San Rafael Council Approves Aldersly Redevelopment Plan

12/07/2022 | News | Reading Time 4 Minutes

The San Rafael City Council has unanimously approved a plan to redevelop the Aldersly retirement community. The project at 326 and 308 Mission Ave. was approved at public hearing Monday. The plan required the certification of an environmental impact report and the approval of a zoning amendment, a master use permit amendment and environmental and design review permit. The project would increase the number of independent living apartments from 55 to 69. The site would continue to have 35 assisted living and memory care beds and 20 skilled nursing beds.

The plan increases the average apartment size from 566 square feet to 955 square feet, while also providing more modern layouts and amenities. The project would require the demolition of six buildings and the construction of three new buildings. Four buildings would be renovated and new outdoor spaces, including a memory care garden, an activity lawn and a rose terrace, would be added. The environmental impact report concluded that the redevelopment would result in disqualification from the California Register of Historical Places, which concerned the Planning Commission when they reviewed plans.

The complex is not listed on the register now. However, the environmental analysis concluded that the cohesive collection of the buildings at the site represents the “Second Bay Tradition” architectural style and is eligible to receive a historic district designation. The proposed demolition and remodeling of the property would result in ineligibility for listing.

Aldersly, founded as a retirement community for Danish-American immigrants in 1921, has been redeveloped over time, and none of the original buildings still stands. The buildings that have historic significance are those that were part of the site’s 1961 master plan by Rex Whitaker Allen & Associates. To offset the historical loss, the proposal includes a plan to “document and provide interpretation, commemoration, and salvage of the historic resources prior to any demolition,” according to the final EIR and staff report.

The Design Review Board and Planning Commission both gave unanimous endorsements of the plan. While the project has received mostly strong support, one family lodged complaints that five residents, including their mother, will be forced to move out of their home due to the planned construction. John Simon said “the first priority is to take care of the residents that are there now.” He said that after paying 10 years of rent, his mother has “earned the right to live there, and I think Aldersly should figure out a way to make that happen.” Peter Schakow, president of the Aldersly board, said, “I understand completely the anguish of all of the sudden being told that your unit that you moved into and now call home is going to disappear.” Schakow said the project has been in the planning for over five years, and through that time, they’ve met with residents to explain what is happening and their options.

He said they’ve stop admitting new residents in certain units. These units were offered to tenants of units slated for demolition, he said. Additionally, rooms in assisted living were offered. He said they will also cover expenses for moving to a neighboring facility, if needed. “We will find solutions,” he said. “When people call Aldersly their home, we guarantee we will take care of them for the rest of their lives.” Councilmember Maribeth Bushey called the project a “well-thought-out and well-presented plan.” She said there will need to be public outreach to inform the community of planned street closures during construction. Regarding the concerns of displacement, she told the applicant team, “I will hold you to your commitment that you will take care of those people.” After the meeting, Shannon Brown, executive director of Aldersly, said, “We are pleased that after a discussion yesterday evening, we are now working collaboratively with her family to find her a new temporary home on the Aldersly campus.” Construction is expected to begin in June and last 19 months.