Too Little Too Late

| May 1, 2022 | 0 Comments

By Janet O’Dea

In Mission Hills, one of our neighbors just tore down a building at the “Gateway to Mission Hills” on the corner of West Washington Street and Goldfinch next to the fire station. A representative responded to questions on the HistoricMissionHills Facebook page about the apartments going in after the project was permitted or too little too late. 

In 2004, Mission Hills underwent a similar situation when the One Mission project was seeking permits, except that process required community input and approval by the city council.  Due to magical events, including a council member who voted “wrong,” the developer was eventually guided to work with the community.   The project was redesigned, won awards, and is considered a success. 

Now, we are embarking on a very risky experiment without community involvement in the permit approval process and a hands-off approach by the city, however, our neighborhood is ultimately affected by this. This is also what transpired with Fort Oak across from St. Vincent’s. 

Removal of community input goes back to 2016, when the city – not the community planners, made changes to the Uptown Community Plan. Community members had provided updated locations to add housing, height, and density in targeted locations that would interfere less with the existing built-out environment. But the city took over. After years of groundwork by community members, the city regurgitated the 1988 plan instead which allows careless height and density zones.

The switch was spearheaded by a group determined to up-zone Uptown and the city went along with it. That change, in addition to several other new laws, eliminated input and oversight of projects, allowing developers to skip community planning in exchange for a tiny percentage of affordable units or buildings near transit   No more traffic studies. Environmental impact studies or addressing quality of life issues.  Developers are on their own to plan projects and will any consider the community’s established identity and needs ever again?   Without any oversight, it does not appear to be working out, even if the developer lives in our neighborhood.

The permitted seven-story apartments will have 54 micro-units (200 square feet), retail on the ground floor, and a top floor deck, 5 units will be affordable. No parking will be provided. 

Wouldn’t someone concerned about the sense of place obtain feedback and attempt to address community concerns before breaking ground?   Apparently only if it is required and it is no longer required.  Here are some initial concerns:

  • The micro-unit size is small even for standard micro-unit sizing- about the size of a parking space. This creates a lot of density.  Once you add the basics (kitchen and bath) the actual living area is reduced.  Will the future use of these apartments turn into short-term rentals without actually adding to housing needs? 
  • What about the functional needs and response time of the fire department? Residents without cars will likely rely upon numerous deliveries.  How will traffic snarls impact emergency response for the fire department when time is of the essence?  Will the fire truck trash pick-up be difficult especially when unpredictable delivery vehicles are present at the same time? Retailers need parking and will have delivery needs too. 
  • Without dedicated parking, retailers’ needs won’t be met.  It will put more cars parked along streets in front of neighboring businesses or further into the residential neighborhood because the developer did not want the expense of parking added to the project.
  • The developer is not paying impact fees under a new program called Complete Communities. That means there are no funds for mitigation for parks or any improvements to address impacts that are created by the project 

Not very neighborly.

Wouldn’t the community planning process ensure these items are considered and serve the community better?  So far, recent projects show us that community involvement is needed since the community actually contends with the long-term impacts of infill development.  The permit process is better with oversight and the loss of the community plan combined with new laws amounts to taxation without representation.

Other neighborhoods are suffering under these measures too.  Our hue and cry to return input into the permitting process may be our only hope. Will our community be willing to raise these issues to the city representatives so we can participate in the process again?  Time to speak up.


Mayor’s office: 619-236-6330.  Email

Council District 3 Stephen Whitburn 619-236-6633 Email:

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