Uptown Community Plan Update Crashes and Burns at City Council

| December 3, 2016 | 0 Comments
Residents are concerned that the height allowances will impact the character of their communities.

Residents are concerned that the height allowances will impact the character of their communities.

By The Mission Hills Heritage Board of Directors

The Uptown Community Planning Update, over seven years in the making, collided with the City Council on November 14, 2016 and went down in flames. We wish to thank the scores of Mission Hills residents and others that attended the hearing that lasted until after 10 pm that evening. Unfortunately, the result left many with a feeling of déjà vu, as the “new” Uptown Community Plan that was approved by City Council looks very much like the old Uptown Community Plan adopted in 1988.

Here are some key outcomes of the City Council vote on November 14th as it relates to Mission Hills:

• The new Uptown Community Plan will return to the old 1988 land use map, except that some single family areas surrounding Washington and University in Mission Hills and extending into parts of South Mission Hills (1, 4, 5, 8 and 11 on the Mission Hills Heritage land use map) will be re-designated to single family zoning.
• The commercial core area of Mission Hills (roughly from Dove to Ibis and Fort Stockton to University) will retain its 1988 designation for up to 73 dwelling units per acre (du/ac), instead of the 44 du/ac that we recommended.
• Several blocks adjacent to the commercial core area of Mission Hills and Reynard Way will retain their 1988 land use designation of 44 du/ac, instead of the 29 du/ac we recommended.
• A “Community Plan Implementation Overlay Zone” (CPIOZ) will govern the height limit in the commercial core area of Mission Hills and will provide that ministerial projects can have a building height of up to 50’ while discretionary projects can seek a Process -3 site development permit (with a decision by a City-appointed hearing officer) that allows up to 100’ This is DOUBLE the 50’ limit of the Interim Height Ordinance. And projects utilizing the state affordable housing density bonus could build higher.
• Nothing was included to require the City to move forward in a timely manner (unlike the North Park and Golden Hill community plans) to implement 19 identified potential historic districts in Uptown. Also a potential historic district for Presidio Hills will be deleted from the plan.

For proponents of community character and quality of life in Mission Hills and the rest of Uptown, the “Proposed Community Plan Update” (the product of > 7 years of community effort and negotiation) that headed into the final approval process this fall was not ideal, but included a balanced approach toward planning and development. The Proposed plan still allowed for a 41% increase in housing units in Uptown. However, a surreal transition that began with a Planning Commission hearing on October 6th culminated with City staff and the City Council (led by a motion from councilmember Todd Gloria) scrapping key elements of the Proposed plan and reverting to the land use and density map from the 1988 plan.

On November 10th, only one business day before the City Council hearing, City staff released the so-called “Planning Commission Modification” based on the October 6th Planning Commission recommendation, which included a return to the old 1988 land use map paired with current citywide zoning. The environmental impact report that supported the proposed plan was gutted and a patchwork analysis left in its place. Our Mission Hills Heritage land use map, the result of years of work, community input and compromise with the Mission Hills Town Council, was summarily dismissed in the modified plan.

Despite united appeals from Mission Hills Heritage members and many speakers from throughout Uptown, the City Council voted (7-2, with David Alvarez and Sherri Lighter in opposition) to overturn years of work and a collective community vision for the future. While we appreciate Todd Gloria’s move to preserve many single-family blocks in Mission Hills, we lament the demise of the 50’ building height limit in the commercial core area of Mission Hills and a return to the 1988 potential density levels in other areas of Mission Hills. Hillcrest and other areas of Uptown were also impacted by the last minute changes that could make them unrecognizable 10-15 years from now.

Questions remain unanswered. Why did the City’s planning staff completely change their recommended course of action from the Proposed Community Plan Update (the product of > 7 years of collaboration with the community) to the Planning Commission Modification (the product of a single, October 2016 meeting)? What happened in negotiations between the Planning Department, the Mayor’s office and Todd Gloria’s office? What influence did the Greenwald Company and proponents of the “Uptown Gateway Project” exert on City Hall? (The Greenwald Company wants to build very dense and tall in the heart of Hillcrest.) How were the voices of 880 people that signed a petition to retain the 50’ height limit in the commercial core area of Mission Hills ignored?

Over the next few weeks, Mission Hills Heritage will review the outcome and consider various options, including: (1) do nothing and accept the outcome, or (2) file a CEQA lawsuit to challenge the environmental analysis and decision. We welcome input from Mission Hills Heritage members and our community as we consider the best course of action to safeguard our community and preserve the best of Mission Hills. You can contact us at info@MissionHillsHeritage.org or (619) 497-1193. More information is at: www.MissionHillsHeritage.org. We also encourage you to send your thoughts to other Mission Hills groups such as the Mission Hills Town Council and Mission Hills BID.

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