Land Use Update: College Ave. Safeway, Merrill Gardens, Rockridge Shopping Center, Temescal Apartments, Redwoods

Monday, March 9, 2015

In February, the Land Use Committee discussed updates on a number of projects proposed or currently moving forward in the neighborhood as well as neighborhood concerns about the proposed removal of six redwood trees at the former Shell station site at the corner of College and Claremont.

College Avenue Safeway: The Safeway store is now open and operating, but retail building construction and street and sidewalk changes are still in progress and being monitored. City staff and neighborhood groups including RCPC are assembling lists of outstanding issues to be addressed by Safeway for a meeting anticipated in early March.

Merrill Gardens: The senior housing project on the north side of 51st at Broadway is moving forward and began demolition during the last week of February.

Rockridge Shopping Center (The Shops at the Ridge): Safeway continues to say that demolition will begin soon, but no formal word on start date has been provided and no work has begun.

Temescal Apartments: The multifamily residential project on the south side of 51st at Broadway is scheduled for hearing by the Planning Commission on March 18. Neighbors have outstanding concerns about the height variance proposed by the developer, SRM. The proposed project height is 60' at the corner of 51st and Broadway and 45' at the corner of 49th, with the transition from 60' to 45' occurring about two-thirds of the way from 51st to 49th. The proposed height is consistent with the zoning at the corners, but the transition should occur closer to 51st, per the current height limit. SRM representatives say the height variance is necessary to meet proposed densities in a way that minimizes impact to neighbors, and the increased height occurs along Broadway where increased height is appropriate, so should be allowed.

Neighbors feel that extensive effort went into establishing those height limits during the update to the General Plan and Zoning in recent years, and they should be respected in the design. They regard the proposed project as very massive to neighboring single family residential homes behind it and adjacent on 49th, and the step-down in heights as insufficient and additionally causes more significant shadowing than it might otherwise, so additional height exacerbates the concern.
SRM's position is that they have pushed project density toward Broadway to address this concern, and are building less than the zoning would allow on the portions of the project that abut neighboring properties, so must make up the loss elsewhere. Neighbors are not convinced, and are seeking further meetings with SRM. RCPC is encouraging the parties to further this conversation prior to the planning commission hearing.

Redwoods: A number of neighbors contacted RCPC regarding posted redwood tree removal permits filed for the vacant former Shell station site at College and Claremont. RCPC encouraged members and neighbors to seek additional information from the city arborist and report back to the community via the Rockridge News.