Staff report dated October 21, 1999, was presented pertaining to a request to consider changing the base Floor Area Ratio (FAR) for proposed development within the C-3 zone from .9 to 2.0 when the location of the development is within one-quarter mile of a transit station (Negative Declaration) (Continued from October 13, 1999).
Program Planner Linnell reported that the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) is the ratio of habitable area of a building to the total area of the property. The higher the FAR allowed in a particular zone, the greater potential development. For this amendment, staff is focusing on the C-3 zone, which presently allows a .9 FAR. If a property is within a public parking district, the FAR is 2.0. Staff proposes to change the FAR for all properties within a C-3 zone to a 2.0, as long is it within one-quarter mile radius of a transit station (Fullerton Transportation Center). Program Planner Linnell displayed a map showing those properties within the quarter-mile radius.
This amendment is to implement and fulfill what already exists in the City's General Plan and Transportation Center Study, which calls for an intensification of uses surrounding the Transportation Center. Program Planner Linnell reminded the Commission that the second item on the agenda would not go forward if this amendment is not passed by the Planning Commission.
Chairman Godfrey recalled that his interpretation of the intensification of surrounding areas pertained to restaurants, retail stores, etc., as opposed to residential uses. He asked if the 2.0 applied to both commercial and residential development. Program Planner Linnell answered affirmatively because the C-3 zone is the only commercial zone to allow residential uses. Chief Planner Rosen added that the City Council did call out intensification of both residential and commercial uses in the downtown area.
Chairman Godfrey questioned whether changing the FAR for the zone would affect the type of use for that zone, and Program Planner Linnell replied negatively.
Commissioner Ranii noted that the proposed ordinance depicts properties at the end of designated blocks (Highland/Commonwealth, Wilshire/Malden) which are not included in the "circle" of those properties within one-quarter mile. He expressed his concern that blocks would not be "divided". Program Planner Linnell stated that staff would review the radius map and ensure that all properties within a designated block would be encompassed.
Commissioner Simons asked if any proposal which exceeds 2.0 FAR would require a Conditional Use Permit. Program Planner Linnell answered that for any development which exceeds the base FAR, a Conditional Use Permit must be approved by the Planning Commission.
Commissioner Ballard wished the record to reflect that he was an owner of one of the parcels depicted on the vicinity sketch, and that he did not have anything to gain or lose by this action.
Commissioner LeQuire wished to know if the Transportation Center Study gave specific amounts of increased density around the transportation center, or merely a request for a higher density. Program Planner Linnell replied that there were no quantitative numbers, but merely an attempt to take advantage of the benefits of the center by increased commercial and residential development. Commissioner LeQuire also inquired as to how much, if any, rezoning from C-3 would occur. Program Planner Linnell felt that any changes in the C-3 zoning designation would be minimal, i.e. the 100 and 200 blocks of East Santa Fe Avenue.
Public hearing opened.
Lloyd Kingham, 323 East Amerige Avenue, reminded the Commission that the proposed project borders residential areas. Although his street is zoned R-3, many property owners have only developed their property as R-2. His concern was that a base FAR of 2.0 could have a cap of 4.0 and feared that projects of that size would be too massive for this area.
Catherine Ferra, 318 East Amerige Avenue, reported that she noted cracks in her walls, and minor breakage while nearby excavation and construction work takes place.
Public hearing closed.
Commissioner LeQuire stated that while he supports mixed-use developments in the C-3 zone, he was concerned about the proposed change in the zoning ordinance that would significantly change the intensity and density of future downtown development projects. He referenced the four-story Wilshire Promenade building which only has an FAR of 1.68, and the SRO on Commonwealth has an FAR of 2.35. By allowing a cap of up to 4.0 FAR massive projects could be allowed which would be too intense for this area and would change the character of the downtown. He was not convinced that residents within a high-density project constructed close to a transit station would use public transportation. He proposed that the current zoning be left at .9, without a Conditional Use Permit; and allowing greater flexibility for mixed-use developments by increasing the FAR from 1.8 to 2.5 with a Conditional Use Permit. This would accommodate the proposed project and would be a reasonable compromise.
