HAYWARD -- To the chagrin of renters who want a crack at buying their homes in the hills above Mission Boulevard, Caltrans came to a preliminary conclusion that the land would be best sold in bulk, by packaging the lots together and offering it to a single master developer.
At stake are about 40 properties -- not all of them occupied -- on Bunker Hill Boulevard and Maitland Drive, just beneath the Cal State East Bay campus, and a couple of homes on Central Avenue near Harder Road.
City Manager Fran David told about 20 residents at a meeting last week that it was decided a master developer could best supply needed improvements to the area -- including a wider street and sewer connections for Bunker Hill, as well as a new road connecting to Carlos Bee Boulevard.
"What is the cost for getting in and out safely, and improving Bunker Hill Drive and court so that emergency vehicles can get in and out?" David asked. "In some cases, the assessment of improvements is as much or more than the value of the house."
While it's not a binding decision -- residents will meet with city officials again before the matter goes through the Planning Commission and City Council -- some in the audience were suspicious that a "sweetheart deal" was in the works with a developer.
They said views are prime, the land is valuable and that the city might benefit from an exclusive community such as Danville's Blackhawk.
Others said that their Maitland Drive homes shouldn't be grouped in with those on Bunker Hill because their street meets width requirements and existing infrastructure works fine.
David said a strong case could be made for making Maitland homes eligible for purchase, but they are packaging them with the others because it might make the entire project more feasible.
She added that they have yet to hear from developers, and given the current housing climate, wouldn't be surprised if it took five to eight years for a project to take shape.
Resident Debbie Frederick, who has lived on Bunker Hill for about two decades, said she disagreed that letting renters buy would be detrimental to the project. She pointed to provisions in the city's General Plan that call for the conservation and improvement of existing housing stock, as well as the creation of affordable housing.
"There is great charm and value in having some diversity within a neighborhood," she said. "I do not agree that it would devalue newer homes."
Frederick said they could integrate existing homes within a larger planned development, and added that existing residents would make great neighbors. Others also spoke about how they watch out for one another, particularly now that some of the unoccupied homes have deteriorated and attract criminal activity.
"We speak passionately because we love our neighborhood, and we love our homes," Frederick said.
The land is part of a large swath extending from the Interstate 580 interchange to the north to Industrial Boulevard. It was bought by Caltrans decades ago as part of plan -- now abandoned -- to build a freeway through the hills.
In 2009, Caltrans announced that 107 of the parcels in Hayward and unincorporated Alameda County could be purchased by renters who have been there more than two years. Forty-five properties were deemed not eligible for purchase, leaving the Bunker Hill area in limbo.
With the suburban zoning ascribed for the area, future properties each would sit on a lot of at least 20,000 square feet. A conceptual map shows 76 potential lots in the area.
The city is working with Caltrans to decide the ultimate plan for the tract. While the land-use decisions and what improvements are needed will be made by the city, how the land is sold off ultimately sits with Caltrans.
The date of a future meeting has yet to be determined. More information on the project can be found at www.hayward-ca.gov/238.