PHCRG Appeals Hotel Development Plan

City Council Hearing Set for Monday, May 4, 2015

Pleasant Hill Citizens for Responsible Growth is invested in preserving our city's unique character and family-friendly neighborhoods.  To do so, we monitor city decisions to ensure they are legally consistent with building height and density issues addressed by Measure B, passed by Pleasant Hill voters in 1986.  

When city officials take actions that are inconsistent with Pleasant Hill's General Plan and zoning ordinance, we speak up!  This is one such case.

The Project

The Hilton Homewood Suites project has been riddled with irregularities from the get-go.  Last June the City Council approved the plan to rezone the area for 4-story, 50-foot tall Hilton Homewood Suites project that significantly exceeds the building height and density allowed by the City’s General Plan and zoning ordinance -- and Measure B.

In March, the Planning Commission approved the development plan permit, despite major flaws and inconsistencies.  It is this action that is the subject of PHCRG's appeal.

The City's actions have rendered our General Plan and Zoning Ordinance meaningless.  The appeal addresses ten points, including inadequate parking, noise and other impacts.  Below is the full text of PHCRG's appeal, for your review.  

The link to a recent Contra Costa Times article is here.  

What This Project Means to YOU

The City is desperate for tax revenues to pay for skyrocketing employee pension costs and neglected infrastructure.  So the City has strong incentive to grant developers license to shortcut zoning requirements. Upholding our community development standards is key to maintaining Pleasant Hill's high quality-of-life for residents.

This project has broad implications for ALL Pleasant Hill neighborhoods. By failing to follow its own development standards, the City is setting dangerous precedent for future development in other parts of the City. This is why PHCRG's appeal of this project is of critical importance to everyone, no matter where you live.  

We invite all Pleasant Hill residents to join us at the hearing on May 4.


LINK TO APPEAL ISSUES MATRIX AND EXHIBITS HERE. 

FULL TEXT OF APPEAL:

Pleasant Hill Citizens for Responsible Growth is appealing the Planning Commission’s March 10, 2015 decision to approve the Hilton Homewood Suites Development Plan for the following reasons:

1. CEQA Categorical Class 32 Exemption

The Development Plan does not qualify for the Class 32 Exemption:

  • The project may cause a substantial adverse change in the significance of a historical resource (Native American Cultural Resources).  Note that our General Plan and the Environmental Impact Report for our General Plan both state that archaeological archival review will be performed for every development project to mitigate the risk of losing significant historical/cultural resources. It is not clear whether or not staff obtained the required review.

  • The Development Plan is inconsistent with our General Plan and Zoning Ordinance

2.  The Development Plan proposes changes to mitigations of potentially significant effects in an earlier CEQA Environmental Impact Report (EIR) without evaluating the effect of those changes:

  • Previous EIR provided for a site survey by an archaeologist who recommended that an archaeologist and an Indian Observer observe the excavation

  • Previous EIR recommended a landscape berm to attenuate noise from the freeway

3.  The proposed location for the swimming pool may create unacceptable noise levels without the landscape berm or other noise attenuation project features.

  

4.  The City introduced a Class 32 exemption opinion by Lamphier-Gregory several months after the Planning Commission and Council voted to approve the Planned Unit Development (PUD) rezoning.

  • Council never reviewed the Lamphier-Gregory document and the public never had an opportunity to provide public comment or challenge the document at a Council hearing.

 5. The City discovered an easement involving 45 parking spaces exclusive to an adjoining parcel (currently occupied by the County Insurance Group) after the Planning Commission and Council approved the PUD rezoning and related Concept Plan.

The new information resulted in significant changes to the project and to the project’s ability to comply with the parking and landscape design standards in the Zoning Ordinance/municipal code.
 
The Planning Commission did not review the exclusive parking agreement/easement in connection with its review and approval of the Development Plan application.
 
Council did not review or consider the exclusive parking easement in connection with its approval of the PUD rezoning and related Concept Plan.
 
The public never had an opportunity to provide public comment concerning the exclusive parking easement, or the resulting project changes, at a Council hearing.
 

