"SOCO DISTIRCT" ALLEY IMPROVEMENTS. APPLICANT AND PROPERTY OWNER: CITY OF FULLERTON.
An informational presentation of an alley improvement project within the 100 block west of Harbor Boulevard (between Commonwealth and Santa Fe Avenues).
This is a community and property owner driven project. The City has been working to achieve their vision. This item has gone before City Council in terms of reviewing a conceptual design. It is being presented to the RDRC for professional feedback on the details of the plans, and for informational purposes.
Mr. Galvin stated that improvements have not been done to this particular block since 1974. Business owners in the area approached the Redevelopment Agency for assistance to update the block, with intentions to attract additional businesses and patrons. This project is comprised of mainly public improvements to the alley. Separately, property owners have proceeded with seismic improvements to their properties as part of a Redevelopment Department Seismic Upgrade Program. The seismic upgrade is a separate project from the "SOCO" proposal, which is intended to establish a community identity that distinguishes their block from others in the Downtown area. The idea for the "SOCO" (South of Commonwealth) District is to get a focal feature in the center, where the East West Alley intersects with the two parking areas coming off of Commonwealth and Santa Fe. The idea is to get something up in the air, which identifies the area with signage and decorative lighting. A secondary sign is proposed across Santa Fe Avenue at Harbor Boulevard, as are smaller pedestrian signs at the alley entrances at Commonwealth Avenue, Santa Fe Avenue, and Malden Avenue.
Pavement improvements will be applied to both private property and public areas to provide consistency in design. The design will include brick pavers on public property and concrete for the private properties. A private property area along the public alley will be included in the project improvements. This area will provide parking during the day and will be closed off in the evening and weekends for activities sponsored by the local restaurants. In order to allow deliveries to continue in the alley, the segments from the North-South alley to the parking lots will be one way, which will allow additional landscaping. A few of the properties need a great deal of attention, however the proposed improvements need to go forward to show the City's commitment to improving the area.
The "Primary Structure" will consist of individual internally illuminated letters with corrugated backing. The letters will be backlit to provide a white neon halo effect. A corrugated roof has been included in keeping with the areas industrial history. Vintage style light fixtures will be provided for security purposes. The secondary sign structure will be placed across Santa Fe Ave. at the Harbor Blvd. entrance to attract the attention of over 40,000 cars on Harbor Blvd each day. Each of the entrances to the alleys from Commonwealth, Santa Fe, and Malden will have a single faced pedestrian sign. The color of all the sign metal is patina, which requires little maintenance. Old style granite globe pole lights will be placed in the parking lots and on Santa Fe Ave. The landscaping will consist of magnolia and palm trees.
The area behind Steamers will have parallel parking with a sidewalk similar to the front of Steamers. The area could allow outdoor dining at the rear. Some of the businesses are not very attractive so staff has proposed a screening wall with gates and landscaping. The auto repair shop currently has a wall with parking in front along the alley. They have volunteered to relocate their parking behind the proposed wall and dedicate five feet for landscape if the City funds the project. The utilities will be relocated underground starting this June. Trash bins have been moved to dedicated areas.
Chairman Daybell asked if this project is funded by the Redevelopment Agency. Mr. Galvin confirmed that it would be in hopes that property owners would invest in additional improvements on the existing buildings. He stated that the project is estimated at 1.5 million dollars. Committee member Silber asked how the project affected the property values in the area. Chief Planner Rosen replied that the values would increase greatly. Member Silber asked how much glare would result from the streetlights, and was concerned about them being too bright. Mr. Galvin stated that the old lights are bright due to the spacing and would have the consultants explore additional types of lighting and light intensity. There was questions about the suspended lights across the alley.
