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Council rejects bid to remove restrictive covenant on east side lot

Wednesday, February 5, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

City Council members shot down a bid to remove a restrictive covenant on an east side property last week, sending developers back to the drawing board.

 

Hector Avilia was asking for termination of a restrictive covenant at 1120 Tillery Street. Currently, the 3.5 acre lot is home to Ted’s Trees, and zoned for that use. However, the covenant on the land stipulates that the zoning roll back to single-family residence small lot (SF-4a) should the nursery use discontinue. Avilia was asking to keep the current zoning instead, which would allow him to construct a 51-unit condominium project on the land.

 

Despite a recommendation from city staff to grant the covenant termination, City Council voted 5-1 to leave it in place. Council Member Bill Spelman voted in opposition, and Mayor Lee Leffingwell was off the dais.

 

Council Member Mike Martinez said that, while he thinks the city could lift the restrictive covenant for the right project, this wasn’t it.

 

Council Member Laura Morrison said that she was surprised that staff recommended a termination of the restrictions.

 

“This is a restrictive covenant, and it was put there for a purpose. I guess I just don’t know why you would say that there is planning theory that suggests that we have too many restrictions, when the clear intent was to put those restrictions on there,” said Morrison.

 

Ted’s Trees owner Paul Saustraup also asked for the restrictive covenant to be terminated. Saustraup explained that he lived on Tillery Street and had no plans to move.

 

He told Council that when the neighborhood plan was written in 2002, agreeing to the restrictions seemed like the path of least resistance, and the only way to continue running Ted’s Trees, even though the business had been in his family for generations. Later, he was told that his farm usage was allowed under his original zoning, and it was unclear why a restrictive covenant was put in place.

 

Saustraup said the planned development fit with the neighborhood, and would attract families to the neighborhood.

 

“I’ve said no to many other projects in my neighborhood in the past. Recent opposition to urban farms makes me fear for being a steward to my property. Now that I’m supporting smart growth, the same people that opposed urban farms now oppose my smart development,” said Saustraup.

 

Govalle/ Johnson Terrace Neighborhood Contact Team Member Daniel Llanes spoke in opposition to the change. Llanes allowed that the project itself wasn’t particularly egregious, and saved his most strenuous objects to the breaking of the covenant on principle.

 

“We did the restrictive covenant so that Ted’s Trees could continue their business. They agreed, this gentleman agreed, and all that is happening is that we’re honoring that agreement,” said Llanes. “We don’t want to set a precedent of a developer coming into the neighborhood, agreeing on something, and, later on, changing their mind.”

                                                 

Though Saustraup brought letters of support with him, there were several neighbors on hand at City Council to speak against the termination of the covenant.

 

Angelica Novella is a Community Development Commissioner as well as having family in the neighborhood. She spoke against the covenant termination, saying the planned affordable housing didn’t take into consideration the needs of current residents. She advocated the construction of single-family homes instead of the “tin can of density that the city is pushing forward.”

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