HAYWARD -- A downtown senior apartment complex has been given the go-ahead by a divided City Council, despite reservations about parking and pedestrian safety on the heavily used thoroughfare in front of the site.

"We're getting something in what is now basically a hole in the ground. I think it's going to be an attractive addition to that neighborhood," said Councilwoman Barbara Halliday before Tuesday's vote. "We need these kind of facilities."

The complex, to be built by developer Meta Housing, provides needed senior housing, and the residents will help revitalize downtown, Councilman Francisco Zermeno said. The site is close to City Hall, BART, bus routes and retail establishments. The council approved the development on a 4-3 vote, with councilmen Greg Jones, Marvin Peixoto and Mark Salinas voting no.

The 60-unit apartment building at 808 A St. near Mission Boulevard will sit directly across from a Lucky supermarket, restaurants and shops. To get the shops, senior residents will have to cross the congested four-lane arterial that feeds into the downtown one-way traffic loop half a block away.

The building will have four floors, with retail space and the complex's administrative office and lobby on the ground floor.

Jones said he supported senior housing, but objected to the complex's office taking up potential retail space. The apartment project is in a zone that allows residences only on the second floor and above.

"We are giving up ground-floor retail space," he said. "I'm sad to see this. We're giving up opportunity after opportunity to activate our downtown."


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Councilman Marvin Peixoto agreed. "Once this space is gone, it's gone forever." He also said he was not convinced that more people living downtown would revitalize the area, saying that condominiums built near City Hall had not appreciably boosted local business.

Peixoto said the idea of seniors walking in the area, with its busy traffic, scared him.

The apartment complex will have 30 parking spaces for the 60 units, with 19 more for the retail businesses. Ray Baker, who owns a three-story office building next to the site, told the council that was not enough and predicted that people will try to park in his lot.

Halliday wondered how the spaces would be allocated and whether visitor parking would be included. Damon Golubics, city senior planner, said the parking meets the city's minimum requirement, with no visitor parking spaces. Visitors could park in the business spaces when the businesses are closed, he said.

The council directed Los Angeles-based Meta Housing to charge residents an additional fee for parking. Priority will be given to seniors who do have not have cars.

Meta Housing has built several senior housing complexes in Southern California, and is expanding into the Bay Area.

The one-bedroom units will be rented only to people over 55, said Aaron Mandel of Meta Housing. The complex's manager will live on site.

Meta said he was attracted to the site because of its proximity to BART, bus routes and downtown businesses. Also, the area has a low supply of senior housing and a high demand, he said.

"There's a tremendous need for all types of senior housing," Mandel said.

Mayor Michael Sweeney praised the project, calling it a reasonable effort to develop a difficult site. The parcel, just under an acre, has sat vacant for years, with nothing on it except an outbuilding and two billboards. Chamber of Commerce President Kim Huggett described the site as blighted.

Zermeno said Wednesday that the lot has been empty since at least 1978, when he moved to Hayward.

"It's one less chain-linked, ugly empty lot that I have to worry about," he said.