City Council Extends Interim Height Ordinance

| March 1, 2012 | 0 Comments

by Barry E. Hager

Heeding the wishes of the community, the City Council has voted to extend the Uptown Interim Height Ordinance (IHO) for another two years. The extension will continue a firm height limit of 50 feet in the commercial core of Mission Hills and 65 feet in Hillcrest, with certain exceptions for rooftop equipment. Underlying zoning ordinances would have allowed buildings up to 150 feet and 200 feet in these same areas.

The IHO was first enacted in June 2008 as a temporary measure while the Uptown Community Plan is updated, so taller projects do not frustrate the update process. However, the IHO expired on January 23, 2012 and the plan update is not complete. City staff estimates that the plan update will take another 18 to 24 months to complete.

At the City Council meeting on January 24, 2012, Councilmember Kevin Faulconer made the motion to extend the prior ordinance for two years while the city works to complete the plan update. The motion required that city staff would report on the status of the plan update to the City Council’s Land Use & Housing Committee every 160 days. The motion was seconded by Councilmember Todd Gloria and approved 7- 0, with Councilmember Emerald absent.  Councilmember Sherri Lightner also pushed for the extension.

Due to public noticing requirements pointed out by the deputy city attorney present at the meeting, the City Council took another vote on February 14 to re-introduce the new ordinance, which was approved unanimously.

The IHO will protect a lower scale community while the community plan is updated.

Mission Hills Heritage and other community groups had hoped that an extension of the IHO would be coterminous with the completion of the plan update, in case the plan update is not approved within two years. However, Councilmember Faulconer was concerned about the passage of time and the City’s continuing failure to complete the plan update, a concern shared by the community. Opponents of the IHO from developers outside the area and the Building Industry Association and related groups had lobbied to weaken the IHO by including discretion to build higher instead of firm height limits, but the City Council held to the firm limits.

Over the last several months, various opponents of the IHO have argued that the height limits have stifled development in Uptown and even led to economic decline in the region. However, the lingering effects of the Great Recession and unprecedented changes in the housing market are the most likely reason that larger development projects have not come forward in Uptown and most other parts of the City. The IHO has not prevented several significant projects from moving forward in Hillcrest and Mission Hills, including the Mission Hills Vons and the new retail building in the 3900 block of 5th Avenue. As was intended, the IHO has allowed projects that fit the scale of the community to move ahead.

The IHO represents the efforts of residents of Mission Hills, Hillcrest and other Uptown neighborhoods to have a say in how their neighborhoods will look in the future.  Most residents believe that future development should respect the lower scale of the Uptown community. This became apparent during numerous workshops held by the City over the last three years as part of the community plan update process.  Now it is up to the City’s planning staff to take that community input and design a new community plan that reflects those wishes.

Barry Hager is an attorney who lives with his wife and two sons in Mission Hills. He is a co-founder and board member of Mission Hills Heritage.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Life Style

About the Author ()

General articles by the Presidio Sentinel and Associated Partners.