Committee member Johnson asked if the plan included installing bollards in the parking area. Mr. Galvin stated the public would be using this parking lot for events and they would be responsible for blocking off the parking lot. Usually this is with A-frame barricades. Committee member Johnson asked if they considered using vine pockets and detached trellis. He thought greenery was needed. Mr. Galvin stated that the vine pockets were a good idea in theory, but would be a maintenance problem for City landscape crews. The plans could include trellis, even without landscaping, and the City and consultants would consider it. Committee member Johnson suggested using a similar design as can be found at the entrance of Disneyland Park. He described the wall trellis as being a crisscross of thin wire with small vines growing on it. Committee member Silber questioned who is responsible once the alley is closed for events in the area. Chief Planner Rosen replied that the same rules and stipulations for a block party would be applied to the alley. Committee member Coffman expressed some concern relating to future construction projects damaging the alley hardscape. He thought the concrete band at the sides of the brick pavers was good because it could easily be repaired.
Associate Planner Eastman had some questions about the maintenance of the grease interceptors and tearing up the paving. Mr. Galvin stated that the existing restaurants were ok, however new restaurants would be required to install their own. Chief Planner Rosen added that, when possible, it is recommended that an oversized interceptor be installed for the use multiple restaurants. Chairman Daybell stated that a time limit should be given to business owners requiring them not to disturb the asphalt for a number of years to maintain the surface of the street.
Mr. Galvin stated the water services would be extended out to Commonwealth and no sewer or utility lines would go through the alley. Committee member Johnson wondered if the city would fund the relocation of waterlines. Mr. Galvin in the affirmative. The relocation project had been approved before the alley improvements were proposed and are currently underway.
The Committee questioned how staff planned to clean the street. Mr. Galvin stated that a street sweeper, currently used in the Downtown area, would also be used in the SOCO alley. Associate Planner Eastman suggested that the concrete aggregate paving be a dark color to hide oil stains from cars. Eastman also stated that the signs have an exposed raceway, and staff would suggest that the raceway be located on the inside of the sign structure. He said that staff would also recommend a color for the "SOCO" sign that contrasts with the sign structure, as the proposal looks monotone. He asked if a color palette had been considered for the District. He recommended festive colors to create a lively fun space. Member Coffman asked if the intent is to create an image that the structures have been there since the 20s or 30s, or a whole new image. Committee member Coffman said to make it look old; then he thinks the sign sizes and color are too much. He said that old marquee district signs are more subdued. Galvin said the concept was derived from the Transportation Center's overpass, which is "new industrial". Coffman said individual SOCO letters should be considered; the spacing between letters should be greater, and perhaps externally illuminated. There was discussion regarding established historical street arches in Southern California. Committee member Coffman said the sign does not need to be the focal point of the structure, but rather part of the structure.
Chairman Daybell opened the meeting to public comments. Mr. Walt Johnson expressed his enthusiasm for this project and noted that property values and sales tax have continued to increase.
Chairman Daybell closed the public comments and turned the meeting over to the Committee members.
Committee member Johnson approved of the project and suggested adding a wall treatment of some kind such as wall art. There was some discussion regarding public art, and how public art can be used as a focal point. Committee member Silber agreed that public art would invite public socialization and conversation. Member Johnson said blank walls invite graffiti and suggested vines and landscaping.
Committee member Coffman asked if the plans included string lights. Mr. Galvin replied that it would be left up to the property owners to install them. There was discussion regarding lighting and who would be responsible to pay the bill.
Mr. W. Johnson asked the committee if the property owners should be aware of any lighting concerns. Chairman Daybell stated that the property owners should be made aware of any concerns. Comments: (1) Plans should indicate square footage separated as existing and new floor area. (2) Smokehatch/vent detail should include cross section in relation to roof and parapet. (3) Are smokehatch/vents for emergency venting only required for normal operations? Conduit sleeves should be placed in the alley with generous conduit risers. This would prevent the paving form being ripped up later just to install electrical. Committee member Silber suggested a business improvement district to maintain and improve the public spaces. Committee member Johnson said that electrical outlets are normally run in planter areas with the street trees. He thinks this should be done to accommodate outdoor events, up-lighting, etc.
Committee member Silber excused himself due to a previous engagement.