PRJ03-00804 - ZON03-00071 (Major): APPLICANT AND PROPERTY OWNER: OLSON COMPANY.
A request by the Olson Company to redevelop an area comprised of 26 individual parcels and some streets and alleys. The project would include an abandonment, a tract map, a major development project, a specific plan, and a zoning amendment to a "SP" zone. The project proposes 120 condominium units with two separate product types. The eastside will consist of 64 town homes; the west will include 56 lofts. Staff is asking the RDRC to provide feedback regarding site design, project architecture, and to see how the project will incorporate with the surrounding area. Some live/work units will include commercial space on the ground floor, typically occupied by artists, offices, and low volume walk-by tenants. The permitted uses will be clarified by the specific plan, currently under review. Staff has recommended a number of conditions regarding the loft units. The applicant has indicated a concern with a few of the conditions. One condition consisting of the rear elevation on the bottom level to be provided with brick to add interest along the rear. The applicant would prefer an alternative method. Staff recommended the revision to provide weight and interest along the bottom. Staff also recommends that the corner staircases be bricked to match the front of the building. However staff believes the applicant is prepared to comply with this condition to provide additional detailing and interest. The second condition the applicant is concerned with is raising the entry floor to provide vertical deviations along the front faade of the lofts, at units 3 and 5. These are essentially the third floor lofts. They have a tight entrance foyer, and staff also recommends the entrance for these units be extended out farther to create more internal volume, as well as more articulation on the front faade and weight at the corners. The applicant has indicated a willingness to bring them out, however elevating the floor has not been well received.
A number of other recommended conditions include landscaping and landscape detailing. As indicated in the staff report, the Engineering Department does not want have traffic on Walnut Way and Lemon, the site will maintain its traffic on Truslow Ave. to Harbor Blvd. There will be an Emergency Vehicle Access on the eastern side of the property, on the site plan it looked like a driveway for traffic, however it will be gated and not a residential entry. A condition of approval as recommended by staff regarding the EVA gate.
Vice Chairman Silber asked staff if an evaluation on the units in terms of required open public and private spaces. Staff responded that the applicant has requested a specific plan where this information will be addressed. Staff's identified that this is on an urban environment adjacent to downtown and the railroad. There is a requirement in the "R5" zone to provide for 67 square feet of private open space per unit, which will be the basis for the review on the specific plan. This will be identified when the project goes to the Planning Commission and City Council. Staff advised the applicant that some of the units don't have open space, and it is a question as to whether they can provide private open space.
Chairman Daybell inquired about the proposed EVA location. It appears to have a tight curve off of Walnut Way. Associate Planner Eastman reminded the Committee that this project is still a work in progress and the details will have to be approved by the Fire Department. Emergency vehicles have to make a right and an immediate left into the town homes. Typically there will be a curb cut wider than 20 feet designed to accommodate the fire truck entry; this would allow the fire vehicles to have a wider turn radius.
Vice Chairman Silber questioned why the applicant did not want to raise the entry. Staff understands that the applicant thinks this might effect their foundation plans, staff believes raising the entry space would not change the foundation, but could be done by framing the interior to create a raised floor, as if it were a landing or a step. However, additional issues of headroom and ceiling height are not resolved.
There not being further questions for staff, Chairman Daybell opened the discussion to the public.
Ed Holder, the project manager, pointed out additional changes to the live/work units. They attempted to the live/work units more retail in the courtyard areas, and with the residential, units being unified by arches over the entryway and decks space on the second floor, which will address some private open, space issues.
Vice Chairman Silber asked the applicant if they had looked at the different architecture throughout the City. Mr. Holder stated that they tried to incorporate the surrounding architecture features.
The applicant is in the process of designing a decorative sound wall, in front of the central courtyard with a water feature, to provide sound relief from the train station and to help create more of an urban feel.
Vice Chairman Silber inquired for a sense of context about the total development costs. Mr. Holder replied 30-40 million dollars.
