I am with everyone else who doesn’t what to force change on the Bird Rock commercial district, but I do want better protection for the character of Bird Rock when new development proposals come forward. The PDO has served us well and the “Bird Rock 12" was a small step in the right direction.
But now, there are at least three active applications for new Bird Rock projects and at least two other properties for sale. Do we want to scramble every time a new building is proposed; hoping for a community-oriented developer but end up spending our evenings at countless public meetings? Or do we want to be in front of re-development with a carefully crafted plan that understands and protects Bird Rock’s character? The Bird Rock Form-Based Code (FBC) being put together through community (that’s community not committee) meetings, 10 so far, is our best opportunity for such a plan.
The FBC allows buildings with no more square footage and no greater number of condos than is allowed under the PDO; that is, no increase in density or intensity. However, the FBC recognizes that we want to avoid bulky and out of scale buildings. It is chock full of rules to make new buildings pedestrian-oriented and respectful of the single family homes behind them. In contrast, the PDO offer no such restrictions or protections.
If you talk about the draft FBC, you have to talk about the “elephant” in the room-three stories. Bird Rock led the fight against the “three story anywhere and 33% increase in building size” proposal from summer 2005 until its defeat in May 2006. But the FBC offers an approach that is as different as night and day. The FBC proposes no increase in allowed building size and allows a restricted 3-story option to only a third of the total commercial district. The FBC requires a first story with 14-foot ceilings at the sidewalk to provide a quality retail space and confines the 3-story option to the middle section of the building; that is, requires a two-story element in the front of the building and a two-story element in the rear of the building. If the 3-story element can not be seen from the boulevard or the residences behind, haven’t the concerns been addressed? Or is “just knowing it’s in there” an issue?
The PDO puts Bird Rock into the same rules and regulation as the Nautilus Area and Pearl Street; while the FBC is customized for Bird Rock. And it is intended only for Bird Rock.
Wishful thinking and slogans sometimes work, but we are better served by a thoughtfully-crafted zoning plan in place to maintain what we love about Bird Rock. The Bird Rock FBC can be that plan.