By John Keener, Special to Riptide
With all the tumult about the Harmony @ 1 development above Roberts Road, the truth is that it's years too late. What we need is an early-warning system for these kinds of projects so that we can have an opportunity to affect their outcome. We've had an early warning on the Gypsy Hill project. We need to become informed now or in a few years we will be wondering how it all happened:
This potential development encompasses two tracts in East Sharp Park, totaling about 30 acres. One is about 26 acres below Sharp Park and Gypsy Hill roads, and above Brighton Road to the north, colored green in the figure above showing the proposed construction. It is severely sloped, with spectacular views of the coastline and ocean.
The other is an "L"-shaped 4.4-acre tract, also steeply sloped, with Frances Avenue to the west and Clarendon Road, a "paper" street, to the north. It is colored yellow and orange in the figure above.
The 26-acre plot (in green) currently has a land use designation of commercial or residential/open space, and is zoned Commercial (C-2, residences not permitted), with a Hillside Preservation District (HPD) overlay. The Hillside Preservation District limits the area of the parcel that can be disturbed, for example, by houses, roads, or construction equipment, using a calculation based on the steepness of the land. HPD is certainly appropriate on this piece of land, where the risk of slippage or landslide due to construction activity threatens the houses below.
Neighborhood activists thought they were working with the landowner toward a bed & breakfast or a conference center. But the Draft General Plan Update changes the land use designation from commercial to very low-density residential, which may permit 0.5 to 5 acres per residence, or up to 52 residences on the 26-acre tract. This change from commercial, with no residences permitted, to very low-density residential is an example of a change in the Draft General Plan Update that favors development at the expense of community groups.
The development plans call for 16 residences, or about 1.6 acres per residence on the 26-acre tract. Note that the calculation required by the Hillside Preservation District has not yet been made. This calculation is critical for evaluation of the project. About 4.5 acres of the 26-acre tract would be designated a park, and a trail would be constructed up the hill to the rest area on Sharp Park Road. A left-turn lane would be required on the eastbound (uphill) part of Sharp Park Road, as would a right-turn lane in the other direction.
The "L"-shaped second parcel of about 4.4 acres (in yellow and orange) by Francis Avenue and Clarendon Road is slated to get 10 residences and 16 below-market-rate units. The below-market-rate units are apartments or condos, four to a building, in the northwest corner of the project. This parcel is divided between two tracts zoned single-family residential, one B-3 and the other B-10, and is also in the Hillside Preservation District. The owners probably plan to get changes made to the zoning for these tracts by trading zoning rights among the parcels to accommodate their building plans.
Under current zoning (shown in the figure above), this project could not be built. It depends on a land use designation that has been changed in the Draft General Plan Update, in spite of opposition expressed by community groups and others at study sessions and forums. Those who oppose this development will find their first battle in trying to reverse that change made in the draft plan. The next phase will probably be a struggle over the details of the Hillside Preservation District and zoning regulations, and how they will apply to the property. Bear in mind that the plans, if permitted, would transfer with any sale of the property.
There is much at stake. Not only are the views of the hillside likely to change forever, but building on that hillside may increase the risk of landslide. Traffic on Sharp Park Road will be impacted, and one of the main approaches to Pacifica will be marred. And the property is a wildlife corridor. This is an opportunity to preserve the hillside character of Pacifica, which together with our coastline is our environmental heritage.
http://www.pacificariptide.com/pacifica_riptide/2014/04/gypsy-hill-a-go-go-pacifica-planning-commission-april-21.html (Riptide post on proposed project)
http://www.cityofpacifica.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=6603 (Planning Commission study session of proposed project)