Will housing and industry continue to coexist as cheek-by-jowl neighbors in the city? This question provoked heated debate at a community meeting called to discuss a request to rezone part of the now heavily industrial eastern part of the city and restrict it to residential use.
The request to the Dept. of City Planning was made by Willow Street resident Helen Small and several of her neighbors. If successful, it would limit all future construction between 2nd, Green, Oak and East Streets to residential use, and, in addition, require current industrial property within those boundaries to convert to residential use in 20 years.
Participants in the last meeting included strong adherents and opponents of the proposal, as well as many neighbors who simply came to find out what was going on. But despite sharp differences on the rezoning question, there was general agreement that certain violations by their industrial neighbors were causing serious problems for nearby residents.
Sewage, garbage, illegal double parking and street blocking were cited by neighbors, and, one charged, “You can’t get an ambulance down the street in an emergency.”
Steven Strong of City Planning stressed that in the case of these violations, “enforcement of existing laws should be addressed,” and City Planning’s Susan Emery told the press there had been a number of violations reported, which are currently being studied and monitored.
Emery indicated there are a number of options short of total rezoning for addressing neighbors’ concerns. The area under consideration could be divided into different subplots, she said, pegging certain parts for mixed-use, residential, commercial, or live/work space. Even if an area is rezoned for residential, she added, it might still be possible to exempt current industrial enterprises and only limit future construction.
In fact, a number of proposals are already under preliminary discussion for that area’s future. Mayor of the city, committed to providing as much affordable housing as possible in the city, is eyeing the area where the PG&E tank now sits as a potential site for housing when the tank comes down in two years.
Proposals are also being made to create live/work space for artists on the parcel closest to 2nd and East Streets. Emery pointed out that new live/work space regulations require strict parking and loading standards, which would minimize any problems with immediate neighbors. A number of commercial and industrial firms are also considering construction in that area.
And some residents are hoping future plans for the land include at least some open space. “I can see a lot of these uses coexisting,” said River Street resident Mike Davis. “If you have a park as a buffer zone, it might work.”
One topic that frequently comes up whenever rezoning is discussed is the impact of any change on property values -and this aspect of the question was raised heatedly at the meeting.
Strong proponents of rezoning insisted that the plan would enhance their property values, and owners of industrial property claimed that the value of their buildings would plummet.