  • Depending on the size and location of the 45 parking spaces, the parcel may no longer qualify for PUD rezoning (i.e. if the 2.0 contiguous acre minimum is net acres and if contiguity of the parcel is interrupted by the parking area)

  • The loss of parking area may result in changes to floor area ratio, lot coverage or other measures/limits approved by Council and included in the PUD Ordinance and/or Concept Plan.

  • The total number of parking spaces the project currently proposes is 160 spaces (115 plus 45) which exceeds the number in the PUD Ordinance (“157 on-site parking spaces based on a parking ratio of 1.2 parking spaces per room”)

 
The Concept Plan provides for “up to” 1.2 parking spaces per room. 115 rooms at 1.2 parking spaces per room provides a maximum of 138 parking spaces for the site instead of the 160 approved by the Planning Commission. 

6.  The City discovered a shared parking easement/agreement for 21 parking spaces after the Planning Commission and Council approved the PUD rezoning and related Concept Plan.

  • Given the change in use (from restaurant to hotel), the City should determine whether it can make the findings necessary to support the current shared parking agreement (distances to main entrance for employees and visitors, adequate total parking provided given operational demands of both uses, etc.)
  • This may require approval of a use permit for the shared parking agreement (as part of the overall Development Plan Application approval process)

7. The Applicant proposed changes to the number of parking spaces, composition of parking spaces (regular, compact and motorcycle) and parking space dimensions after the Traffic Consultants issued their report.

  • Conversion of four of the 115 total automobile parking spaces to motorcycle spaces
  • Increase in the percentage of small car spaces from the 50% maximum in our Zoning Ordinance/Municipal Code to 68%
  • No large car spaces meet the 19 foot standard length in our Zoning Ordinance/Municipal Code

The Applicant is proposing 17 feet along the left (north) side of the project and 16 feet (“including overhang”) along the back (east side) of the project.
 
If parked cars protrude into the aisle, Fire trucks may not have the required 20 foot clearance or 45 foot turning radius the Fire Code requires.

The Applicant is proposing to reduce the width of all parking spaces to 8.0 feet (instead of the 8.5 feet standard in our Zoning Ordinance and Municipal Code)

It is not clear what the minimum number of required parking spaces are for this project or whether the changes in composition and parking space dimensions will produce an adequate number and configuration of parking spaces to meet the project’s demand for parking.
 
The Traffic Consultants should reflect any changes in the number of parking spaces, composition of parking spaces, and parking space dimensions in an updated analysis/report.
 
The Traffic Consultants should perform a more in-depth review of comparable hotels (particularly extended-stay hotels) to determine the total number of automobile spaces required, the appropriate ratio of large car to small car spaces, and appropriate dimensions for large and small car spaces.
 
The Planning Commission should make the required findings for approving a reduction in the required number of parking spaces in our Municipal Code:

18.55.050 Reduced parking for single uses.
The planning commission may approve a use permit reducing the number of spaces to less than the number specified in the Schedules 18.55.030A or 18.55.030B; provided, that the following findings are made:
A. The parking demand will be less than the requirement in the schedules; and
B. The probable long-term occupancy of the building or structure, based on its design, will not generate additional parking demand.

8. The Development Plan is inconsistent with our General Plan and Zoning Ordinance

  • The Development Plan exceeds maximum allowed intensity without meeting any of the policies/programs in our General Plan that support increased land use intensity for commercial uses
  • The Development Plan proposes several changes to parking standards and landscaping standards (due to the late discovery of the 45 car exclusive easement). Those changes are not consistent or compatible with our Zoning Ordinance/Municipal Code or Citywide Design Guidelines

9.  The Development Plan/Project is not consistent with the Planned Unit Development (PUD) Ordinance and the PUD Concept Plan Council approved on June 16, 2014 and enacted on July 7, 2014.

 10. The project should include additional conditions of approval to ensure the project will not be detrimental to the health, safety and welfare of the individuals living and working in the Ellinwood area and to ensure the Applicant complies with federal and state statutes.