Coalinga city staff is recommending that the City Planning Commission adopt Resolution No. 020P-002 with conditions for the Pacific and Elm Avenue Multi-Family Development Project (proposed project), which consists of a 76-unit high density, affordable housing development.
On December 5, 2019, the City of Coalinga received an application from AMG and Associates for Site Plan Review approval of a proposed 76-unit affordable housing development located south of Pacific Street and Elm Avenue (State Route 198) Intersection. The proposed project site consists of a 5-acre vacant lot that is currently zoned and designated Residential High Density (RHD). This proposal incorporates feedback from all City Departments.
The proposed project proposes to construct eight two-story apartment buildings, 29’-6” feet in height, comprised of 76 affordable multi-family units on a 5-acre vacant lot. The proposed project includes a half-court basketball court, covered picnic tables, tot-lot, fenced pool area, and a 2,734-square foot community center with exercise room, bathrooms, laundry facility, and common area with kitchen. The General Plan designations for the subject parcel is RHD with a zoning designation of RHD. The project is consistent with all development regulations for multi-family housing as discussed below.
Within the RHD designation the allowable density is 25 dwelling units per acre (du/ac), which would allow a maximum of 117 units on the project site (5 acres of proposed development). The proposed project consists of the development of 76 affordable housing units (16.17 du/ac); therefore, would not exceed the density allowed for the project site.
Site Plan Review
According to Section 9-6.402 of the City of Coalinga Municipal Code, a site plan review is required for all residential development projects within the City. The purpose of the site plan review is to enable the Community Development Director or the Planning Commission to make findings that a proposed development is in conformity with the intent and provisions of the Coalinga Municipal Code, and to guide the Building Official in the issuance of permits. The proposed project does not fall under the exempt projects and projects qualifying for Administrative Site Plan Review; therefore, the proposed project requires site plan approval from the Coalinga Planning Commission.
Findings for Approval
According to Section 9-6.404 of the Coalinga Municipal Code, the Planning Commission shall consider the following findings to approve a site plan:
- The proposed construction/alterations are in substantial conformance with the General Plan, zoning ordinance, and any applicable plans adopted by the city.
- The proposed construction/alterations conform to the requirements of the applicable Zoning Districts.
- The proposed construction/alteration conforms to all applicable design standards and guidelines, as adopted by the City Council.
- The construction/alteration will not have significant adverse effects on the public health, safety and welfare.
As described in more detail below, City staff has determined the proposed project is in substantial conformance with the General Plan, zoning ordinance, and any applicable plans adopted by the City.
Residential Multi-Family Development Regulations
The following discussion describes the proposed project’s conformance with the applicable development standards included the in the City of Coalinga Municipal Code.
Zoning Standards Conformance Table
|Lot Size||7,500 sq. ft. min||217,945 sq. ft. (5 acres)|
|Lot Coverage||60% max||21.44%|
|Building Height||50’-0” max||29’-6”|
|Private Open Space||50 sq. ft. per unit (3,800)||7,600 sq. ft.|
|Common Open Space||100 sq. ft. per unit (7,600)||2,734 sq. ft community building|
|Parking||203 vehicle spaces||138 vehicle spaces|
Section 9-2.203(c)(1) of the Coalinga Municipal Code prohibits the total frontage of parking areas visible from the street to exceed 30 percent of the lot frontage. The proposed project currently exceeds the maximum allowable total frontage of parking area visible from the street. However, the Municipal Code permits the Community Development Director may approve a modification to this standard where existing development patterns or topographic features make it infeasible to limit parking and garage frontage to 30 percent of lot frontage. With the combination of fencing, trees and additional landscape treatments along the frontage, including the development of the multi-use trail, the parking area adjacent to Pacific Street is not expected to impact the surrounding area and will reduce the parking facilities visibility from the street.
The proposed project is located at the intersection of Pacific Street and Elm Avenue. Elm Avenue is a two lane street, and carries higher traffic volumes; therefore, all units are oriented around a common courtyard as permitted in Section 9-2.203(c)(2) of the Coalinga Municipal Code. In addition, all entrances for the multi-family units have a roofed projection as required by the Code.
Consistent with the City of Coalinga residential multi-family development regulations, Section 9-2.203(c)(3), the proposed project includes design features to create visual variety and avoid a large-scale and bulky appearance, by breaking up the long building facades into smaller modules by using variable roof forms incorporated into the building design, the use of balconies and ground-level patios, and the use of façade detailing and materials, such as window trim and changes in materials in an integrated composition.
