San Rafael condo plan riles West End neighbors
Author: Adrian Rodriguez
Publication: Marin Independent Journal
A three-story, nine-unit condominium project proposed for San Rafael’s West End neighborhood is headed to a key hearing as residents voice concerns about design, height and mass.
The San Rafael Planning Commission on Tuesday will consider the environmental and design review, lot line adjustment and tentative map needed to approve the project proposed at 1628 Fifth Ave.
“The design does seem to be the point of contention, as opinions seem to differ on this item,” said Alan Montes, an assistant city planner.
“However, our Design Review Board did review the project on three occasions,” he said, noting that the applicant, Scott Meyers of Crome Architecture, changed the design from a contemporary look and added shingles and made other tweaks so that it was more in line with other buildings in the neighborhood.
The project would increase the vacant lot from 9,800 square feet to 10,546 square feet. The building would be 14,546 square feet standing 30 feet tall. It features 15 parking spaces and a rooftop garden. The units would be for sale at market rate, with one available at below-market rate.
The lot is zoned for high-density housing, meaning that one dwelling unit could be built for every 1,500 square feet. In this case that would equal six units. But with the lot line adjustment, that would expand the footprint, allowing a seventh unit. Because the applicant is also proposing one affordable unit, a density of two additional units is allowed under the state’s density bonus laws, Montes said.
Skag Dukkers, owner of 210 G St., the multi-family building behind the project site, objected to the proposal, voicing concerns about privacy and a loss of natural sunlight on his property.
“I know there is a need for housing, but I don’t want the city to act too hastily on these projects,” Dukkers said. “I think we need to take a pause and think about how these projects affect the neighborhood.”
Likewise, resident Brad Sears said he is not a fan. Sears called the project a “Trojan condo” and a “mini Wincup-styled” complex, referring to the controversial 180-unit Tam Ridge Residences in Corte Madera at the former Wincup foam manufacturing plant off Highway 101.
Sears said the Design Review Board went outside its mandate by making comments about how there is a need in town for more housing during approvals. He said the board should stick to their job, “which effectively is to be beauty contest judges for design.”
“I consider this my ‘hood and find this project offensive,” Sears said, adding that he is encouraging residents to turn out to the hearing to stand against the project, saying it’s out of character with the historic neighborhood.
Myers said that after the three Design Review Board meetings, the applicant team took to heart all comments it heard.
“It’s a very eclectic neighborhood with Victorian buildings, and we tried to fit our building in with that character,” Myers said.
“We are taking a vacant lot and providing much-needed housing near the downtown area, following the requirements of the city’s zoning,” Myers said of the proposal. “This is housing that we feel will attract prospective tenants, increase activity in the neighborhood and help the property value go up in the neighborhood.”
The hearing is 7 p.m. Tuesday at San Rafael City Hall, 1400 Fifth Ave. The agenda and staff reports are available at bit.ly/2RP859J.
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