PRJ03-00804 – ZON03-00071 (Major); APPLICANT AND PROPERTY OWNER: OLSON COMPANY
An application by the Olson Company to develop six and a half acres with 120 condominium units. This project was reviewed at the February 12, 2004 RDRC meeting and is currently being presented to the Committee with revisions. The staff report identified some of the significant items from the last meeting. Decorative screening around the Southern California Edison facility was discussed and included a wall around the perimeter of the applicant's property and screening along the Walnut Avenue frontage. The committee suggested inclusion of public art with the Walnut screening. There were questions regarding the landscaping and whether the final landscape plans would come back to the RDRC. Staff had recommended planting mature canopy trees along Truslow Avenue to soften the buildings on the north side of Truslow from the existing neighborhood to the south. Staff identified the landscaping on Walnut Avenue to be consistent with the Transportation Center. There was discussion regarding the floor plans of Loft units 3 and 5, and expanding the entryway to create a foyer and more articulation. There was discussion regarding the tradition of elevating living spaces above streets and how this project relates internal areas to outside areas. The Committee identified a need to modify the rear of the loft buildings to provide more detail and architecture. There was discussion regarding the proposals front façade being comprised of historical or traditional features applied to standard product type buildings and the committee preferred a more simple form to be historically consistent with the loft concept.
There have been some additional revisions since the last meeting, which address staff's concerns. One, the old plan had a long internal street that runs parallel with Walnut Avenue. The previous plan had a dead end at the street and staff had some concerns about maneuvering emergency and maintenance vehicles. The applicant resolved this issue by breaking up the buildings to provide a hammerhead turnaround, which also placed front doors of the units on the trail to alleviate a narrow alley effect, and also create defensible space. Another change is a request to abandon a portion of Truslow Avenue to add additional parking. Currently the site has parallel parking on both sides; the abandonment will allow perpendicular parking on the north side of Truslow. The property line will be on the south side of the parking spaces and the Homeowners Association would maintain the parking area; however staff is recommending conditions of approval that require these parking spaces to be available for public use during the day. The purpose for this condition is to accommodate transit users who currently park within the project area, rather than push them into the neighborhood to the south. An additional reason to provide parking is that the HOA will be maintaining it. There has also been additional sections and details provided per the RDRC's request.
Chief Planner Rosen indicated that staff anticipates for some considerable discussions regarding the architecture as the project moves forward through the Planning Commission and City Council. He reminded the Committee that their comments on architecture are important to the tone and dialog that will occur at future meetings. Staff is comfortable with the site plan, the density, and the parking.
Vice-Chair Silber inquired about the Truslow Avenue parking, if approved by the councils as part of the specific plan. In the abandonment what is the width of the street, where does the centerline start, and what will happen with future development projects on the south side of Truslow Avenue when confronted with the on-site guest parking requirements, and staff's plan to address these issues? Chief Planner Rosen replied that there is a need for both public and private parking and a demand beyond what's available. If the property owner's to the south can figure out a way to provide additional public parking staff would consider their proposal. When abandoning an entire street, half goes to the north, and half goes to the south. The proposed project is abandoning only a portion within their half of the street. Vice-Chair Silber questioned if this would move the centerline. Staff assured him that it would not. Associate Planner Eastman clarified that there is currently a 60 ft right of way width. If the street is abandoned as the whole the applicant would typically receive 30 ft. The applicant is only requesting enough feet to accommodate additional parking. With the current 60 ft right of way, to get parallel parking and a sidewalk would push the property line 6 feet onto the applicant's property. The purpose of adding the parallel stalls is to accommodate guest parking for the development, so instead of the City maintaining the parking spaces and sidewalk, the city will be abandoning it all over to the HOA to maintain. Vice-Chair Silber acknowledged that this issue is not under the RDRC's realm of approval, however he expressed his concern with a "ripple effect" precedent this issue creates. Associate Planner Eastman clarified that this project develops an entire block, and makes the entire streetscape consistent. He also added that there is a HOA to maintain the frontage. This proposal wouldn't be appropriate on a small individual, mid-block lot, but if enough property owners on the south side of Truslow Avenue wanted to do this, and essentially give up 6 feet of their property and agree to provide and maintain public parking, staff would love to consider it for recommendation. Staff identified that this plan also increase the building setback from what was proposed at the last meeting.
Committee member Coffman asked staff to clarify the third condition addressing the focal point. Associate Planner Eastman responded the condition is to provide a focal point in the courtyard so as people at the "pedestrian overpass" enter into a unique environment. There was discussion at the last meeting regarding a low wall with a Spanish style fountain; however Committee member Duncan indicated that it might be better to move the fountain further south.
Committee member Duncan questioned staff about parking ratios. Associate Planner Eastman stated that the applicant is requesting a specific plan that allows their own unique development standards. Staff is using the R5 zone for comparison, which is the current zone. The applicant has provided a parking study that is based on shared parking with adjoining public spaces, and also identifies other projects that have been built in a transit-oriented environment, where they have no guest parking. Staff has been weary of supporting a project that is significantly under what would normally be required, and as a policy staff does not support reduced parking in the downtown area due to the current limited parking. Staff feels that the proposed project with parking on Truslow Avenue will work for both the City and the applicant. Because there is very little need for guest parking during the day, these spaces would be accessible to the public, and then at night the spaces would be available for guests.
