I wanted to share my thoughts on the La Salette apartment PUD proposal from the October 10th Planning Commission work session.
In brief, the new plan is to demolish the existing school building and replace it with a 5 story structure. The bottom story will be parking with 4 stories of apartments on top. There will also be 8 condos facing Oxford. There will be two parking spaces per unit. A public park will be added between the apartments and the church building on Coolidge.
I think this is a huge step in the right direction and a proposal that at least gives us a starting place to have a reasonable conversation.
It is unfortunate the school cannot be saved. However, it is functionally obsolete and the efforts to save it have been a major impediment in this project.
It is not unreasonable for a development of this size to be directly on Coolidge. I believe the proposed structure is taller than the school, so I would like to see a "before" and "after" drawing to give a feel for how the scale will change, but I think it will work.
I originally thought mixed use (commercial on the ground floor with apartments above) would be better here. However, several planning commissioners made compelling arguments that Berkley has more retail space than it can support already, and that parking and traffic would be worse.
Here is what I don't like. I think the developer is still being deceptive even though he doesn't need to be. People are smart and can see the truth. A PUD requires a close relationship between the city, residents, and the developer, and it is hard to have that relationship when one of the parties is not being forthright.
Let's not try and make it sound like this will be affordable senior housing. The developer said they expect a person would need an income of $70,000 or more to afford the rents. That eliminates at least half of Berkley households.
Let's not call it a shared parking agreement with the church. It may meet the legal definition of "shared" parking, but if it is for the apartment's exclusive and perpetual use, that is only a lawyer's definition of shared. The fact that they don't buy it outright is just odd and concerning.
Let's not pretend the taxes will be a community benefit we can't otherwise realize. Anything that goes here will bring new tax revenue.
Let's not pretend different sized apartments count as a diversity of housing stock.
Let's not pretend Google Maps isn't going to take people through residential areas to avoid Coolidge.
While setting aside a community park is nice, I'm not sure how many people will want to utilize a rather small park directly on a noisy road like Coolidge.
Let’s see what the community benefits are going to be. The city would have to give away quite a bit to allow this project, so we need to get a whole lot in return.
There is one benefit the community might be able to realize that I don't think has been considered yet. The project will be required to handle all of its own storm water without negatively impact our sewers. However, if it can handle excess capacity and provide relief to all the sewers in that area, it would definitely be a benefit to the community.
For now, we need to wait and see what the developer brings back. As we get more details, we can more fully assess this plan, its costs, and its benefits.