On Tuesday the City Council will be considering the Park Street North of Lincoln (Gateway District) rezoning, update of design manual, and certification of the EIR for the project area. Just quickly to review, back in 2008 the City Council approved a plan for the Gateway District and since then City Staff has been working on zoning fixes and form based codes to essentially streamline the process of developing that area.
In the comment section there was a mention about the height limits for the area that I just want to touch on for clarification purposes because I think this may come up during Tuesday night’s meeting. There has been some suggestion that the original plan for the Gateway District was to set the height limits at 40′ but that the Planning Board — or someone else — hiked the height limit to 60′ instead.
In the Staff Report, there is clarification on this whole height limit discussion:
Height Limits: The draft Zoning Ordinance reduces the height limits on Park Street from 100 feet to 60 feet. (The height limit along the rest of the Park Street commercial district is 60 feet.) Some speakers requested that the Planning Board reduce the height from 100 feet to 40 feet to reflect a 1990 General Plan Land Use Element policy, which reads as follows:
”Policy 2.5.i: Amend the Zoning Ordinance to limit building heights in the Park Street and Webster Street business districts to three stories above grade, measuring 35 to 40 feet, depending on roof configuration. Parking structures are to be limited by height only. “
Despite this policy, in 2000 the City of Alameda adopted a comprehensive update to the Zoning Ordinance for the Webster Street and Park Street commercial districts. At that time, after extensive discussion and participation by the affected business district associations, the City Council determined that a “one size fits all” approach to height limits would not work for the two business districts and adopted a variety of height limits: Webster Street was given a 40 foot height limit and Park Street was given a 60 foot height limit in some areas and a 40 foot height limit in other areas.
At the January 15, 2013 Planning Board hearing, staff recommended that the Board recommend that the City Council delete Policy 2.5.i from the General Plan to eliminate the conflicts between the General Plan Policy and the existing and proposed Zoning Ordinances. In response to speakers who felt that not enough public discussion had occurred regarding the General Plan amendment, the Board recommended that the staff schedule a well noticed public hearing for the Planning Board at a later date to discuss the merits of the General Plan policy that would include Webster Street merchants and nearby residents as well as Park Street interests. (The West Alameda Business Association requested a change to raise their height limits in 2010.) This General Plan update will occur in the future.
So even though that might have been a desired Land Use Element policy in 1990, what remained in the municipal code for the Gateway project area was a 100′ height limit.
This Zoning Map shows the general area of where the Gateway district is with current zoning:
It includes these zoning designations, which have the following height limitations in the municipal code:
C-C Community-Commercial District = 60′
C-M Commercial-Manufacturing District = 100′
M-1 Intermediate Manufacturing District = 100′
M-2 General Industrial District = 100′
So what this zoning update will do will align the height limitations by lowering the other zoning designations to the Community -Commercial District as opposed to raising the height limitation as it has been suggested. I think it’s worthwhile to notice that in the decades that have passed with the height limit being 60′-100′ feet in that area, no building has been erected that has been anywhere near that height. I’m not sure that this zoning and form based code effort will suddenly start a rush to build 60′ buildings in every available Park Street frontage.