Open Space and Pedestrian Connections
Section 9-2.203(c)(4) of the Coalinga Municipal Code requires residential multi-family developments provide private and common open space areas, which typically consist of balconies, decks, patios, and fenced yards. Common areas typically consist of landscaped areas, patios, swimming pools, barbeque areas, playgrounds, trees, bushes, groundcover, and turf. In addition, all areas not improved with buildings, parking, vehicular accessways, trash enclosures, and similar items shall be developed as common areas.
As shown above, the proposed project meets the minimum common open space requirement of 100 sq. ft. per unit by providing covered picnic tables, basketball court, tot lot, and swimming pool. In addition, the proposed project includes a community building with an exercise room, computer room, and common area. The common open space allows convenient use for outdoor living and/or recreation is accessible to all the proposed residential units on the property. Furthermore, each residential unit includes approximately 100-square feet of private open space consisting of private ground-floor patios and private balconies with storage, which are accessible to only one residential unit.
Coalinga City-Wide Design Guidelines
The guidelines are discretionary tools to be used with the development standards in the City’s Zoning Ordinance to guide a range of development types. The discretionary review under the design guidelines is conducted by members of City staff and, at times, the Planning Commission. The objective of the City-Wide Design Guidelines is to preserve the small-town character of Coalinga in future single-family residential, multi-family residential, commercial, and mixed-use development.
Multi-family residential guidelines encompass all multi-family projects, generally applying to proposed developments with three or more dwelling units or within medium- to high-density residential zoning districts. The Design Guidelines address site planning, building design, transitional guidelines, utilities, and landscaping.
Site Planning and Design
The proposed project groups the proposed structures in clusters around an internal parking area and utilizes an internal courtyard with a community building, pool, tot lot, and covered picnic area in order to prevent the appearance of long monotonous building forms and mass, as described in the Coalinga City-Wide Design Guidelines.
The proposed project includes the development of eight two-story buildings with a community building and creates visual interest and variety within a multi-family site. The proposed project incorporates architectural elements such as façade articulation and different building materials to generate interest and enhance the pedestrian experience so that the visual mass of the structure is reduced and well-balanced. The proposed project avoids constructing long, unbroken façades and row-like building forms and employs balconies, porches to add visual interest to wall lengths. In addition, the project articulates building forms to distinguish individual dwelling units, including modulating roof forms and creating distinct entries with projecting elements. The variety in roof forms breaks up the long expanses of rooflines and varying their heights.
Lighting will be reviewed and approved by the Coalinga Police Department to ensure that there will be no spill over lighting. Off-site lighting shall be installed per City standards as part of the off-site improvements along the development frontage (curb, gutter, sidewalk and lighting). In addition, according to Section 9-2.203(c)(4)(d)(6) of the Coalinga Municipal Code, all outdoor walkways shall be illuminated in accordance with the requirements of Section 9-4.206, Lighting and Illumination.
Landscaping and Fencing
The site plan exceeds the required landscaping percent of the site. Staff has included a condition of approval, which requires the submittal of a separate landscape plan to the Community Development Department for review and approval prior to building permit issuance. In addition, staff has included a condition of approval, which requires wrought iron fencing as recommended in the City-Wide Design Guidelines.
In accordance with Section 9-4.302 of the City of Coalinga Zoning Code and Table 4.4 Required On-Site Parking Spaces, the proposed affordable housing development requires 203 total parking stalls, with a minimum 76 parking stalls to be unit designated and covered. The proposed site plan includes a total of 138 parking spaces, consisting of 68 covered, eight covered accessible, 60 uncovered, and two uncovered accessible. Therefore, the proposed project does not meet the minimum parking spaces required for this development by 65 parking spaces.
However, pursuant to Section 9-6.1301(g) of the Coalinga Municipal Code related to density bonus law and parking for affordable housing, the Planning Commission is permitted to accept concession on the reduction of the number of parking spaces. Therefore, the project applicant is requesting a reduction in parking in accordance with the City’s Municipal Code. The project includes 138 parking spaces, which equals approximately 1.82 parking spaces per unit, or a 32 percent reduction from the typical standard. However, the design and quality of parking for affordable housing projects under section 9-6.1301(g) sets a standard for a studio to one bedroom requiring one (1) onsite parking space, two (2) to three (3) bedrooms requiring two (2) onsite parking spaces and four (4) and more bedrooms: two and one-half (2½) onsite parking spaces. In this case the requirement would be 156 parking spaces.
In addition, this development, proposed as part of an Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities (AHSC) Grant Program, will be within a quarter-mile of a public transit stop as the proposed project will include a transit/bus turnout along the northern property boundary on Pacific Street in addition to transit related infrastructure such as the purchase of Calvans and discounted transit passes for residence. With the combination of State law protecting affordable housing developments, and pedestrian and transit related infrastructure, the reduction in parking is not expected to impact the surrounding properties.
