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October 09, 2017

Developer plans large apartment projects in El Cerrito

East Bay Times

Rick Radin

EL CERRITO - With rents and home prices continuing to rise and housing increasingly scarce, another developer is jumping into the multi-family housing market in El Cerrito with plans for a trio of major apartment projects on or near San Pablo Avenue.

Tiburon-based developer Charles Oewell is planning a six-story, 62-unit apartment project on the site of a vacant used car lot at 10167 San Pablo Ave. near the intersection with Central Avenue to be called Avenue Lofts.

A second project, Baxter Creek Lofts at 11965 San Pablo Ave. near the intersection with Macdonald Avenue, will be an eight-story, 146-unit apartment complex. That site currently contains an abandoned Taco Bell outlet.

The third project, on a vacant lot at 921 Kearney St., will be a five-story, 72-unit building to be called Kearney Street Lofts.

Oewell has hired the San Francisco branch of Kidder Mathews, a commercial real estate broker, to market Avenue Lofts and Kearney Street Lofts to companies interested in building them once plans have been approved or perhaps in purchasing and managing them once they are complete and have been leased.

"He will (also) consider a joint venture to invest in the projects, and then he will build them," said Clayton Jew, the broker handling the projects.

Baxter Street Lofts is in contract for sale to another developer, Jew said.

The projects are considered Tier II developments under El Cerrito's code requirements, meaning that they will only need to be approved by the Design Review Board, although approval of the designs can be appealed to the Planning Commission.

Baxter Creek Lofts will include affordable units, which will qualify it for an affordable housing density bonus, allowing it to rise to as high as 85 feet, said El Cerrito senior planner Sean Moss.

Oewell filed development applications for the projects this year and Avenue Lofts and Baxter Creek Lofts "are proceeding at the same rate" through the city approval pipeline, Moss said.

"The Kearney Street project is further behind," he said.

Once approved, the three projects, totaling 280 units, will join five other condominium and apartment projects on or near San Pablo Avenue totaling 316 units that have received approval from the city in the past year.

Oewell's company, Oewell Partners, has built 4,700 residential units in his 35-year career as a developer, Jew said.

The Oewell Partners portfolio includes a total of 864 units connected to transit around the Fremont, Union City and Pleasant Hill BART stations, he said.

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