It was a project that was administratively approved by staff, but the Planning Commission last month voted 4-3 to uphold the appeal after 32 nearby residents protested the city staff’s administrative approval. The commission believed the council would hear the matter on July 18.
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.
In their letter to the city, the residents called the infill project on B Street “in-fill on steroids.”
The residents in their appeal raise several issues.
First, “The houses have remained vacant for years. During this time, the homeowners have not taken care of the properties.”
Second, “The project that is proposed changes the property from having two small homes on it to now having 11 apartments. In short, the property is being changed from being a natural part of this residential neighborhood to a full-fledged multi-unit apartment building. That is a significant change with little discussion about the impact on either our neighborhood or the increase in traffic.”
Third, “The project normally would have a limit of a certain number of units but because this project has one unit for lower income renters, it is allowed to have more units and to exceed both the normal setbacks on the lot and to exceed the usual height requirements. We believe that this is disingenuous.”
Fourth, “It also has come to our attention that the solution for parking is to ‘park around the comer.’ The property owner told several neighbors that the city had indicated this was good solution.”
In her email, Ms. Wolfe said that there are also those opposed to the removal of eight of the ten existing trees, including one extremely large oak tree that is in the way of their proposed driveway.
She concluded, “Their project meets all zoning requirements, but we feel that it isn’t thought out, is too tall, too dense, involves problematic parking issues and sets a poor precedent for future infill development.”
The Planning Commission, by a narrow margin, agreed with the neighbors.
That ruling overruled the judgment of city staff.
Staff defended the size and density of the project. They argued 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.”
However, critics point out that staff has cherry-picked the exceptions to make their case here.
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.
Now this will likely become the judgment call of the city council later this month.
—David M. Greenwald reporting