Impact of this project on our community's character...

View the slide presentation made to the Planning Commission here...
1.    Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.

2.    The Initial Study Checklist asks four questions as to aesthetic impact, including whether a project will “substantially degrade the existing visual character or quality of the site and its surroundings.”

3.    We are interested in the sensitive and graceful renewal of our commercial district, and specifically, the site of the Kensington Terrace project, which the Community Plan designates as Neighborhood Commercial, although 40% of the Site is zoned CU-3-3. The concern you will hear expressed today is not typical change-resistant angst.  In fact, we look forward to a development that provides new benefits to our community, the least of which is the improvement of this view.   I’m speaking of the propane tank, not Gerald’s house.    

4.    The commercial district in Kensington is composed of repurposed original houses from the 1910 Kensington Park subdivision, as well as a number of one and two--story neighborhood shops built in the 1950’s.  The proposed project, at nearly 50,000 square feet, would not only be the largest building in Kensington, but would be the largest building in the entire Adams Avenue business corridor from Park Blvd. to Aldine Drive. That represents a significant impact on our community. It does not seem to be in keeping with either the Mid-City Communities Plan for Adams Avenue or the purpose of the Central Urbanized Planned District as defined in the Municipal Code.

5.    The Municipal Code for a Planned Development Permit provides criteria for development design.  The scale of the project should be consistent with the neighborhood scale as represented by the dominant development pattern in the surrounding area.  Buildings should avoid an overwhelming or dominating appearance as compared to adjacent structures and development patterns. Abrupt differences in scale between large commercial buildings and adjacent residential areas should be avoided.  This is language taken directly from the Land Development Code.

6.    Unfortunately, the best example of what not to do according to the code is this example we find in Kensington today, the circa 2000 Kensington Park building, also known as the Starbucks building. It is inconsistent with the neighborhood scale and overwhelms adjacent structures.  It demonstrates an abrupt difference in scale between the commercial zone and the adjacent residential zone. It is a mistake we do not wish to make again.  And it does not represent the dominant development pattern in the surrounding area.

7.    Back to the Mid-City Communities Plan.  The recommendations for Adams Avenue commercial expansion include an attempt to use existing structures or their historical character. It encourages lower scale development and the maintenance on on-street parking.  The Kensington Terrace project is not conformance with the community plan.

8.    For the record, we would like to take you on a quick tour of the existing commercial district in Kensington, starting with this single story property immediately adjacent to the project site, on the corner of Adams Avenue and Edgeware Road.  This parcel is zoned CN-1-3.

9.    Immediately across Adams Avenue from the project site is this collection of single and two-story mixed use buildings, built in the early 50s.  Many of the commercial structures you see on Adams Avenue have some history of their own and would probably qualify for historic preservation.

10. The western gateway to Kensington is marked by this single-story restaurant …

11. Which is directly across Adams Avenue from another block of single-story commercial structures with some facades for additional height.  Notice the 25 MPH sign on our alleged 3-lane collector street.

12. Further on down the road, more low-rise CU-3-3, including one of our newest restaurants.

13. And here we have the remainder of the block of Adams Avenue between Terrace and Kensington Drive.

14. The Kensington version of a strip mall even has a little character of our own.

15. Also directly across Adams Avenue from the project site is this repurposed 1925 house, first occupied by a physician and his family and now the office of a psychiatrist.  

16. Another repurposed mixed-use, residential over commercial.  This house was originally a Craftsman and has seen better days, but almost 100 years later, it’s still in service.

17. And then we have the Starbucks building, circa 2000, out of scale, out of character, overwhelming the adjacent buildings,  and yet held up as a precedent and a reason for why the Kensington Terrace project would be visually compatible with the surrounding commercial character.

18. Somehow, even Clem’s Bottle Shop looks attractive by comparison to the hulking mass with the not-so-hidden cell antennas.  We are not sure what the purpose is of the height increasing façade on the front, other than a canard.

19. The Starbucks building pales in comparison with what is about to descend upon us.  Will the proposal result in project bulk, scale, materials or style which would be incompatible with the surrounding development?  Is this project in conformance with the goals in the community plan?  Will the proposal result in the creation of a negative aesthetic site or project?

20. Due to the height variance and zero setback at the rear of the project, the building shadow will put the single story residences to the north in full shadow during most of the daylight hours during the winter months.  Yet the analyst’s response to the question “Substantial shading of other properties?”on the Initial Study checklist,  was “No”.

4720 Edgeware Road - In the shade during the weeks before and after the winter solstice...

21. You’ve been reviewing the update to the General Plan.  Two goals stated in that update are:  to Direct growth into commercial areas where a high level of activity already exists;  and Preserve stable residential neighborhoods. These goals seem admirable and sensible to us.  El Cajon Boulevard is the appropriate location for a 50,000 square foot block long mixed-use commercial/office/residential mall complex.  Not the backyard of a one-of-a-kind California bungalow in a walkable, stable, historic neighborhood.  

It is unfortunate that the goals of the developers are to bring growth to a neighborhood that not only has no room to grow, but no need to grow,  to bring job opportunities to a neighborhood with virtually no unemployment and a median income of $88,000, to bring a “first of its kind” development to a stable model of an urban village that enjoys its quirky Route 66-era commercial center.

22. Back to the Municipal Code.  CU-3-3 is intended to accommodate development with a pedestrian orientation and medium-high density residential use.  Where is the medium-high density residential use in this project?  What we have is a large retail/office complex with some token residential dropped on top.  In order to approve a Planned Development Permit, you must consider whether  the proposed development, when considered as a whole, will be beneficial to the community, and any proposed deviations are appropriate for this location, and will result in a more desirable project than would be achieved if designed in strict conformance with the development regulations of the applicable zone.  

Based on the predominant characteristics of the surrounding area, it would be inappropriate to grant the height variance to allow development over 30 feet on the 60% of the site zoned CN-1-3.  And despite the allowable height of 50 feet on the CU-3-3 portion, it is within the discretion of this body to decide at a later date that it would be inappropriate to build at that height in this community, given the characteristics of the surrounding area.

23. One last note, for the record. It is the opinion of Dr. Michael Simpson and Matt Guilliams, a grad student in Dr. Simpson’s Plant Systematics program in the Department of Biology at San Diego State University,  that the Red Ironbark Eucalyptus in the front yard of 4166 Adams Avenue could be as old as the house, which is 84 years old, and is at least 75 years old.    According to the City of San Diego Conserve-A-Tree Urban Forestry criteria, the age of this tree qualifies it as a Heritage Tree, significant for its age.      [To get a firm age would require coring the tree and counting the rings.]

24. Inexplicably, in the Initial Study the analyst checked ‘No’ in response to the question, “Will the proposal result in the loss of any distinctive or landmark trees?”

25. Finally, I join my neighbors in asking that you Do Not Certify Mitigated Negative Declaration Number 105244, and that you Deny the Planned Development Permit Number 360181 and Vesting Tentative Map Number 360180.  Thank you.