In response to an inquiry by Chairman Godfrey, Chief Planner Rosen stated that in the commercial zones, the code allows 200% above the base FAR with the approval of a Conditional Use Permit. In the C-3 zone, the FAR is .9; however, if the property is within a public parking district, the FAR is 2.0 and 200% above that would be 4.0. He suggested that, rather than increase the base FAR of .9, that staff would construct the ordinance to address Commissioner LeQuire's suggested cap of 2.5.
Commissioner Sandoval asked if changing the base FAR would affect the base FAR of 2.0 for the properties presently within the parking district. Chief Planner Rosen reminded the Commission that if that were to occur, staff would have to readvertise another Planning Commission hearing to ensure that those property owners were aware of the proposed amendment to the code. Commissioner Sandoval supported staff's proposal as presented.
Commissioner Ranii felt that denying the request would deny the reality of a vibrant and growing downtown core that is in close proximity to a transportation center. He also supported staff's proposal as presented, but cautioned about "cutting off" properties mid-block.
Commissioner Munson questioned if, from a planning standpoint, staff could foresee any negative impact to the downtown area by reducing the 4.0 cap to 2.5. Chief Planner Rosen reported that for a number of years, the City had no FAR requirements and no height restrictions for the downtown. Staff felt that because of the cost involved for construction of buildings over four stories, the impact would be minimal. Commissioner Munson favored staff's proposal as presented.
Commissioner Simons concurred with Commissioner's LeQuire recommendation.
Commissioner Ballard said that his understanding of a Conditional Use Permit was only to place conditions on a project to make it compatible with surrounding businesses or residences. If a four-story building with a 4.0 FAR meets all code requirements, the Planning Commission could not deny it only on the basis of its density. Therefore, he would prefer to see some certainty from a developer's standpoint, and did not wish to see the Commission in the position of abusing authority or exercising discretion unfairly. He was willing to support a 2.5 cap without a Conditional Use Permit, without a requirement to obtain a Conditional Use Permit with a base FAR of .9. He was also in favor of reducing all the other properties within the parking district to the same level.
Commissioner Ranii reiterated that he wished to see the specific streets defined within the one-quarter mile radius, and staff indicated they would include specific blocks in the final resolution.
MOTION by Commissioner Simons, seconded and CARRIED unanimously that the Negative Declaration be CERTIFIED. The title of Resolution No. 6848 RECOMMENDING to the City Council approval of an amendment to change the maximum Floor Area Ratio (FAR) for properties zoned C-3 within one-quarter mile of a transit station to a 2.5 cap, was read and further reading was waived. MOTION was made by Commissioner Ballard and seconded by Commissioner Ranii that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS AMENDED. Commissioner Munson felt that the Commission was "micro-managing" the FAR numbers presented by staff, and supported staff's recommendation as presented. Commissioner Sandoval concurred, adding that by passing the resolution as amended, there would be a small C-3 zone within the transit station area which would have no base floor area ratio, only a maximum cap, and no Conditional Use Permit would be required. Chairman Godfrey also concurred and felt that a base floor area ratio was needed. He recommended that the base FAR be 1.5, with a Conditional Use Permit required thereafter, and a cap of 2.0.
The vote on the previous motion was three-to-four, with Commissioners Ranii, Sandoval, Munson and Godfrey voting no, thus the motion died for lack of majority vote.
The title of Resolution No. 6848 RECOMMENDING to the City Council approval of an amendment to change the maximum Floor Area Ratio (FAR) for proposed development within the C-3 zone from 1.8 to 2.5, with a base of .9 when the location of the development is within one-quarter mile of a transit station, was read and further reading was waived. MOTION by Commissioner Simons, seconded by Commissioner LeQuire, and CARRIED by a four-to-three vote, with Commissioners Sandoval, Munson and Ballard voting no, that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS AMENDED.
