Planning Commission – Design Review Checklist- Meeting of 7 January 2016 – Item 8A – My comments are below.
Good Evening all. Tonight I am going to request that the Commission get staff to make some small changes in their Design Review Checklist. I am asking that the Citizens Participation Plan take a prominent place in the negotiation between the Applicant and the City. The CPP has to be an integral part of the process, not just a tacked-on nuisance.
I will also suggest ways that the bulk and height of new buildings be communicated to the public.
The Citizens Participation Plan described by Chapter 23.06 of our Municipal Code will be needed for every project in the Floating Zones. This code requires that this take place during the application stages of a project, well before the project gets to the Planning Commission. This program provides an early and less formal dialog between Citizens and Applicants and helps head off problems in later stages. It provides a way for the staff and the applicant to receive and embrace community input, as described by the City’s “Permit and Services Guide”.
I have attended some of the CPP sessions and find that, for those small projects, they are an excellent way for Citizens and Applicants to discuss issues and resolve concerns. This is a tested procedure that works. I’m thinking about community impacts such as view, traffic, and noise, as well as Community Character, whatever that is.
And I’d like to remind you of two definitions.
A “Community” is a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. That is to say, Community is about people, not buildings.
“Community Character” is the sum of all the attributes and assets that make a community unique, and that establish a sense of place for its residents. Can you get your arms around this definition, or should I repeat it?
I’m looking for the best outcome in matching Community Character with the abstract Design Guidelines, and I think the Citizen Participation Program is a non-confrontational vehicle that helps, and is at a stage where it is easiest to change both the paper design and public perception.
The CPP is the way that a Community communicates its character to an Applicant. Community Character is not just about the style of buildings.
I’d also like to mention view lines. Many parts of Encinitas have excellent views of the Pacific Ocean, the Lagoons and Canyons, and other natural features. As building height increases from 30 feet to 45 feet, some of these views are at risk. The idea of going from 30 feet to 45 feet makes this a certainty. And if I had a lovely ocean view and a Floating Zone tried to take it away you can bet that the City would hear from my lawyer!
Cities to the south of us have view ordinances and regularly use Story Poles.
In the 20th Century builders objected to Physical Story Poles as taking cost, time, and nuisance. They also objected to the cost of redrawing plans. This century everything is done on computers. That includes the maps, plans, and 3D computer visualizations. Nowadays blueprints are done on a computer printer, not with a drafting table and some special paper and chemicals. There is software out there that can give us Virtual Story Poles and let us examine a design from numerous viewpoints.
For example, Google Earth and products such as “Chief Architect Software” exist because they do a better job and make it easier to visualize and modify.
In summary, a lot of negative concerns are due to the unknown. Communication and compromise are key. This has to be about people, not buildings.
I’d like the Commission to direct City Staff to integrate the CPP into the Negotiation Process. I’d also like the Commission and Staff to pay attention both to existing scenic views as well as the views from the proposed buildings. I would also like you to get the City Council to consider a view ordinance.