San Lorenzo Express News

What's in Store for San Lorenzo's Commercial District?

OCTOBER 20, 2009

Will San Lorenzo's principal commercial district along Hesperian Blvd. be revived or will it be replaced by acres of new housing? That is the question many people are asking after another year without evidence of progress on redevelopment of the district.

All but one commercial parcel in the district -- known by old timers as "the village square" or simply "the village" -- is owned by a single owner, the Bohannon Organization. That organization is the successor of David Bohannon, who built most of San Lorenzo Village during and immediately after World War II. The one parcel not owned by the Bohannons is occupied by the Lorenzo Theater.

On October 7 the Bohannon Organization presented planning options to the Alameda County Redevelopment Agency for comment. According to Scott Bohannon the agency made useful comments that will be worked into a particular plan that he said will be presented publicly in December.

Bohannon said that many of the existing buildings will likely be retained, in contrast to the complete rebuilding that was the basis for earlier plans prepared by Civic Partners. In addition, he said that "some housing" will be part of the new plan.

Civic Partners, a development company, had been under contract with the Bohannon Organization to develop all of the San Lorenzo properties under an integrated plan. Between 2002 and 2007 Civic Partners released numerous plans. The first was ambitious and innovative, responsive to a community vision voiced in several public meetings. However, succeeding plans seemed to reflect declining optimism for the prospect of anything like the first conceptual plan. (See Planning Issues.)

In an effort to spur development, in 2004 the Alameda County Redevelopment Agency signed an agreement with Civic Partners to deal exclusively with that developer on the future of Bohannon's properties. On January 30, 2008 the Redevelopment Agency terminated its "exclusive right to negotiate" agreement with Civic Partners because of a lack of progress in four years.

If the Bohannon Organization does not produce a viable plan for commercial development soon, the county Redevelopment Agency may grow impatient with the large amount of money it has in reserve that must be spent on new housing. Under the state's Community Redevelopment Law, a percentage of funds collected within a redevelopment district must be allocated to building housing, including below-market housing.

Part of 2002 proposal for Village Square
See earlier stories:

Architects Present Plan for Village Square (Feb. 19,2002)

Plan for San Lorenzo Commercial Center Is Reduced Again (Aug. 29, 2005)

More Changes in Plans for San Lorenzo Commercial Center (May 16, 2006)

Village Commercial Center Plan Changes Again (Nov. 18, 2007)