By Jane Northrop
City Council heard a presentation from planning department staff and the city’s planning consultant about the Sharp Park Specific Plan and its many proposed increases to land use density and housing density.
City Council members asked for storyboarding or other visual devices to show community members what these buildings would look like once constructed. The item will come back for discussion on a later agenda. This will not be the final approval for City Council but a draft will be created based on their preferences, said senior planner Christian Murdock.
The planning commission had taken up a discussion about the Sharp Park Specific Plan to make recommendations to City Council. The topics of the plan include land use, urban design and connectedness.
The planning commission recommended changing southern Sharp Park density to a “mixed use center” with multi-story buildings, up to 55 feet, from the existing height limit of 35 feet, to accommodate more housing and businesses. Those larger buildings would be built along Palmetto Avenue, Francisco Boulevard and Oceana Boulevard.
They recommended northern Sharp Park have a “mixed use neighborhood” designation that would also increase housing and business density, but would try to accommodate the neighborhood’s small cottage historical feel.
California Coastal Commission’s coastal planner Julie Koppman Norton commented on the plan in a July 16 letter to planning staff.
“A thorough analysis should be conducted in terms of visual impacts of development on the character of the surrounding area and on views through the neighborhoods of the ocean, impacts to community character as designated in the local coastal land use plan and impacts of potential geotechnical and coastal hazards on development,” she wrote.
In that letter, she recommended, “reducing the proposed height in areas in which tall buildings (up to 55 feet in height), will impact the visual character of surrounding areas as well as public views to and from sensitive areas and performing a thorough geotechnical analysis, including an evaluation of the potential hazards to this neighborhood (landslides and shoreline erosion) as well as wave uprush study for the area. Such a wave uprush study should include an assessment of the potential hazards caused by 100-year storm events cumulative with high tide events, as well as projected sea level rise impacts and given a typical eroded beach condition.”
Two speakers at the City Council meeting, Suzanne Drake and Tom Thompson, said strengthening the seawall must be a part of any new plan.
Drake said residents should be given parking permits and she’d be willing to pay for that.
Cindy Abbott said she was very concerned about her neighborhood.
“More work needs to be done about this proposal. Create a visual to show where are the increased heights and densities to compare with the small neighborhood feel, which is charming. Show story poles. This area is vulnerable,” she said.
Mayor Deirdre Martin said she would not be able to vote on the Sharp Park Specific Plan until she sees it in visual modeling, similar to the way the new library plans were presented to the community.
“We could present those visual representations. People were able to vote on them when seen,” she said.
Council Member Mary Bier agreed.
“I’m finding it hard to visualize, too. If there is a height of 45 feet, how many units can we fit?” she said.
Alison Moore of Dyett and Bhatia, the city’s consultant, responded the buildings would go from an existing three stories to six stories in a “mixed use center” with double the housing units. The buildings would have setbacks on alternating levels to break up the building’s monotony.
“It feels forced to put it in a small coastal area,” said Martin. “I’m hard pressed to find neighbors who say they want more people in there. The Coastal Commission said they were concerned about the visual character of the whole neighborhood. That concerns me. 45 to 55 feet is too much. I don’t think people understand what a 98-unit apartment building would do to the neighborhood. I like mixed use. The height is the issue.”
“We need to talk about housing and height limits,” said Bier. “I would want different language to include low income, very low income, etc. That should go into the guiding principles. Mixed use center could be at the southern end of Palmetto, but not the northern side. We have to be very careful. We need to talk about it a lot.”
Council Member Mike O’Neill said he liked the mixed use center designation at 55 feet for southern Sharp Park.
“We need to move forward. A lot could be built there,” he said.
(Jane Northrop can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)