Chairman Daybell asked how the development addresses the residents on the south side, particularly related to the obtrusive size of the proposed buildings. Mr. Holder responded that they were trying to address it through setbacks and landscaping. Staff had identified it as a concern and recommended a condition, which incorporates mature canopy trees to be provided to soften the upper elements from the residents to the south.
Chief Planner Rosen gave a brief background of the property. It originated in the 1980's with high-density apartments proposed for this site with three to four story structures and two levels of underground parking. The applicant is now proposing a three-story structure with less density. In addition, the property across the street is multi-family zoned, a number of the properties will redevelop over time and with today's parking requirements these properties will also be three to four story buildings.
Committee member Duncun, referring to the site plan, asked the applicant if the live work units were the mission or loft type of buildings. Sheila advised the committee that the site plan had changed since the RDRC packet was sent out, all of the live/work at the entry buildings will have the Spanish style architecture. Committee member Duncun suggested moving the courtyard fountain/water feature south of Walnut Avenue to be more visible at the entry and to create a pedestrian space that would be more central versus being next to the street.
Chairman Daybell asked the applicant if they would consider heightening the substation-screening wall and use brick instead of concrete blocks. Staff identified split face block primarily as a standard and would accept alternatives consistent with the architecture. He said the wall will need to be coordinated with SCE. The site is not attractive, although putting in an 8-foot block wall becomes expensive and massive. Staff would require vines or other vertical landscaping to reduce graffiti. Vice Chairman Silber noted a potential problem is that tall wall require big footings, which interferes with the ability to get trees to grow, it would be worth exploring a public art along Walnut instead, and would be an interesting opportunity to add something rich to the community. Associate Planner Eastman provided some clarity regarding the SCE site. On the property side there will need to be a fairly solid material like a wall for security purposes. The front of the property requires some kind of screening at the public space. Staff recommendations are primarily as a placeholder to address issues because the SCE facility needs to be screened and separated from the development.
The discussion was brought back to the Committee for further comment.
Vice Chair Silber noted the importance of the project and expressed his concern with the speed of which the project is being presented. He thought that staff had raised some good questions and did not feel comfortable moving forward at this time. Also, traditionally there is a vertical separation between the ground floor living space and an adjacent street, which is a proven device that allows residents to have a better ground floor living feel. The Brea Birch Street project is an example that does introduce intermediate levels on the living spaces from the primary walking spaces. Silber is not comfortable with saying it is not possible without justification. Looking at the architectural traditions applied, they seem wonderful, but when you pull back and look at the project as a whole it seems generic with no individual character. He stated that he does not fully know the quality of the court spaces and would like to see other ways to handle this scale with more of the leading edge ideas in architecture. The back of the town homes as they front the drive courts and interior streets in the area labeled "Traditional Town Homes", he is not comfortable with the environment. He did not get a sense of what the outdoor spaces would be like.
Associate Planner Eastman asked whether it is crucial to identify the details to move forward with project, or is Vice Chairman Silber not comfortable with the fundamental project. Vice Chair Silber is concerned with the public and semi public spaces created by this project. He discussed the philosophy of the delight in the familiar, and he would like to see the development create delight or surprise. He questioned the relationship on the ground plane of the outside and inside spaces as you move through the project. He felt that showing elements from our downtown and applying them to the elevations does not address this issue. Mr. Holder asked if there is a specific direction the Committee would have them explore. Vice Chairman Silber asked them to address the issue of how the public spaces are used by asking what is the quality of the outdoor spaces in relationship to the habitable space, from the residents' perspective.
Committee member Duncan asked if this project were to be approved if it would come back for further review. Chief Planner Rosen stated that it could upon the Committee's request. Committee member Duncan expressed his approval for the direction of the project. There is an incredible opportunity within this project to create element of surprise, architecturally.
Chairman Daybell supported Vice Chair Silber's recommendations and would like to see the revisions to this project and to come back for further review.
Vice Chair Silber made a motion to continue the item to address the issue of the open spaces versus the relationship to adjacent living spaces. Duncan seconded and the motion passed unanimously by a vote of 3-0.