Letter: New start for the city
January 7, 2016
Happy new year to all! The start of a new year brings opportunity for new beginnings. One area of new beginning coming to City Hall is the Community Development Department. With the resignations of the department's director and a top planner, there are obvious changes ahead. I suggest that the real changes need to come from the City Council.
In the past year, we have experienced a tug-of-war over development. This is exacerbated by a land-use code that lacks definition, a system of loopholes and granting waivers and a Development Department that has steered the Planning and Zoning Commission and Historic Preservation Commission to make "favorable" projects drive codes. I thought the recent vote on Base2 was a lose-lose proposition that could have garnered public support had the city staff and City Council not encouraged so many exemptions.
Council and staff, please put some small parking requirements in the code for all projects and maintain some setbacks and at least minimum pedestrian amenity. Lot-line-to-lot-line development is not our historical pattern. Also, refine the height-limit expectations in downtown zones, including interior floor-to-ceiling codes. And put a mandated "chamfered" corner for all downtown corner lots to open views and improve the pedestrian experience. Then, finally, get our affordable-housing mitigation in line with reality — how much is required, cash-in-lieu numbers, etc. — and stick to them.
There is a way to encourage positive development that both reflects community values and is attractive to developers. Everyone can benefit from more clear and concise codes and processes. This new year is a great time to start with leadership and representation and maybe we can avoid some of these community struggles and work together for solutions.