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LA MESA -- Citing the changing real estate market place and acknowledging the strong local opposition to high-rise development in La Mesa, the planners working on the Park Station project in downtown La Mesa have dramatically scaled back the proposed project.
In a press release, the planners working for the Kitzman family have reduced the height proposed on the Baltimore Drive site to four stories for 60 percent of the project closest to Baltimore and at six stories for the portion of the project closer to Spring Street.
The number of housing units has also been scaled back in response to generally strong opposition from neighbors who complained that the original 18-stories would block views and was not in keeping with La Mesa's small-town feel.
The scaled-down project will have to return to the Planning Commission before eventually returning to the City Council for final review. Here is the full press release from Urban Housing Partners:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 28, 2015
Park Station Dramatically Reduces Specific Plan Size and Lowers Building Heights
Much has changed over the last 10 years, especially the economy and the real estate market. When the Park Station Specific Plan was first authored in 2004, the real estate market was at an all-time high. There was a huge demand for newly built condominiums driving the market. Many people were interested in high-rise buildings because they maximized views and provided the ability to include highly desired lifestyle amenities such as: rooftop pools, community gathering spaces, and fitness centers. When the lending industry and a number of banks collapsed in 2008, so did the entire real estate industry and new home sales.
In an effort to obtain community feedback regarding the Park Station Specific Plan the Park Station team conducted numerous merchant walks in the La Mesa Village, gathering feedback from store owners and employees. They also held many Facilitated Discussions and gave over 50 presentations to Community Organizations.
The feedback from the community in 2010-2013 showed that they liked the proposed Specific Plan overall but some didn’t like the 180-foot height limit (high-rise) in the rear zone of the property; many felt that the size and scale didn’t fit into La Mesa. Based on this feedback the development team reduced the maximum height in the rear zone of the Specific Plan from 180-feet (approximately18stories) to 110-feet (approximately 9stories).
In 2014 the Park Station development team appeared before the La Mesa Planning Commission. The feedback from some members of the community at the Planning Commission hearing was that they only wanted to see a height limit of 4 stories on the site, but many felt that 6 stories might be appropriate in the rear portion of the site.
Based on that community feedback, the Park Station team has decided to reduce the Specific Plan height elements to be consistent with the height limitations offered under the current overlay zone of the Downtown Specific Plan, which is 4 to 6 stories. This results in approximately 60% of the site being zoned for 4 stories maximum (along Baltimore Drive) and the remaining 40% of the site being zoned for 6 stories maximum
(back along Spring Street, adjacent to the I-8 freeway). The 6 story maximum in the rear 40% of the site allows for a hotel, office, and more open space.
The number of units has also been reduced. In 2005 the Specific Plan allowed for up to 484 units. Prior to Park Station’s Planning Commission hearing the number of units was reduced to 416. When the Planning Commission hearing concluded, the Park Station team further reduced that number to 363 units.
When the City revised their Environmental Impact Report (EIR) based upon these changes, Bill Chopyk, Community Development Director said "The impact on aesthetics has been reduced to less than significant with the proposed project changes." In other words, the prior version of the Specific Plan's height limits of 180-feet or 110-feet created the site’s only significant environmental impact which could not be mitigated. As of today the Specific Plan no longer has any unmitigated impacts.
Park Station has the potential to provide a boost to the local economy by generating new tax revenue for city services. It will create new jobs, and new housing opportunities for current and future La Mesa residents. Park Station will also utilize environmentally-friendly smart growth principles, offering residents the opportunity to live, work, shop, and dine near community services and convenient public transportation.
The Park Station team will be presenting the reduced Park Station Specific Plan to the Planning Commission on May 20th at 7:00 p.m.