Hines: A Tale Of Two Cities.

HinesIt was the worst of times… period. We’re fighting a war on two fronts and threatened with losing both. On one side Breans are going head-to-head with Hines Properties, a megacorp hell bent on building a hulking monstrosity on St. College north of Birch. On the other we have a runaway Planning department who seems to consider themselves above the law, repeatedly overreaching their authority.

Neither situation bodes well for the people of Brea. The fact that both are connected makes the threat exponentially larger. As the policy and procedural issues can only be addressed by City Council I’ll leave that for another blog and focus on the development issues that need to be solved by the Planning Commission.

Reining in Hines.

At their April meeting, under the less than subtle steering of Chairman McGrade, the Planning Commission ended up desperately trying to patch one small element of the Brea Place project and calling it done.

Commissioner Schlotterbeck made the observation that the project fell short, by about 20%, of complying with our 14 year old General Plan’s maximum density guideline. Next thing you know the much larger southern building and the hotel were tucked aside, seemingly approved and focus was turned to the northern building… Building B.

In a miraculous demonstration of redesigning-on-the-fly, the Hines architect made most of the fourth floor disappear and reduced the building’s density by almost 20%. That’s 22 apartments for those who nitpick numbers. Commissioner Schlotterbeck was quick to point out that the disappearing act also removed parking for 38 units, throwing the building into noncompliance with the 1.78 spaces per unit parking requirement.

Maximum vs. minimum standards.

So, the push seems to be to stay within maximum allowed density while meeting a minimum parking standard. Ok, I’ll say what you’re thinking. What the hell? This is like getting open heart surgery done on a low bid basis.

Why do these city planners think the best policy is to always operate at the fringes of acceptability? Why is building as close as possible to the maximum allowable density the best idea? Why are parking conditions always targeting the fewest number of spaces that might accommodate the demand?

How about building comfortably below the maximum density and designing a parking plan that would actually meet peak demand? What a novel damned idea.

Speaking of minimum standards.

While we’re on the subject, it’s this same unsupportable mentality that led to adopting an addendum to a 14 year old General Plan EIR as the best way to comply with CEQA. Again, operating at the very fringe.

Going with the addendum is the weakest, least defensible means of minimizing or mitigating environmental impact. Hell, the addendum claims there isn’t sufficient environmental impact to warrant doing a new EIR. Circular logic. Inexcusable.

Once again staff dances on the edge of rational choices. Why? To cut public comment out of the conversation? To fast track the project and save Hines the $1.5 million cost of an EIR so staff could extort it later to help defray the cost of some politician’s pipe dream or rock garden?

Drawing a line in the sand.

HinesHey… Commissioners, Planners and Mr. Ninty-Five Billion Dollar Out-of-town Developer… we’re putting you on notice. Nothing less than a blanket 20% reduction in density across the entire project is acceptable. Nada. Nothing.

And that’s the starting line… not the finish line. We still need to talk traffic, parking, building mass and setbacks, in lieu fees and retail that won’t cannibalize local business.

You walked out of the April meeting fist bumping and trading high fives. Listen carefully, you never count your money when sitting’ at the table, there’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

Markman & Flower

 

10 thoughts on “Hines: A Tale Of Two Cities.

  1. This is excellent and I am in full support of this viewpoint. The entire project must reduce in density, and the Planning Commission must start doing what they’re there for… to protect the public and what the public wants — their city to be a quaint place and not an Urban building nightmare!

    PS – I have visited the Rosecrans location in San Diego and the Adaptive traffic control will not help. Too little distance/concentration on St. College from Lambert to Imperial.

    • Ken… Thanks, and I totally getcha about the Adaptive traffic control… won’t work for the same reason you can’t judge an athlete’s speed with a 10 yard dash. These Hines folks must think we’re a bunch of country rubes…

  2. Cut right to the chase didn’t you! The marching orders for the Planning Commission couldn’t be more clear… or appropriate. McGrade needs to run it like a proper meeting and keep his comments reserved for breaking a tie. That’s what Chairmen do.

    Willis needs to pull his chair back up to the table an rejoin the discussion. Grosse and Fox both voiced concerns for everything you mentioned. We’ll have to see if they speak up at the next meeting or continue to timidly agree with Schlotterbeck… the only Commissioner making much sense.

    I tried to look up those references she mentioned but failed completely. Where were they, the Dead Sea Scrolls? I hope you had better luck.

    20% across the board or it’s game over for Hines.

    • Mr. Braddock… Glad we finally met at the last Commission meeting. Always good to put a face to the comments.

      Yes, I did get links to the citations, poured over them and have challenged Commissioner Schlotterbeck to discuss further.

      My reading produced interpretations exactly opposite of hers. It seems she dug up small notations buried in the middle of lengthy legal statements (Title 14. California Code of Regulations Chapter 3. Guidelines for Implementation of the California Environmental Quality Act).

      Here’s one out of several objections I’ve shared with her, this one regarding use of an “earlier” EIR. I told her, “All references repeatedly state ‘An EIR prepared for an earlier project may also be used…’ and there is no provision to accept the use of a program level document — i.e. the 2003 General plan FEIR. I would also point out that ‘earlier‘ does not necessarily support using a 14 year old document.

    • hey Chuck… You’re welcome. Not sure where Melanie lives but her mom, Claire, lives out in Olinda Village as I recall.

  3. Saw your post on Nextdoor so I watched last Tuesday’s Council meeting. Dwight raises some great issues and I like that he actually researches his points. You guys get the facts nailed down before going public. Most people don’t do that.

    I hadn’t looked closely at any of the Hines drawings until now. Incredible. Do they really think we want something that huge sitting right on the sidewalk? I was only thinking about how tall the building was, about three stories too much. This setback thing is a real problem.

    And I agree, everything is back up for consideration, not just building B.

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