Typically I would write about the Planning Board meeting, but I wanted to read through the Supplemental EIR for Target and the urban blight analysis — one of the big sticking points that earned the Landing a no vote from Planning Board member Henneberry — so instead I’m going to write about what happened at the Historic Advisory Board meeting last Thursday.
Just a quick update on 500 Central, the Board decided to continue the issue because the two HAB members who were part of the subcommittee that met with the property owner were absent from Thursdays meeting and they didn’t feel comfortable moving forward without hearing from the subcommittee members even though they had recommended approval since the property owner already agreed to their conditions. So the property owner has to wait until February to get a final disposition on his property.
What I really annoyed by was the discussion around Habanas’ (you know the Cuban restaurant on Park Street) application to change up the exterior of their building. So this is what the exterior looks like, from the staff report:
Essentially what they wanted to square off the front of the building by adding panels of stackable doors that would be mostly glass when closed off but would make the building nearly open when the doors were opened. You can get an idea of where the work would have happened and how the doors would looked once installed. On the first photo the top is the existing elevation and the bottom what it would have looked like.
For a better idea of what these doors look like in real life, you can check out the website here, Habanas wanted to put in these aluminum doors, this is the best photo I could find although this was for a residential installation:
And I believe this is how the corner front would have looked with the panels opened, albeit Habanas was going to keep the column at the corner:
The idea, according to Habanas was to have this indoor/outdoor eating experience so that people eating outside would still feel a part of the restaurant interior. Sort of like what goes on at Pappos. Also they wanted to be able to put to use the space that is sort of wasted — from a restaurant aspect — at the entrance.
So you know where this is going right? I mean, I probably wouldn’t be writing about it if the whole thing went through without issue. But there was an issue. The Alameda Architectural Preservation Society came out en masse to urge the HAB to not approve the application explaining that the corner entrance was historic and a prime example of historic corner store fronts in the Park Street Historic District. One representative from AAPS actually questioned City Staff’s credentials in Historic Preservation that would allow them the authority to make such a recommendation.
I think Habanas, from the discussion, sort of knew that they weren’t going to get an approval from the HAB. With one of the Board Members asking why he couldn’t mirror the storefront itself with the glass panels instead of squaring off the front and others questioning as to why the application was unchanged from October’s application, even though City Staff was recommending approval, it was clear that he knew the writing on the wall. When the chair asked if he would like a continuance to further work with staff to make the design more acceptable, he declined and said he would prefer an up or down vote.
This is where the bureaucracy gets obnoxious. If the HAB declined his application, he would have the opportunity to appeal t
o the Planning Board and then appeal that decision to the City Council. So an up and down vote would mean, in the best case, they would say yes and he was ready to go, in the worst case he would have to go to the Planning Board City Council. Unfortunately because there were only three out of the five members present the vote needed to be unanimous to be able to take action on the issue. In the motion to reject the application it was a 2-1 vote to reject so the application was not declined. Of course he was not going to get an acceptance of the application so the Board voted to continue the item which leaves Habanas in HAB limbo much like the 500 Central application.
The worst case is the state of limbo that Habanas currently is in. It would have been more appropriate for the HAB to come to some sort of disposition one way or the other given that they wanted a straight up and down vote instead of a continuance. It was unclear why the Board Member who voted against denial did so, because it did not appear that the Board Member was particularly inclined to approve the application in the first place.
Personally, I imagine that the treatment would be quite nice and would have added visual interest to Habanas, we’ll see where the issue goes if this comes up at the February HAB meeting.