First, city staff administratively approved the proposed B Street infill project. When neighbors appealed that decision to the Planning Commission, city staff continued to support the initial decision. When the Planning Commission voted 4-3 to deny the project, the applicants appealed the project to the council and now city staff recommends that council reverse the action of the Planning Commission.
The proposal, containing two adjacent parcels located at 820 and 822 B Street, calls for the development of a three-story multifamily building of approximately 15,749 square feet, containing 11 rental units consisting of six one-bedroom units and five two-bedroom units.
The property owners in this case are Kemble Pope and Neal Cordeiro. The appellants are nearby neighbors of the proposed project.
Residents say they agree with the city’s infill priorities, but believe that the density and height of the project does not fit with the surrounding neighborhood.
Jennifer Wolfe explained in an email to the Vanguard, “We are not opposed to the infill idea completely, but this project is all about making maximum money at the expense of our neighborhood.”
She indicated, “They are proposing inadequate parking for 13 units, which will force renters to park on side streets (the city took away all parking at all times on B Street).
“The proposed building is not in harmony with the neighborhood, and instead of trying to work with us, the developer simply pushed forward to the City for approval,” she said.
Meanwhile, staff argues, “The project is consistent with the objectives of the General Plan residential high-density land designation of the site.”
On June 14, the Planning Commission reviewed Appeal of the Administrative Approval where the appeal cited: 1) parking issues; 2) design; 3) number of units; and 4) height of the building as “Specific Reasons for Appeal.”
The Planning Commission voted 4-3 to uphold the appeal, which resulted in denial of the project. The four votes to support the appeal and oppose the project were commissioners: Rob Hoffman, Cheryl Essex, Stephen Mikesell, and Marilee Hanson. The three votes against the appeal were Darryl Rutherford, Herman Boschken, and Stephen Streeter.
The commission cited, among other things, that the project “does not fit in with the neighborhood,” the need “to encourage developers to take into account the existing neighborhoods in which they are developing,” that the mass and scale are not mitigated, and that it does not fit across the street from single-family homes.
Moreover, there is support for “some type of multi-unit on this site, here, but developer should work on a project more compatible with the neighborhood” and finally, while we need more housing, it should be in other areas of town and “not push it into existing neighborhoods.”
Staff notes, “Commissioners commented that if the project had not been approved administratively, the developer may have offered a project more compatible with the neighborhood. Staff believes that the administrative processing of the application was procedurally correct, and in accordance with the authority specifically granted to the Community Development and Sustainability Director under the Municipal Code.”
Now the developer has appealed the Planning Commission action.
They make two arguments.
First, that the project complies “with existing City Zoning requirements with one allowable Minor Modification for an increase in allowable height above the established 38 feet. Less than approximately 15% of the proposed building rises to a maximum of 41’.6” This height allows for mechanical screening and 9’ floor-to-ceiling residences to attract empty-nesters as residents.”
Second, “Due to central location, proximity to transit, and dedication of one permanently affordable unit, the project utilizes one State of CA Climate Change legislation for a small increase in density and an approximate 3’ increase in rear yard setback.”
Staff continues to defend the size and density of the project. They argue that this “is a transitional zone with different zoning designations on each side of the street that allow different uses.”
Staff states it “believes that the building would be in harmony with the existing structures when considered in the context of all uses and buildings in the surrounding area. In this case, the project is located across the street from single-family residential uses but also adjacent to a church and in the vicinity of other multi-family residential buildings located in the R-3-M district.
“When the area is viewed as a whole, the case could be made that the existing single family dwellings on the subject site are out of scale with the R-3-M district in which the proposed project is located, given the area is nearly fully developed with multi-family residential buildings.”
Staff also defends the height of the project, noting, “The applicant has requested a modification to allow an increase in the height of the building from 38 feet to approximately 41 feet, 5 inches by incorporating a peaked roof…”
Staff also noted that the parking issue would be resolved as well. They write that they recognize “that due to the prohibited parking on B Street in the project vicinity, there are concerns regarding the potential parking impacts on adjacent neighborhood streets.”
They argue, “The project must comply with the City’s zoning and meet its parking obligation by providing on-site parking spaces, and is doing so.”
They note, “Parking on public streets, including streets within or outside a parking district, may not be utilized to fulfill the parking requirement for any project.”
Finally, “Residents of the B Street project would not be issued parking permits for nearby parking districts because these are provided to residents who live on those streets.”
Staff also reasoned that nearby parcels “would likely be redeveloped in the future to multi-family use, in manner similar to the proposed building,” given the city’s lack of available housing and its need for infill.
At this point the city council will once again make the final call.
—David M. Greenwald reporting