Recent Developments on the Community Plan Update

| August 2, 2015 | 0 Comments


The goal is to preserve the historic scale and community character of Mission Hills, while still allowing development to take place.

The goal is to preserve the historic scale and community character of Mission Hills, while still allowing development to take place.

The City recently released a complete draft of the Uptown Community Plan Update.  As background, the Uptown Community Plan serves as a blueprint for development in Mission Hills and the other Uptown neighborhoods, including Hillcrest, Bankers Hills and University Heights. Community plans establish long-rang planning policy for land use, including residential dwelling densities, transportation, urban design, recreation, conservation and historic preservation.

Last updated in 1988, the current Uptown Community Plan is badly outdated. In 2009, the City embarked on the update process. City planning staff held various public workshops and has taken comment from the public and our local planning advisory board, Uptown Planners. Mission Hills Heritage (MHH) has been involved with the process from the start and has provided input and recommendations to the City.

In 2010, MHH took a careful look at our neighborhood and prepared detailed recommendations for the plan update, focusing on land use, residential densities, building heights and potential historic districts. These recommendations have the goal of preserving the historic scale and community character of Mission Hills, while still allowing development to take place. Problems with the existing 1988 plan include that many blocks of single-family homes in Mission Hills are designated for higher density multi-family housing; also the commercial and mixed-use areas (centered on Goldfinch and Washington) can be built to heights (up to 150 feet) and densities that are out of scale with our neighborhood.

In 2013, MHH coordinated with the Mission Hills Town Council and by making some minor adjustments, arrived at a joint set on land use recommendations for the plan update. If adopted in the new plan, these recommendations would preserve many blocks of single family homes (including a several-block area south of University Avenue) and would help maintain the historic, lower scale of the commercial core area of Mission Hills. Early drafts of various elements of the plan update have incorporated most of these recommendations.

The complete draft of the Uptown Community Plan Update, released in June, continues to include most of our land use recommendations. There are, however, some problem areas: A large potential park on Reynard Way included in earlier drafts has now gone missing! Also, a several block area on Reynard, south of Curlew, is marked for a “density bonus” allowing development of up to 44 dwelling units per acre. The June draft states that the density bonus can be used as a “development incentive for the provision of public amenities.” However, it fails to articulate any specific public amenities that are needed or sought. Based on what we have seen to date, it would appear that the only reason to include the “density bonus” would be to shoe-horn more density into the area. “Density bonuses” will be a bigger issue for Hillcrest and other areas of Uptown where the June draft includes many more such “density bonus” areas.

On the issue of building height limits, MHH has recommended a 50-foot maximum in the commercial core of Mission Hills (about the height of the One Mission project), with 35 feet in adjacent multi-family. An earlier draft of the plan accepted these recommendations, but the June draft is ambiguous and could be read to mean that the City would have discretion to allow more building height on a project-by-project basis. MHH’s goal has been to avoid this type of ad hoc development which leads to inconsistent results that often sidestep the desires of the community.

MHH and other groups are still reviewing this 200+ page document and many more questions will be raised. The city is asking for comment from the community at large by October 5, 2015 and from Uptown Planners by November 3, 2015. (The complete draft can be viewed on the City’s website, under Planning Department/Community Planning/Uptown Community Plan Update.) MHH will be submitting comments on the draft to the City and Uptown Planners over the next couple of months. The decisive battle will take place during the final approval process at City Council, sometime in 2016. Stay tuned for further developments!
Barry Hager is a board member of Mission Hills Heritage and has lived with his family in Mission Hills for over fifteen years.

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