Staff report dated October 21, 1999, was presented pertaining to a request to consider a revision in the Land Use Map of the General Plan changing the existing land use designations of Office and Commercial to Downtown Mixed Use; a change in the existing zone classifications from O-P and C-1 to C-3; to consider site and architectural plans for a mixed-use development consisting of 12,400 sq. ft. of commercial space and 192 apartment units in a four-story building with a subterranean garage; to allow the proposed use with a floor area ratio (FAR) above 2.0; and a partial abandonment of the east/west and north/south alleys, all on property located within the 200 block of East Commonwealth and Amerige Avenues (northwest corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Lemon Street including the following addresses: 225-233 East Commonwealth Avenue and 218-244 East Amerige Avenue) (O-P; C-1 and C-3 zones) (Negative Declaration). A vicinity sketch was displayed.
Program Planner Linnell reported that this proposed mixed-use development will be on a 2.41-acre parcel after consolidation of several properties. The project will also require approval of: (1) a change in the General Plan designation from O-P and C-1 to C-3; (2) a change in the land use designation from Office and Commercial to Downtown Mixed Use; (3) the development project, including 433 parking spaces-96 of which will be at grade and accessible at all times. The building is over 57 feet in height and all open space requirements will be met. There will be 10-foot wide setbacks along Amerige Avenue and Lemon Street, but not along Commonwealth Avenue-to tie in with the downtown streetscape. The Redevelopment Design Review Committee has also approved the design in concept; (4) a Conditional Use Permit for the increased base Floor Area Ratio; and (5) an abandonment of portions of two alleys, to allow better access for trash service for the development. There are two significant impacts associated with this project: (1) lowering the noise level for balconies facing Commonwealth Avenue; and (2) relocation assistance for the units on Amerige Avenue which must be relocated. Staff believes there will be a Development Agreement with the Redevelopment Agency for financial assistance. Staff recommended approval of all of the requests, subject to 12 conditions and two mitigation measures. Program Planner Linnell noted there is no condition requiring a development agreement with the school district for this project, because staff feels that this type of development will not generate school-age children.
Commissioner Simons wished clarification on how many stories the building will have. Program Planner Linnell replied that it will be four to five stories, because some of the units on the fourth level will have second stories. Commissioner Simons also expressed concern about left turns from eastbound Commonwealth Avenue and northbound Lemon Street into the project, and only four proposed handicapped parking spaces. Program Planner Linnell indicated that the traffic study concluded that the left turns would be permissible movements, but staff would have the traffic engineer again review this issue.
Commissioner LeQuire concurred with Commissioner Simons' concern pertaining to left turns into the project.
Commissioner Ballard noted the following inconsistencies: the Engineer letter reflects the applicant as Verdugo Company, and it should be Community Multihousing; also, the Engineer's letter refers to both a "landscape superintendent" and "landscape maintenance superintendent" and this term should be consistent.
Commissioner Simons also noted that the staff report lists the alley to be abandoned as "west of the church, and should be corrected to read "east."
Public hearing opened.
Dan Chandler, president of Community Multihousing, Inc., gave a brief description of his company, and introduced Gustof Soderbergh, architect for the project.
Mr. Soderbergh displayed vicinity sketches and explained the project concept. He pointed out the commercial and residential portions of the project, parking, open spaces and recreational areas.
Commissioner Simons again inquired about increasing the number of handicapped parking spaces. Mr. Soderbergh stated that this was an issue that they would review, but reminded the Commission that they are in compliance with all ADA requirements at this time.
David Zenger, 318 East Wilshire Avenue, felt that project was too dense and too high for this area. He did not feel that the proposed project was compatible with surrounding residences, would generate additional traffic, and any increased property tax increment would only benefit the Redevelopment Agency.
