Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Planning Commission Special Mtg

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

July 24, 2018
Chair Roger Pearce called the meeting to order at 7:01 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.
Commissioners Present:   Staff Present:
Troy Brown, Jr.
Michael Dawkins
Melanie Mindlin
Haywood Norton
Roger Pearce
Lynn Thompson
  Bill Molnar, Community Development Director
Maria Harris, Planning Manager
Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
Dana Smith, Executive Assistant

Absent Members:   Council Liaison:
  Dennis Slattery, absent  
Community Director Bill Molnar explained why City Council delayed first reading of the wildfire ordinance amendments.  The first reading for the Transit Triangle would happen at the Council meeting September 18, 2018.  They would also discuss the vertical housing zones at the same meeting.   
Joseph Kauth/Ashland/Spoke on climate change, smog, wildfires, renewable energy and population growth.


DESCRIPTION:  An ordinance adding a new Chapter 18.3.14 Transit Triangle Overlay, a Transit Triangle (TT) overlay map and amending chapters 18.2.1, 18.2.2, 18.2.3, 18.2.3, 18.3.12, 18.3.13, 18.4.3, 18.6.1 of the Ashland Municipal Code to implement the recommendations of the infill strategy project for the area surrounding the bus route in the southeastern part of Ashland that circulates on Ashland St., Tolman Creek Rd., and Siskiyou Blvd., also referred to as the transit triangle. 
Staff Report
Planning Manager Maria Harris provided a presentation on the topic (see attached).  At the previous meeting, the Commission reduced the required commercial employment on the ground floor from 50% to 35%.  They also deleted the articulation standard.  The changes were included in the draft.
Staff was seeking direction from the Commission on two issues.  One was regulating the dwelling unit size in the Transit Triangle Overlay. The second was minor amendments and corrections not related directly to the Transit Triangle.
The Commission discussed articulation.  Miss Harris confirmed the Commission deleted the step back on the street side as well.  Applicants would go through the exception process.  Commission comment noted the expense of doing a step back and the potential for wasted space.  It warranted more discussion.
Ms. Harris explained Fregonese and Associates did a market feasibility model that had shown an increase in the number of smaller units was achievable.  Currently it was not a requirement.  Staff wanted further direction from the Commission.  There were two 2015-2017 City Council Goals that spoke to housing.  One was developing housing and businesses along the transit corridor in the interest of sustainable development.  The second was building affordable housing and workforce housing.  The Transit Triangle focused on workforce housing with median income rent levels.
If an applicant used the Transit Triangle Overlay they would be required to meet everything in the code, building design, rental units, and building step backs.  Staff contacted Fregonese and Associates regarding changes the Commission recommended and were waiting for a response.  If the Commission wanted further research done staff would look at combinations of units and square footage.
Minor amendments and corrections included:
  • Maximum Permitted Floor Area (MPFA)
Staff added language that showed up in a couple sections of the code that applied to residential zones.   It was there prior to 2015 and applied only to residential zones.
  • Residential Dwellings in C-1 and E-1
Staff re-added a sentence inadvertently dropped regarding having 65% of the ground floor non-residential permitted in special permit uses.  They changed the language to be consistent with multiple buildings in the Transit Triangle. 
  • Definition of Floor Area
The definition was adjusted to be more specific in terms of how it was measured using floor area ratio.
  • Definition of Story
Staff added clarification to the definition.
Questions of Staff
Commissioner Thompson suggested changing the last sentence in “…permitted and uses permitted…” to “…permitted uses and uses permitted…” and throughout the code as needed.
Ms. Harris addressed Section that allowed more flexibility to the step back regarding a basement on a slope.  The backside of a building going down the slope could add 8-10 feet.  It would be like another story in the back but could still qualify as a basement if more than half was underground.  A basement of any size was 12 feet or more if exposed and was not considered a story. 
Commissioner Norton asked about the exception category regarding density.  Ms. Harris explained rather than deviating from minimum density the code directed them to the exception process and not a variance.
Chair Pearce inquired about deleting the 10% affordable housing requirement.  Ms. Harris responded it was part of Fregonese and Associate’s recommendations.  She would add it to the minor issue list.
Public Testimony
John Fields/Ashland/Explained why he did not support the step back.  Parking limited the number of units because it would require approximately 300 square feet per parking space.
Gil Livni/Ashland/Agreed with Mr. Fields testimony.  He spoke against step backs and explained they were mostly in hot weather countries.  Decks were difficult to build and they often leaked.
The Commission discussed regulating step backs or using articulation only.  Some thought the step backs were fine.  Other comments noted there was no real input from the development community on step backs.  Each unit required parking, bike parking, storage and trash.  It made development tight but doable. 
There was concern that now unit size had decreased there was no information on feasibility.  One thought the requirement was getting too specific and questioned if it was sustainable.  A mix of housing might be more sustainable. 
Some wanted to defer to the developer and allow them to build what they wanted using floor area ratio (FAR).  Rent was questioned on who could afford $1,200 for a 500 to 600 square foot unit.  Other Commissioners were not convinced it would work.  One comment thought the Commission was second guessing hired consultants and suggested doing a new study if that were the case.  
Ms. Harris clarified if someone wanted a straight façade instead of step backs, it would be an exception.
The Commission further discussed mandating size.  The overlay required that 75% of the units be 800 sq. ft. or less.  Alternately, a developer could build what they wanted without the overlay.  One comment was more in favor of getting rid of the step back than mandating unit size. 
Mr. Molnar explained Fregonese and Associates had previously stated the step back added cost.  Given the scope of the project, they had to look at another level of detail in terms of looking at specific buildings.  The model was based on four story buildings.  It was not uncommon to see minimum density requirements along transit routes and corridors.  Currently it was 30 units an acre. However, staff was not advocating requiring thirty units per acre.  Developments were getting smaller.  It would probably be in the third of an acre range.
The Commission discussed rental versus owning.  Some thought requiring rentals would finish projects. Condominiums could be purchased then rented.  Support for rentals noted the housing needs analysis clearly stated the need for more.  It would not help to build something the city did not need.  Other comments did not see rental housing being built with the current market.  Building smaller condominiums was a possibility. 
Staff clarified the tax rebates associated with the Transit Triangle Overlay would be a separate policy issue for Council and was not in the ordinance.
Commission comment noted rental housing cut off a large sector of the financing market and was difficult to finance.  Chair Pearce suggested informing Council this was a recommendation to encourage rental housing and provide them with the pros and cons.
The Commission agreed to keep the draft ordinance as it was written and forward their concerns regarding rental housing to Council.  The step backs would remain unaltered with a caveat.
Staff would work with Fregonese and Associates on a feasible standard for density and number of units.
The Overlay would use the current maximum density as a minimum density.  There was no cap on the maximum other than FAR and the building code.
Staff would come back with more information and a draft planning report at the study session in August.
Commissioners Brown/Dawkins m/s that the ordinance retained the rental requirements.  It would be forwarded to Council with cautionary language that included the debate on financing and being too narrow.  The step back would remain the same with the caveats.  For minimum density maximum units’ size, the base density for the current zoning would be the minimum density in the Transit Triangle Overlay option. 
Voice Vote:  ALL AYES. Motion passed 6-0.

A.Regional Plan:  Ashland Housing Strategies

Item was postponed to a future meeting.
Meeting adjourned at 8:53 p.m.
Submitted by,
Dana Smith, Executive Assistant


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