THE SITE: A map included in a crucial planning document states that this parking lot on Berkeley Street could house a commercial development. (Daniel Archuleta daniela@smdp.com)

THE SITE: A map included in a crucial planning document states that this parking lot on Berkeley Street could house a commercial development. (Daniel Archuleta daniela@smdp.com)

CITYWIDE — City officials are scratching their heads over the origins of a map included in an important planning document that changes the designation of some lots from residential to commercial.

The “A Lots” are used for parking but historically they retain underlying residential zoning, Councilmember Kevin McKeown said in a letter to Northeast Neighbors, a community group that has led the charge against the lots’ new designation. In the Land Use Circulation Element (LUCE), a map depicts many of these lots as zoned for commercial uses. The LUCE was created to guide development for years to come.

No one could recall discussing or voting on the map during the LUCE debate, McKeown said in his letter.

Northeast Neighbors filed a public records request in an attempt to find the origins of the map but came up empty handed.

“It was not clear to staff as to what led to the map being inserted,” said City Manager Rod Gould. “And why and whether or not there was adequate documentation of that change, much less public consideration, is very much in question.”

Recently, developer West Century Partners proposed a five-story, 60-foot-high commercial building on two lots at Berkeley Street and Wilshire Boulevard. One of the two lots is an A-Lot, which previously had underlying residential zoning requiring all building to max out at two stories.

Gould said that city officials are in favor of designating the A Lots as residential, as they were previously, in the upcoming Draft Zoning Ordinance, which will go before the Planning Commission next month and council in March.

“If the council agrees with maintaining the previous designation of the A Lot, that would in turn necessitate an amendment to the LUCE itself,” he said. “And there may be other clean-ups and clarifications that may be necessary to the LUCE after the Planning Commission and council are finished with the Zoning Ordinance and it would be our intention to bring those all at once with one amendment sometime in late spring 2014.”

It is unclear how this will impact that proposed building on Wilshire and Berkeley. Tricia Crane, a member of Northeast Neighbors, has been vocal in her frustration over the new designation.

“We have been told over and over again that the LUCE preserves neighborhoods and that they will remain unchanged in terms of height and density and then we discovered this ‘mistake’ that would have permitted five stories of mixed use development on a residential parcel,” she said.

Crane is as concerned with City Hall’s inability to identify the source of the changes as she is with the changes themselves.

“Even if the City Council votes to make a LUCE amendment, to me the more important question is who did this?” she said. “Something was pushed through that was not properly vetted and approved. The public process was violated and there should be an investigation, not a quick fix.”

 

dave@smdp.com

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