to reduce the threat of wildfire. Consistent with the Albany Creekside Master Plan, this should include a combination of removing accumulated ground debris, managing ground cover and shrubs, removing loose or hanging bark, removing the growth of previously cut stumps, removing non-native trees such as acacia where they act as ladder fuels, maintaining the canopy to prevent invasive shrubs, and selectively thinning out denser stands.
5. Is the property listed for sale?
Yes, the property has been listed for sale off and on for several years and is currently under contract for sale. The current listing can be viewed at https://nainorcal.com/properties/?propertyId=albany-hill-pierce-street.
6. Has a development proposal for the property been submitted to the City?
As of December 2019, there are no formal applications to the City. A developer is under contract to acquire the property, and has met with City staff on several occasions in the past several months.
7. Can the City change the zoning?
Because the voters approved the current zoning, the voters would have to approve any changes to the zoning. In addition, due to recent changes in State law, any down zoning of this parcel will require the City to identify corresponding parcels in the City to up-zone concurrently.
8. What are the markings on many of the trees and stakes in the ground mean?
City has had nothing to do with the markings on private property, and staff does not know what the numerical tags and/or florescent paint represents. On the City-owned crest and on the trails on the north and east sides of Albany Hill, the orange fencing and flagging on plants are to mark and protect trees and native understory plants during construction on the Albany Hill Access Improvement Project. Faint painted marks and numerical tags on trees on City land between the Taft turnaround and summit, as well as above the slopes of Taft and Jackson, are from previous hazardous tree assessment projects.
9. Is a permit required to remove trees on the parcel?
Yes, Planning and Zoning Code Section 20.48 establishes a requirement that trees on designated parcels on Albany Hill require approve of the Public Works Director. As of December 2019, no applications for tree removal on the private parcel has been submitted to the City.
10. How can people learn about development plans for the property?
Any formal City public hearing regarding the property will be subject to public notice requirements, including sending a postcard to interested parties at least ten days before the meeting. City staff will be happy to meet informally with anyone that has questions. Please contact Community Development Director Jeff Bond at email@example.com to make arrangements.
11. Has the City attempted to purchase the property in the past?
Most recently, in 2011, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), contacted Golden Gate Hill Development Corporation to explore their interest in establishing a conservation easement on a portion of the property. As part of that effort, TPL contacted the Albany Community Development Department to better understand City planning and zoning regulations.