CITY HALL — Some projects just can’t catch a break.
The Planning Commission was supposed to hear an amendment to the development agreement for the Yahoo! Center at its meeting Wednesday, but the matter got moved when illness and scheduling conflicts reduced the number of available commissioners to four.
It’s the commission’s practice to give applicants the option to request a continuance when only four commissioners attend since any matter needs at least four votes to get through the Planning Commission.
Commissioner Jason Parry fell ill hours before the meeting, and Chair Jim Ries and Commissioner Hank Koning also could not attend the meeting.
In another twist, the attorney representing the center’s management company, Equity Office Management, Dale Goldsmith, also got sick, and his office requested the extension.
“We would have liked to have gotten it over with, but it’s better to have a full commission and a healthy lawyer than an incomplete commission and a guy with no voice,” Goldsmith said Thursday.
The development agreement amendment in question would allow Equity Office Management the ability to lease out unused parking spaces that were built as part of the original 1981 development agreement that got the office park through the city processes in the first place.
In truth, Equity has leased those spaces to non-tenants for more than a decade, a situation recently discovered by City Hall when planners performed a site check to ensure that the development agreement was being followed in the wake of a number of violations coming to light in the press.
“The original development agreement didn’t address the issue, we thought it ambiguous,” Goldsmith said. “The city expressed concern, so this development agreement is to make it expressly clear this is something we could do.”
Yahoo! Center has a glut of parking as a result of building practices from the 1980s coupled with fears from community members that if the business park didn’t provide enough spaces, workers would invade the surrounding neighborhoods for places to park their cars.
That wasn’t enough to placate City Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who described it as an “underground economy in parking.”
“I believe that when the city, on behalf of residents, negotiates public benefits as part of a development agreement, those benefits are not separable assets for the developer to sell off at a later date,” McKeown wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.
The Yahoo! Center’s amendment is tentatively scheduled for a May 18 hearing before the Planning Commission, but its delay affects another development agreement in the pipeline — Saint John’s Health Center.
The hospital is trying to delay, and possibly get out of, building a 442-space parking structure, which was part of its original 1998 development agreement to rebuild after the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
Instead, it created an alternative parking plan, demonstrating that it could create sufficient parking without building the expensive structure. That plan relies in part on 450 spaces that the hospital has been leasing from the Yahoo! Center, which could disappear if the Planning Commission — or City Council, on appeal — refuse to allow the business park to continue leasing space to non-tenants.
City staff scheduled extra meetings for both the Planning Commission and the City Council in order to hear the two development agreements in the right order, and as quickly as possible. One of those meetings, the May 3 City Council meeting, has been canceled as a result of the delay.
Saint John’s wants the agreements heard as soon as possible, because construction on a new entry plaza cannot begin until City Hall signs off on the development agreement amendment, said attorney Chris Harding, who represents Saint John’s.
That amendment requesting a pass on the hospital’s parking structure was submitted in 2007, a year before the structure was supposed to be built under the original agreement.
At this point, it’s unclear when the City Council will get to weigh in on the amendment.