Trying to get new housing in Richmond is just not working, a result of too many headwinds from a perfect storm that includes a City Council made up of NIMBY RPA wackos, a staff that can’t get their act together, rent control and just cause, reimagining public safety, Measure U, a City Attorney’s Office drowning in litigation, and developers who are afraid to come to Richmond because of all the previously listed reasons.
Just in the last year, we have seen the City Council kill some 2,000 units at Point Molate and continue to try and kill 6,000 units at Campus Bay. None of the housing projects in downtown Richmond is moving forward. Terminal One is tied up in litigation because the City allowed an irresponsible developer that had never been vetted to move ahead with a terrible project.
Now, joining those other failed projects is Miraflores in the Park Plaza neighborhood. Miraflores was originally a flower nursery started in the early 20th Century by Japanese immigrants, one of many that were successful in Richmond for decades until cheap flowers from South America drove them out of business. The Redevelopment Agency purchased the property, and, thanks to Brownfield grants, the City was able to clean up and market the site as well as build a new park along the daylighted Baxter Creek. Several historic buildings were mothballed for later rehabilitation and inclusion in the project.
The first phase of redevelopment at Miraflores went well, with Eden Housing constructing an 80-unit affordable senior housing project that is now fully occupied.
Figure 1 - Miraflores Senior Apartments
The second phase – not so well. Miraflores Community Devco, LLC was selected to develop 190 units of market rate housing, and the site was deeded over to them with a Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) in October of 2018. Today, nearly five years later, nothing has happened. The site was rapidly becoming a major dump when I alerted City staff about its condition in 2021 (See Baxter Creek an Example of City Priorities, July 31, 2021). City staff had apparently lost interest in Miraflores and moved on to other priorities, like rent control, defunding the police and public banks.
The developer had done nothing except to take out several loans against the property for over $10 million. Hints of trouble began to surface years ago, accelerating in 2022, but staff did not want to let the community know that the project they had anticipated for so many years was headed for the toilet. As late as a few weeks ago, the developer appeared at a community event at Miraflores Park and told the community to anticipate a groundbreaking this summer, knowing full well it was a lie.
The community demanded answers, and on April 6, 2023, a community meeting was held where people were finally told the truth. It turns out that the developer breached his DDA by mortgaging the property without City permission, and he wanted to abandon his market rate for sale housing for a rental project with higher density, fewer benefits and more risks for the City. The developer has been uncooperative in even providing full disclosure of his modified plan.
Now, the lenders are pursuing foreclosure and taxes are delinquent. The City is moving to declare the developer in default. It’s a mess, and no one knows how it will turn out. For a PowerPoint presented at the community meeting, Click Here.
Figure 2 - Miraflores For Sale Housing Project
Figure 3- "Mothballed" historic structures have been vandalized and occupied by the homeless