The proposed development provides four trash enclosures for the 76 multi-family units which is sufficient for the number of units. The required trash enclosures and their size, shape and location will be reviewed and approved by the City Engineer and Mid-Valley Disposal and shown on the final site plan.
All signs related to this development shall be submitted in a separate application and reviewed and approved by the Community Development Department in accordance with the applicable signage regulations.
The primary access point for the development will be located at the northern property boundary on Pacific Street with a secondary access point at the western property boundary on Elm Avenue (SR 198). Staff did receive comments from Caltrans related to the driveway on Elm Ave (SR 198) and are currently working through the concerns related to site distance from the intersection of Pacific and Elm. Staff does not feel that the comments from Caltrans will impact the ingress and egress of the development and will continue to resolve the driveway comments on Elm Ave.
All utilities are readily available for connection within the adjacent right-of-way. All utility connections shall be shown on the final site plan and approved by the Planning Department and confirmed by the Public Works Department. There shall be no requirement for on-site storage of storm runoff therefore allowing the development to discharge storm water runoff into the exiting surface system. There shall be a master meter for both water and natural gas which shall be identified on the final site plan when submitted to the City for final approval.
The Developer will be responsible for all improvements along the property frontage in accordance with the comments provided by the City Engineer. In addition, the City has received a comment letter from Caltrans regarding the proposed project and the applicant will be responsible for obtaining an encroachment permit for work on Elm Avenue (SR 33/198).
The Community Development Director has determined that the proposed project supports a Planning Commission finding that it qualifies for a categorical exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The project qualifies as a Class 32 exemption under CEQA Guidelines Section 15332, as described below, applies to the project:
15332. In-Fill Development Projects
Class 32 consists of projects characterized as in-fill development meeting the conditions described in this section.
(a) The project is consistent with the applicable general plan designation and all applicable general plan policies as well as with applicable zoning designation and regulations.
(b) The proposed development occurs within city limits on a project site of no more than five acres substantially surrounded by urban uses.
(c) The project site has no value as habitat for endangered, rare or threatened species.
(d) Approval of the project would not result in any significant effects relating to traffic, noise, air quality, or water quality.
(e) The site can be adequately served by all required utilities and public services.
In this case, the project involves a 76-unit residential infill development on a 5-acre vacant site and meets all the criteria (a through e) outlined above. Therefore, the project is exempt from further analysis under CEQA.
Additionally, none of the exceptions to application of a categorical exemption in Section 15300.2 of the CEQA Guidelines apply, as described below.
- Sec. 15300.2(a): There is no evidence in the record that the project will impact an environmental resource of hazardous or critical concern in an area designated, precisely mapped, and officially adopted pursuant to law by federal, State, or local agencies. The project site is located within a substantially developed neighborhood and is not located in a sensitive environmental area. Therefore, it will not have a significant impact on the environment.
- Sec. 15300.2(b): There is no evidence in the record that successive projects of the same type in the area will have a significant environmental impact. The project is a small in-fill project within a substantially developed neighborhood and will not have a significant impact on the environment either alone or cumulatively with other projects in the vicinity.
- Sec. 15300.2(c): There is no evidence in the record of any possibility that the project will have a significant effect on the environment due to unusual circumstances. The project site is a vacant lot with very flat topography and no habitat value. It is zoned for high density residential development and the project will involve in-fill residential development consistent with the residential zoning. Therefore, there are no unusual circumstances applicable to the project.
- Sec. 15300.2(d) through (f): The project is not proposed near a scenic highway, does not involve a current or former hazardous waste site, and, does not affect any historical resources. Therefore, the provisions of subsections (d) through (f) are not applicable to this project.
Because the project is consistent with the requirements for a Class 32 exemption and none of the exceptions to applying an exemption in Section 15300.2 apply; therefore, there is substantial evidence in the record to support a finding that the project is categorically exempt from CEQA.
REASONS FOR RECOMMENDATION:
Staff is recommending approval of the following project because it meets and/or exceeds the requirements of the Coalinga zoning code in the following respects:
- That all applicable provisions of the Code are complied with.
- That the project is so arranged that traffic congestion is avoided and pedestrian and vehicular safety and welfare are protected, and there will be no adverse effect on surrounding properties: Facilities and improvements; Vehicular ingress, egress, internal circulation, off-street parking and loading; Setbacks; Height of buildings; Locations of services; Walls and fences; Landscaping; Site drainage; Refuse enclosures.
- All signs related to this development shall be reviewed and approved at a later date.