The developers of a 3.5 acre apartment complex on Lincoln Boulevard will have another go-around with the Planning Commission Wednesday in an effort to get one of the largest projects on the Boulevard underway.
The five-story building will bring 191 apartments near the corner of Lincoln and Colorado Boulevard (the same company is also developing the corner property) along with 388 parking spaces and 12,477 square feet of retail. When adjoining properties are finished, Lincoln Court will extend all the way from Olympic to Colorado, providing access to the three mixed-use developments.
An attorney representing the developers called the building “the most important part of the Lincoln collection” at a February Planning Commission meeting. David Rand expounded “it’s the piece that makes the whole development work together in concert.”
But to several commissioners, the concert was out of tune.
They sent the architect back to the drawing board with instructions to improve accessibility for cyclists needing to store their bikes, change landscaping, remove parking spaces, and add more affordable housing. While it appears the commissioners will see several of their wishes granted Wednesday, the developer is refusing to budge on the number of affordable units.
The development has chosen to provide 15 units at the lowest income level, meaning to be eligible to live there a person would have to make less than $18,250 a year. Under the zoning code, developers must provided affordable housing or pay a fee. The ordinance allows them to offer more or fewer units based on the income of the tenants – the lower the income, the fewer the number of apartments. While renting apartments to the neediest of the needy is laudable, the commissioners complain it means fewer affordable units overall.
“It’s a policy concern,” Rand said when Commissioner Mario Fonda-Bonardi complained about the number of affordable units. “You guys adopted an ordinance. It’s a zoning ordinance that gives the applicant the option to choose one of the options in the code.”
“If there’s buyer’s remorse over the ordinance, then this body as a policy-making body should look into that…compliance is the only standard that’s required (of us).”
In anticipation of Wednesday night’s discussion, City staff asked the Housing Division for input. It turns out, most of the people trying to get into affordable housing meet the lowest income requirement (30% of the area’s median income). Additionally, without the 15 units supplied by this project, the City would likely miss their annual objective for building those units.
The developer also plans to coordinate with an agency to provide case management services to the households that qualify for the affordable units.
When it comes to parking, the commissioners may also be stuck.
“I’m just appalled at how much parking is going into this project,” Commissioner Leslie Lambert said at the February meeting. Lambert believes more parking means more cars, which means more traffic on already congested Lincoln Boulevard.
The 388 spaces going into the underground parking garage meet the minim requirements of the zoning ordinance. The developer explored filing an exemption, which would reduce the number of spaces to 292 but concluded it would mean too few spots for the number of apartments they are building.
With those hurdles in mind, the developer will likely face a skeptical planning commission Wednesday.
“This is an extremely large development,” Commissioner Richard McKinnon said. “It has to be done right.”