A working group on Southside housing, zoning and land use went to the Planning Commission Wednesday night with a brash new plan for development in the south-of-campus area.
The group called for housing above shops along Telegraph Avenue to reach five stories, with the caveat that some buildings would not, in fact, reach that height.
“The street should not become a canyon, fully-lined with buildings that high,” the committee report noted.
They sketched out an “overlay” zone – a zone that crosses various residential/ mixed-use zones – where new residential development close to campus would be “car-free.” Developers would not be forced to build parking into their projects, in that area. The Underhill parking
lot, where the university has proposed a 1,000- to 1,400-car garage, falls in the car-free zone.
“Students would rather live near campus than have cars,” said Kate Gordon, a member of Students for a Livable Southside and a member of the working group.
New construction would emphasize the inclusion of “affordable” units for those earning 60 percent of the Bay Area’s median income. Historic sites would be protected.
The plan calls on the university to make land available to nonprofit groups that want to develop housing. Offices would be better situated on Bancroft Way than on Bowditch, they said.
The Planning Department staff will refine the group’s ideas and report back to the commission at a date yet to be determined.
While there was much enthusiasm among those in the audience and on the commission for the group’s ideas, there was also hesitation. Speaking for the Claremont-Elmwood Neighborhood Association, Doris Willingham said the plan would leave people with nowhere to park when they attended events at the university.
“We don’t like the waiver of the parking requirement,” she said.
And Commissioner Mary Ann McCamant said the area was already too dense to think about adding more housing.
On the other extreme, Southside resident Jason Meggs, who spoke as a representative of the Bicycle Civil Liberties Organization, argued that the plan “does not go far enough in terms of density.”
Commission Chair Rob Wrenn underscored that this plan is not set in stone. It’s a jumping off place and will be refined once the staff brings it back in a more formal presentation. “This is not a no-growth plan and not a developer’s plan,” he said.
Speaking for the LeConte Neighborhood Association, Patty Dacey said she and her neighbors are exhausted from their battles with the university.
“This is a plan we can work with,” she said. “It meets our concerns, but it needs some tweaking.”
The commission voted 6-1-1 to send the plan to staff for refinement. McCamant voted no and Susan Wengraf abstained. Joe Howerton was absent.
The next meeting on the Draft Southside Plan is at 7 p.m., May 4 at Trinity United Methodist Church, 2362 Bancroft Way. It is a discussion of the working group on public safety.