Sunday, December 2, 2007

At Last, A New Midtown Corridors Code

I’m sorry for the delay on this, but I fell ill after Monday’s meeting and am only now recovering.

Last Monday (11-26), the Council approved the Midtown Corridors code, including a large number of changes from the draft that was prepared by the staff. This action took place at the end of our second very long joint meeting with the Planning Commission.

Technically, both bodies discussed the code; then the Planning Commission made recommendations, then we approved the code with changes. Thanks to the Planning Commission for their hard work. The code will return to us for a second reading, probably on the consent calendar, in a couple of weeks – on December 17th, I think.

Overall, as I’ve said before, I think the Midtown Corridors code is a great improvement over the current code, and it’s an important step forward in implementing the General Plan. Gradually, we are knocking off these codes and plans called for in the General Plan. The Downtown Specific Plan is approved; now the Midtown code. In January we will hopefully knock off the Victoria Corridor plan and then wrap up the Saticoy & Wells Community Plan. Then we can move on to the North Avenue, Westside, and Midtown community plans. You can read more detail about this in the article I wrote in the Star on Sunday 12/2.

The big issue, of course, was views. I’m proud to say that we took what I think is the first action ever in a city code to protect views.. Here’s what we did:

-- We retained the suggested five-foot side-yard setback for corridor properties that are located at intersections with north-south streets.

-- We decided to require a 10-foot-wide sidewalk on the side-yard portion of all the corridor properties – that is, a 10-foot sidewalk will wrap around to the side street.

-- In order to maintain viewsheds along the hillside-to-ocean corridors (through streets), we will now require the upper floors of buildings on the through streets to be set back even further. That is, a building at Main and Seaward would be required to have a 10-foot sidewalk, a five-foot setback, and a further setback on the second and third stories.

-- To protect the terminating vistas looking northward, we required that the third stories of three-story buildings at a terminating vista be set back such that the ridgeline is visible from 200 feet to the south at a height of five feet.

Here’s a rundown of the other changes we made:

-- We clarified that all building heights must be expressed in the code in terms of both stories and feet.

-- We knocked down the height limits for buildings south of Thompson on either side of Borchard (the Vons and Big Lots shopping centers). Height limit will now be 45 feet (three stories) except on the areas immediately adjacent to residential areas, where height limit will now be 35 feet (two stories).

-- While retaining the “arcade” and “gallery” building types, we clarified that the arcades and galleries could not encroach on the public right-of-way (i.e., can’t be built over the public sidewalk).

== In deference to Community Memorial Hospital, which is required by state law to under a major renovation, we clarified that CMH’s future plans are probably best addressed by a specific plan rather than simply following the terms of the new code.

-- We decided to permit four-story buildings on the south side of Thompson at Seaward.

-- We allowed a few more uses in the main zone along Main and Thompson to permit business support services, as well as art studios and bars and taverns with a use permit.

-- We required landscape screening in the rear of the corridor properties where they abut residential properties.

-- We specified that the code should come back to us in a year for review.

Several other ideas didn’t fly. They included the following:

-- Picking up on an idea from Planning Commissioner Scott Boydstun, I suggested that we require all third stories be set back 10 feet from the street, to maintain the two-story feel of Main and Thompson. This didn't pass.

-- Councilmember Jim Monahan moved that we cut the parking requirements to match those downtown – essentially, from 2 spaces per unit to 1-1.5, Nobody seconded the motion.

-- Mr. Monahan also moved to limit heights to 26 feet to match the VCORD initiative. No one seconded this motion either.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Want to comment on my blog? Leave me a message here!