San Diego — Feeling no love in particular this past February 14th, the proposed Fat City Lofts project failed to receive approval of two pending permits needed for advancement.
In an eight-page document, acting Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC) president, Kim Kilkenny spelled out the reasons for the denying the land use and coastal development permits.
At issue for the CCDC were primarily two points: Is the project compatible with existing land use as well as economic prosperity policies? Specific provisional guidelines exist under the area’s neighborhood plans as to what types of land uses must be approved in terms of development. In the case of the Fat City Lofts, it was determined that the residential project did not fall into the category of one which must be approved, but rather it was deemed as one that may be approved provided proper conformance with compatibility factors.
The proposed project is located on the block bounded by Pacific Highway and Ivy, California and Hawthorn streets in the Little Italy neighborhood of downtown San Diego. Whereas areas of Little Italy to the south mandate the approval of residential projects, provisions of the plans for the area in question are geared toward that of recreational areas, major tourist and local visitor attractions as well as marine industry endeavors. While residential use is not expressly incompatible, the plan calls for uses such as hotels, public parks, specialty retail along with restaurants and industry supporting the cruise ship terminals and surrounding maritime activities.
More hotly contested however was the issue of economic prosperity risks, which inserted neighboring land user Solar Turbines directly into the equation. Economic prosperity policy obligations call for the protection of uses that provide quality job opportunities that help maintain a healthy economic base in the region. Solar was determined to fit securely into the category of being subject to such protection.
Headquartered in San Diego, Solar Turbines has been operating at its current Harbor Drive site for 83 years. While they perform engineering as well as research and development functions, they also operate 24/7 manufacturing and industrial activities. The CCDC determined that proximity of the proposed residential community would result in increased regulatory burdens placing them at risk of ultimately leaving San Diego altogether.
At the CCDC offices in January, public testimony from Air Pollution Control Officer Robert Card was considered as he pointed out that emissions can and do normally exists from a facility such as Solar’s. He maintained that without an adequate amount of distance providing a “buffer zone” between Solar and the Fat City Lofts, complaints are likely to ensue requiring appropriate action. While the current risk level to the public is officially acceptable, adjacent residential use could change that. The unknown is whether or not Solar could shoulder the burden of reducing emissions or choose to leave the region altogether citing infeasible demands on them.
The CCDC decision can be appealed to the City Planning Commission and must by filed by March 1, 2012. The Planning Commission represents the final action and no appeals can be made with either the California Coastal Commission or the City of San Diego.
According to a one-page statement also released February 14, by project developer Jonathan Segal, this comes as welcome news. His team is looking “forward to our appeal and victory at the planning commission.” Citing the CCDC’s bowing to political pressure, Segal expressed optimism that the decision will ultimately be placed into “impartial” hands. He also noted that CCDC board members Laurie Black and Manuel Oncina were the lone supporters of the project.
Centre City Development Corporation, Notice of Decision, Feb. 14, 2012, http://www.ccdc.com/images/stories/downloads/meetings-and-events/Notice_of_Decision_Fat_City_Lofts.pdf
Jonathan Segal Architecture + Development
Photo Credit: Peter Kaminski, Flickr Creative Commons