Here is the good news: Fullerton’s Planning Commission is not scheduled to make any decisions about the newly revived Downtown Core and Corridors Specific Plan (DCCSP) or the giant mixed-use housing project proposed for the 600 block of West Commonwealth Ave when they meet on the evening of April 27. The bad news is that this two-building project is being proposed in the first place, and that the DCCSP still exists, albeit radically downsized by Community Development Director Karen Haluza and her staff of planners.
Wednesday night’s meeting is instead a study session for both proposals. The four page staff report about this proposed development attached to the agenda explains rather cryptically that, following a preliminary public meeting in September, 2015, “it was acknowledged that this project would be reviewed concurrently with the final design and development components in the revised DCCSP.” The DCCSP itself has undergone quite a change since first approved by the Planning Commission in 2014. Readers will recall that consideration of the massive, and massively inappropriate, plan was halted in its tracks by, among other concerns, revelations shared on this blog that two members of the Fullerton City Council owned property within 500 feet of the plan area. A study session was promised to properly consider the implications of what would have been the largest single Specific Plan in the city’s history. It never happened, and neither did anything public with the DCCSP, but the Community Development planners were evidently hard at work trying to salvage something from it. Two weeks ago, they narrowed it to “three new zoning tools” to “replace the DCCSP” for the Planning Commission. The proposed tools are:
- Mixed-Use Overlay Zone
- Adaptive Re-Use Incentive Zone
- Central Business District
It is the first new tool, Mixed-Use Overlay Zone, that is being considered “concurrently” with a plan by Red Oak Investments to build nearly three hundred living units in two structures on the 600 block of W. Commonwealth Ave. that together would take up most of a city block between Commonwealth on the North and the railroad tracks on the South side. Unfortunately, this tool seems to be more concerned with “appropriate building and frontage type combinations,” quoting the staff report, than it does with the appropriateness of adding so many new housing and retail units to the former car dealership land in the first place.The plan addresses the issue of overly large building frontages by proposing two stories facing Commonwealth stepping up to four stories backing up to the train tracks (what a view!), but the two structures will still represent over 270,000 square feet of mostly residential space with 568 new parking spaces. And therein lies the major problem. Despite prioritizing water main and electrical upgrades to Commonwealth Ave. in recent months in anticipation of projects like this one, there is virtually nothing that can be done to accommodate the additional vehicular traffic that will be added to our already clogged streets once the units are occupied by people with, you know, jobs to get to. Unless flying cars are introduced into the marketplace by the time tenants move in, there will be more traffic not only on Commonwealth, but also on the residential streets immediately to the North, as drivers try to escape rush hour left turn lines at Euclid and Harbor by cutting through adjacent neighborhoods. The Red Oak project is more than six blocks from the train station. Although a bus line does run up and down Commonwealth, do we really think these new residents are all going to take public transportation? Where are the infrastructural upgrades that will facilitate these additional vehicles? Nowhere, that’s where. Anyone driving near this new project would just have to spend even more time stuck in traffic, and nearby residents would have to endure even more cars speeding through their neighborhoods. Oh, and where are we getting all of the water for all of these new residents?
The DCCPSP may have been downsized, but its purpose seems to have remained the same—to facilitate more and more multistory high density residential developments in the downtown area and along Fullerton’s major transportation corridors, whether the current residents of the city want them or not.