Lloyd Kingham, 323 East Amerige Avenue, noted that the staff report lists property east of the proposed development along Lemon Street as C-1 and C-2. Mr. Kingham reminded the Commission that the remainder of the block is residential property, and not considered part of the downtown area. Further, Amerige Avenue and many surrounding streets are presently utilized by motorists to bypass gridlock on Commonwealth and Chapman Avenues, and Lemon Street. A project of this magnitude would only exacerbate existing traffic problems, and impact existing utilities in the area. He also expressed his concern over the necessary relocation of a mentally-handicapped care facility in the area.
Doug Chaffee, 2704 Hickory Place, represented the Chaffee Trust, owner of 70% of the property to be developed. He spoke favorably about the proposed project, and emphasized that careful consideration had been given to the choice of a developer. He reminded the Commission that all utilities will be upgraded during construction, which will benefit surrounding properties.
Commissioner LeQuire asked how much financial assistance the Redevelopment Agency will be providing. Mr. Chaffee stated that, to his understanding, an agreement has been drafted, but he was unsure of the contents.
Robyn Kingham, 323 East Amerige Avenue, spoke against the project, because she felt it would interfere with her quiet neighborhood. She was also surprised to learn that the 400 block, but not the 300 block, of East Amerige Avenue is considered a historical district. There would also be increased traffic and parking problems, and asked that the City consider making this block into a cul-de-sac.
Barbara Marr, Fullerton resident, did not feel that there should be an exemption of any school fees, because children cannot be restricted from any residential units. She also concurred that the project will heavily impact existing traffic problems on Lemon Street and Commonwealth Avenue.
Alan Morton, Fullerton resident, first suggested that staff display vicinity sketches with an overhead projector to allow the audience the same view as the Commission. Secondly, he also did not feel that enough handicapped parking spaces were being provided, and that the project would generate excessive traffic.
Public hearing closed.
Director Dudley wished the record to reflect that staff had received a legal opinion stating that the city cannot require the developer to meet with the school district to enter into any mitigation agreements. The developer is only obligated to pay any mandatory school fees.
Commissioner Simons felt that the project was consistent with the goals and objectives of the General Plan and Transportation Study Area report. He believed it was compatible with surrounding development and would help revitalize the downtown area. He expressed concern about the relocation of residents in the day care facility. He asked if Redevelopment funds would be used, and Director Dudley stated it was his understanding that the matter was being discussed as part of the Development Agreement. He appreciated the comments from the public, and while he felt the building was too high, he favored the project as presented.
Commissioner Munson was confident of the quality of work that this project would present and supported staff's recommendation.
Commissioner Ballard also felt that this was an appropriate development for this location and would advance the Transportation Center study.
Commissioner LeQuire stated that this would be a quality project, but because it would be attractive to seniors, the handicapped parking issue should be reviewed carefully.
Commissioners Ranii and Sandoval also supported staff's recommendation as presented.
There was a consensus of the Commission for approval. MOTION by Commissioner Ballard, seconded and CARRIED unanimously, that the Negative Declaration be CERTIFIED. The title of Resolution No. 6849 RECOMMENDING to the City Council approval of a General Plan revision to change the land use designation from Office and Commercial to Downtown Mixed Use and to change the existing zone classifications from O-P and C-1 to C-3 on property located at the northwest corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Lemon Street, was read and further reading was waived. MOTION by Commissioner Ranii, seconded and CARRIED unanimously that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS WRITTEN.
The title of Resolution No. 6850 RECOMMENDING to the City Council the abandonment of portions of an alley located at the northwest corner of Lemon Street and Commonwealth Avenue, was read and further reading was waived. MOTION by Commissioner Ballard, seconded and CARRIED unanimously that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS WRITTEN.
The title of Resolution No. 6851 RECOMMENDING APPROVAL of a mixed-use development consisting of 12,400-square-feet of commercial space and 192 apartments in a four-story building with a subterranean garage and to allow the proposed use with a floor area ratio (FAR) above 2.0 on property located at the northwest corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Lemon Street, was read and further reading was waived. MOTION by Commissioner Ranii, seconded and CARRIED unanimously that said Resolution be ADOPTED AS WRITTEN.
Chief Planner Rosen stated that this matter would be heard by the City Council in December or January.