Monday, June 09, 2008
Do we need tax monies so badly that we are willing to shoehorn in an unneeded business on an illegal lot?
Coast News.com: Planners stall new drugstore proposal
TO: City Council and Planning Commission
After the Planning Commission meeting where the proposed Walgreen's was approved without resolving the traffic concerns [can you say "pass the buck?"] one Commissioner told me that he had been reassured by staff and counsel that all aspects of the proposed Walgreen's met code and were legal.
I beg to differ and here is why:
The Subdivision Code 24.01.180 authorizes a modification of City standards if special circumstances and the necessity of the modification is clear. It goes on to say "... that the modification will not be materially detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to other property in the immediate vicinity."
Neither of the requirements for modifications to City Standards have been meant. The proposed Walgreen's adds traffic to an already problematic intersection that the City was well aware of even before the traffic report done by Walgreen's confirmed it. The left turns occurring across Encinitas are known to be hazardous and even our Traffic Engineer realized this with his proposal to prevent certain turning motions. Adding additional traffic to an already impacted area is not only counter to the General Plan [as was pointed out by a speaker at the Planning Commission hearing ] but clearly is
"detrimental to the public welfare". You can ask the Henry's market complex tenants if they think that the Walgreen's is "injurious to other property in the immediate vicinity". This is obvious on the face of it. The Planning Commission's defense of property rights is not enough to justify adding an unneeded business in an inappropriate location at the expense of a long established business. The surrounding
residential area residents complained about possible cut through traffic directly attributed to the proposed Walgreen's. All of this was readily foreseeable by even our staff. The modification of City Standards was backed by staff anyway - as in many cases, the staff was a proponent of the development and not referee between the builder and the City Code.
Further on in the Subdivision Code, it again reiterates the wording of 24.01.180 and goes on to say in 24.12.030 b2 "Every lot shall contain the minimum lot area and conform to the minimum lot dimensions and design standards specified in Chapter 30 of the Municipal Code (the Zoning Ordinance) for the zone in which said lot is located at the time the final map is submitted to the authorized agency for its approval".
The MINIMUM [emphasis mine] commercial lot must be 100' by 100' and be 10,000 square feet. The proposed Walgreen's lot may be 100' feet in a Northerly direction, but is not in a Westerly direction. In counting that 100 foot distance, roadways and similar uses do not count. As most of you are aware, this building was to have a drive through completely around the building. This is not a legal lot. You would never know that from the staff report, which fails to mention this. You decide whether this was an
intentional deceit or simply an oversight.
It is also curious that the same planner on the Walgreen's project was the planner that ran into this commercial lot size issue on 1225 Rubenstein Ave. [Case #05-191] where a residence was proposed to be turned into a medical building.
Again, in that case, the staff acted as a proponent of the builder and not a neutral party. So what should have been done on this proposed Walgreen"s ? Staff should have turned the applicant down, sighting the particular code areas mentioned above [there are other more minor violations as well]. That's what they should have done with the 1225 Rubenstein project as well. Why isn't this happening ? Have all of you simply seeded your authority to the Staff ? Do we need tax monies so badly that we are willing to shoehorn in an unneeded business on an illegal lot, negatively affecting the second worst major intersection in Encintas, and the long existing businesses ? Is the only reason we have a Planning Commission is to ensure that buildings built in the wrong place and the wrong usage are esthetically pleasing?
The upshot of the whole Walgreen's mess is that Walgreen's is threatening not to build if their left hand turn access from Encinitas is closed [which apparently, they didn't know was planned with the Encinitas expansion eventually] and the Henry's center management is threatening to sue if their access is curtailed.
All this could have been avoided if Staff had simply done their job. So the question now is who is directing the Staff to to cram in as much development as possible and forget the rules or do we simply have a portion of Staff that needs to be replaced?
*blogger's note-The new issue of Encinitas First, the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce newspaper, has a front page story (an op-ed piece loosely disguised as a news) that is strongly against the Walgreen's project.
The cynical part of me wonders, if the Henry's on Encinitas Blvd was not the #1 Henry's in the chain and not in the top 25 Encinitas tax producers, would the ECC care if that shopping center was impacted?
The ECC website does not have any 2008 Encinitas First issues on their website.