EL CERRITO -- A housing project for low-income seniors likely cleared its final major regulatory hurdle with Wednesday's approval of the environmental impact report by the city's Planning Commission.
The 63-unit project to be built by Hayward-based Eden Housing next to City Hall will now come before the city's design review board, probably at its January meeting, according to El Cerrito senior planner Sean Moss.
"There was a bit of discussion in the staff report on the project from the design review board, but their comments were generally positive," Moss said.
All the units in the five-story building to be located at 10848-10860 San Pablo Ave. will be rented to seniors at rates determined by affordability requirements set by financing sources.
The mixed-use project calls for a 63-unit senior affordable housing facility, a 1,906-square-foot clinic and 1,156 square feet of retail space on the former Tradeway Furniture property of just under one acre next to City Hall.
The project met a number of challenges along the way, including opposition from historical preservationists who objected to plans to raze a former florist shop once owned by a Japanese-American family on the property.
The Mabuchi family established the florist shop in what were the former offices of a quarry company in 1934. The family was later interned in a relocation camp in Utah for the duration of World War II before returning to El Cerrito and re-establishing the business in 1945.
Eden has agreed to preserve and rehabilitate the former flower shop and use it as a community meeting space.
The developer will also create a series of historical displays on the site commemorating the Japanese flower industry in West Contra Costa and the Japanese residents who were sent to the internment camps.
A series of display panels will be erected in a public plaza planned for the north side of the complex along San Pablo Avenue. In addition, a chain of 13 historical markers will be set in a walkway leading south to the florist shop along San Pablo that will connect the plaza to the shop.
El Cerrito Historical Society member Tom Panas said his original "misgivings" about the project have fallen away as a result of Eden's efforts.
"I'm very impressed," Panas told the commission. "It's a wonderful project for our city."
In other action, the Planning Commission gave Verizon Wireless the go-ahead to install a cellphone antenna at the El Cerrito Chinese Christian Church at 6830 Stockton Ave.
Verizon was denied by the design review board over its plans to install the antenna's power-generation equipment near the antenna on the roof of the church.
The commission approved a revised plan to place the generation equipment in the church's parking lot surrounded by an 8-foot-high wall.
The commission also postponed until its January meeting consideration of an appeal by AT&T of the design review board's denial of four cellphone antennas to be placed on utility poles at 906 Balra Drive, 762 Colusa Ave., 7800 Eureka Ave. and 202 Seaview Drive.
Some nearby residents have opposed the antennas over concerns about blocked views, health considerations and other issues.