Chairman Daybell expressed his concern with overnight parking. Peak parking could be on Saturday and Sunday, which might be more of an issue than realized. He stated uncertainty with the parking solutions. Chief Planner Rosen stated that statistically, while it could change over time, currently on the weekends Walnut Avenue is practically empty and the parking structures on the weekends are available to accommodate the demand for transit center parking. Ultimately there is a need for more public parking on this side of the tracks, but currently there are no negotiations to purchase property on the south side of the transit station for additional public parking. The benefit of this project's proposal is that it provides public parking during the day when there is a low demand for guest parking and a high public transit demand. Chairman Daybell asked about the applicant taking a portion of the street for their project. Associate Planner Eastman stated that, practically speaking, the City is gaining an additional 6 feet by providing perpendicular parking. He reminded the Committee that these are land use issues, which falls under the Planning Commission and City Council's purview. The RDRC's recommendation should relate to the architecture of the project. However, he did not wish to preclude the Committee from expressing their concerns, but it should not be a factor in the design recommendations. Associate Planner Eastman discussed parking numbers and maintenance responsibilities.
There being no further questions for staff Chairman Daybell opened the discussion for public comment.
Mr. Ed Holder with the Olson Company addressed the Committee's comments from the previous meeting. They have attempted to simplify the lines and reduce brick where appropriate, and added stair entries and planter space. He referred to one change around the pedestrian walkway as it relates to the Ice House, the 20 ft trail easement, and hoped the Committee would agree on the significant improvement to the area and how the public will move through the area in terms of safety and openness. Regarding interior street elevations, as a result of relocating the seven parallel parking spaces the applicant has gained landscaping and moved the water meter boxes to Truslow Avenue thereby creating a vine pockets down the internal street by the garages, and added landscape pop-outs to the interior street to break up the run of buildings.
Chairman Daybell asked the applicant about the lack of setbacks within the project. Mr. Holder responded that the private spaces for the units in question are located in the rear. Chairman Daybell questioned if they are using the trail easement for access. Associate Planner Eastman clarified that the trail easement is designed to have a 20 ft right-of-way. Currently this is one piece of property privately owned. The applicant is providing the city with the 20 ft trail easement with a 10 ft concrete walk. Mr. Holder said that six units would have an entrance on the trail easement.
Mr. Holder referred to a question asked at the previous meeting about how the Town homes relate to the homes across Truslow. He provided a picture of an existing building of the same design in Camarillo. The picture showed building faces on both sides of the street, and a curb edge measures 55 ft. Associate Planner Eastman clarified that the area in question is on Truslow Avenue with an existing 60 ft right-of-way with landscape setbacks in front of the building and 17 ft landscape fingers extending trees into the parking spaces.
Vice-Chair Silber asked which building elevation fronts the trail,
Mr. Holder responded that they are the loft elevations. Associate Planner Eastman noted that the elevations are color coded by type on the site plan. He pointed out that on page 3 section B shows the Ice House building (which is shown taller than the actual building). The Ice House is roughly 22 ft, and an addition behind the historic building is roughly 16 ft, so the actual mass at the trail easement is less than what is show on the plans.
Mr. Mansfield noted that the brick elements were carried around from the front side and wraps around to the back of the building. Although staff eliminated a condition pertaining more detail on the side elevations, staff has not seen the proposed elevations, and would still be concerned with how the loft units fronts the street and how it interacts with the public areas.
Mr. Holder noted that based on the comments from the RDRC at the previous meeting they are exploring the idea of creating a true loft in some of the units fronting Walnut and Truslow Avenues, particularly the live/work units. The Olson Company has had tremendous success with similar floor plans in Santa Ana and believes it would be appropriate for this project.
Committee member Coffman asked for clarity on the placement of the brick on the plans.
Vice-Chair Silber thanked the applicant for the opportunity to speak with them further regarding issues from the last meeting. He said that he met with the applicant on Monday, and that Associate Planner Eastman attended that meeting.
Committee member Duncan inquired of the architecture style of the Townhouse live/work units. Mr. Holder confirmed the live/work units would be built with the Spanish style architecture.
Associate Planner Eastman presented the committee with the proposed paint boards and noted that staff is looking for a well thought out color scheme. A condition of approval is recommended that the brick on the building located on Walnut Avenue be consistent with the Ice House.
There being no further public comments Chairman Daybell returned the meeting to the Committee for discussion.
Vice-Chair Silber commented on the applicant's efforts to address the issues raised at the previous meeting and felt that they had accomplished that task. He is comfortable with the color schemes. However, he felt the proposed project is one of mass production and lacked personal identity. He expressed his concern for the parking issue and recognized that it is not the RDRC's charge to address land use issues. His intent is to abstain from voting because people are seeking authenticity, this project is a copy of the real deal and does not offer the public a unique authenticity. However, he does not think the project is, in and of itself bad, and realizes a need to develop this project.
Committee member Duncan stated that the project could become a part of history at some point in time, and the Spanish style has been around for sometime. Vice-Chair Silber questioned which historical time. Silber thought that when the original buildings in the City were constructed, they showed the heart-felt convictions of the people of that time. The proposed project does not show the same heart-felt convictions of today's community.
Committee member Coffman commented on the thought provoking and impassioned comments made by Vice-Chair Silber. However, he supports the project because we do live in a time that is not conducive to producing the ideal. The City of Fullerton has become an urban, living city that will support the design of the project. He trusts that staff will look further into the details discussed throughout the meeting.
Committee member Duncan commented on the different architectural styles at the entry drive and courtyard. He felt that the Spanish Mission style has been overused and suggested consideration of one style throughout the project.
Chairman Daybell is reluctant to approve the project, however he said that this concerns are with major issues including land use and policy, which will be explored on the Planning Commission and City Council levels. If this is the road the City wants to go down, then he is o.k. with the architecture.
Vice-Chair Silber commented on the sincerity and hard work of Staff, and he thinks the applicant is committed to doing the right and best thing.
Committee member Coffman made a motion to approve the project with staff's recommended conditions with Committee member Duncan seconding the motion. The project was approved by a vote of 3-0, with Vice Chair Silber abstaining.