Planners Refine Area for Tallest Downtown Buildings

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday March 25, 2009 - 06:48:00 PM

The Planning Commission rejected a suggestion from one of its own that would have scaled down Shattuck Avenue development along the thoroughfare’s southern stretch in the new downtown planning area.  

Teresa Clarke, a commissioner who works for nonprofit developer Affordable Housing Associates, urged her colleagues at the March 18 meeting to limit maximum heights along the eastern side of Shattuck midblock between Durant Avenue and Channing Way and the plan’s southern boundary at Dwight Way.  

“The Fine Arts Building is 65 feet, and it feels really good, really appropriate. But 85 feet is too big,” she said during the March 18 meeting.  

But reducing height by two stories from the 85 feet allowed in the commission’s draft Downtown Area Plan wouldn’t be supportive of the city’s Climate Action Plan, said Commission Chair David Stoloff, himself a retired planner. “We should not overconstrain” density, he said. “That would be going backward.”  

Commissioner and architect Jim Novosel backed Clarke’s proposal, as did two of the commission’s non-development-sector members, Patti Dacey and Gene Poschman. But the majority in a straw poll felt otherwise.  

Commissioners did agree to a slight reduction in the southern limits of the plan’s core area where the tallest buildings could rise—a pair of 225-foot hotels and four 180-footers.  

While the area for the highest-rises in the commission’s earlier draft extended from midblock between University Avenue and Addison Street on the north to Kittredge Street along the western side of Shattuck and along the eastern side to a point midblock between Durant and Channing, a commission majority said they would limit the height to 120 feet from a point a half-block south of Kittredge to midway between Durant and Channing.  

Plans to push the taller buildings north of University Avenue have been shelved for the moment, with the commission hamstrung by its adoption of limits that were included in the plan’s draft environmental impact review.  

Commissioners will be voting later on a call for the City Council to approve a study that would expand the tall building zone, provided the city has funding to cover costs of an additional environment review.