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Korean church rezoning fails without a motion

Friday, May 15, 2015 by Jo Clifton

By declining to take action, City Council quickly scuttled a developer’s plans Thursday to build 70,000 square feet of office space and approximately 10 apartments in the Crestview neighborhood.

Developer David Kahn purchased the site at Justin Lane and Cullen Avenue that was currently occupied by the Korean United Presbyterian Church for redevelopment. But with a valid petition of 34 percent of neighborhood residents opposing any zoning change and District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool ready to lead the charge against the rezoning, Kahn and his representative, Ron Thrower, were obviously facing an uphill battle.

Therefore, it was no surprise when Pool made a motion to deny the zone change from Single Family 3 (SF-3-NP) and Limited Office (LO) to General Office Mixed Use (GO-MU-CO-NP).

It was somewhat surprising, however, when Council Member Ann Kitchen objected, asking, “Do we need to do that?” Kitchen pointed out that if the Council took no action, the case would simply die.

Under questioning from Mayor Steve Adler, Assistant City Attorney Deborah Thomas explained that the case could move forward to third reading only if it had six positive votes. On third reading, it would need nine votes to overcome the valid petition.

Greg Guernsey, director of the Planning and Development Review Department, said the case would die if there were no motion. However, he noted, staff would prefer a vote.

Pool then withdrew her motion, and no other Council member made a motion for any action on the case. Kahn seemed somewhat perplexed when Council moved on to its next item. The previous Council had approved the zoning change on a vote of 4-2, with Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo voting no.

Ultimately, that Council could have only approved the zoning change with six votes on the final reading.

It seems clear that no one on the new Council had any interest in voting for what would likely be a lost cause.

Earlier this week, Thrower said, “In a weird twist, the buyer of the property has decided to file for a future land use map and zoning change” to Multifamily 4 (MF-4) for the 1-acre corner part of the site.

Thrower said Kahn filed that request in February of this year, but it has not made it out of the departmental development review process. Zoning case manager Jerry Rusthoven said two cases cannot move forward simultaneously on the same property, and there had been no movement on the MF-4 case.

Thrower explained that his client had no choice but to file the case in February, because that is the only month he could ask for a change to the future land use map, or FLUM, for that property. Neither Thrower nor Kahn could say whether he would now try to get approval for the multifamily zoning.

It seems likely, however, that Kahn will, unless he wants to wait until next February to ask for a different zoning category. As Rusthoven explained, because Council rejected Kahn’s plans for the office and small amount of residential on the initial site, he can’t come back to Council to request the same level of zoning or anything higher for 18 months.

Chip Harris, the neighborhood activist who gathered signatures for the petition, seemed happy, but he clearly felt that the battle would continue. “Nobody wins in these things,” he said. “The applicant does have a pending application.”


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