by Mark West
On May 10th, the Planning Commission approved revisions to a previously approved redevelopment project at Ace Hardware. The approved project now involves the demolition of an existing building, replacing it with a private parking lot and solar shade structure with access from Third Street. In my opinion, both the original and modified projects are inconsistent with the General Plan, the Core Area Specific Plan and the Design Guidelines and as a consequence, should not have been approved.
Now as many of you are aware, I have frequently advocated that all of these planning documents should be subject to change when it is determined that doing so offers a significant benefit to the community. While I do not see any particular benefit of this project, in fact I believe it is detrimental; I am not the appropriate arbiter of that decision. I do not however believe that changes of this magnitude should be left to the whims of City Staff or the Planning Commission either. For that reason, I filed an appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision so that our elected representatives on the City Council would have an opportunity to weigh in. A public hearing on the issue will be held next Tuesday, June 20th.
Attached are the opposition letter and supporting documents that I and others submitted to the Planning Commission prior to their May 10th decisions. I have included it here as background on why I believe the Planning Commission acted in error. I look forward to a spirited discussion of how this project fits with our community’s vision for the future.
May 10, 2017
To: City of Davis Planning & Historic Resource Management Commissions
Re: Ace Hardware Project – PA #16-10, CUP #1-16, Demo #2-16 and DR #2-16
We respect the applicant’s right to develop its property as it sees fit subject to federal, state and local laws. Therein lies the rub. The project fails to: (1) meet either the spirit or the letter of our planning documents; (2) advance community social, economic and environmental goals; or (3) reflect community values. The community has every right to encourage the applicant to develop the property consistent with the community vision for greater intensity of use, multi-story, mixed-uses with parking underground (or tucked behind a street-fronting retail component & under the upper floors), and meeting de facto community sustainability standards. We urge you to deny the project application(s) and to rescind the previously issued demolition permit (since the applicant has abandoned the initial project).
- The project is not being proposed in a vacuum. We are confronted with formidable climate, fiscal, housing & commercial space shortage crises. The project undermines formally adopted community policies, objectives and goals developed to meet these crises (see Attachment 1, in particular CC Goa!s 1 .. 5). We have many unmet needs that could the meaningfully addressed with sustainable, efficient development of the subject site.
- The project is inconsistent with the GP, the CASP and the Design Guidelines (note: there is no exemption for multi-parcel property owners). The project falls to meet a multitude of stated principals, goals and objectives (see Attachment 2). We recognize the project was initially already approved in June 2016, but that approval was granted in error. It should be vacated now that the initial project has been abandoned.
- At initial approval, commissions and staff recognized the project was problematic, “The existing and intended uses of the project site do not perfectly align with the planning policy vision along the ~ Street corridor … ” Further, “The project is not consistent with every Design Guideline for this area … ” And, ” … a project with primarily ground floor storage and parking is inherently conflicted with certain guidelines.”
- In June 2016, City staff, recommended project approval, despite inconsistencies with planning documents, by focusing on the merits of the proposed 8,248 sq. ft. mixed-use building . ….. the proposal is in keeping with certain principles of Core Expansion North, such as mixed-use buildings and intensification.” The rational for planning approval has now evaporated with the abandonment of the mixed-use· building.
- The project is a downtown gateway site, within the Third Street Special Character Area. It is identified as a -Mixed-use opportunity site-. The Guidelines state: “Encourage the development of opportunity sites in the Core and expansion and transition areas as mixed-use residential projects supporting sustainable development patterns.”
- To provide perspective, the Chen Building, covering a similar area, has 24,000 SF of retail, office and residential space. The Chen Building provides economic activity, living space and attractive architecture. It is conducive to alternative transportation modes while enhancing the pedestrian experience. The proposed project does not.
- The stated purpose of the CASP is to ensure the Core Area functions “in a manner that enhances pedestrian activity.” The project does the opposite; it detracts from the bicycle and pedestrian experience. The CASP specifically states, “On-site parking shall not be placed In front of buildings along sidewalks; there shall be unbroken pedestrian walks and short walking distances between uses. This facilitates window shopping, browsing, people watching and social Interaction. II
- As a project justification, the applicant states, “the absence of progress on the now 3 year old Downtown Parking Management Plan and the recent announcement by the City Council of their Intention to convert Downtown surface lots to long term parking.” It should be noted that the applicant has steadfastly lobbied to delay the implementation of the Downtown Parking Task Force recommendations and continues to do so.
Some in our community hold the conviction that ordinances, guidelines and policies are sacrosanct, trumping community goals, needs and aspirations. We are not of like mind. Planning documents are tools intended to further community goals, needs and aspirations; not the reverse. Sound urban planning dictates that planning documents be amended and variances granted when development projects advance community goals .. That is not the case in this instance. The project undermined our community goals, needs and aspirations, Given its key downtown gateway location, we urge you to direct staff to work with the applicant to develop a project that supports “sustainable .development patterns” to meet community social, economic and environmental sustainability standards and expectations.
Also see attachments: