Downtown redevelopment forces clashed Friday in a winless confrontation over the future of residential development downtown.
Centre City Development Corp. board members split evenly Friday over whether to bend yet-to-be-adopted regulations to allow construction of a 207-unit, 21-story apartment project on a triangular piece of property lying south of Broadway and west of the Gaslamp Quarter.
The property is in the Marina District, which has been designated primarily for residential development in low-rise buildings that would preserve bayfront views from downtown high-rise office towers clustered along the Broadway corridor. Height limits proposed for the Marina redevelopment area range from 90 feet to 160 feet (or a maximum of about 15 stories), except for a small area southwest of Horton Plaza where a 350-foot height would be allowed.
The frustrated developer, who wants a go-ahead to begin negotiations with CCDC on the 21-story apartment project instead of waiting for final design guidelines for the entire Marina area to be enacted, failed Friday to obtain an exclusive negotiating agreement on the property, which is near the convention center site.
A decision on granting exclusive negotiating rights for the project, at J Street and 1st Avenue (where a 90-foot height limit is proposed), was postponed until next week after several board members and a spokesman for downtown residents objected to taking action on a project that violates the proposed Marina area design guidelines. The project will be considered again at a special CCDC board meeting at 8 a.m. Friday.
Attorney Louis Wolfsheimer, speaking for the Los Angeles development group seeking to build the $36-million Century Towers, urged the redevelopment board to step down from the unreal plane of perfection and deal "with the real world that dictates what's really going to happen."
He warned that if the board members do not give at least a preliminary nod to the Century Towers project, they will boot "out of this town" a development group that is committed to a major residential development that is "not some fantasy by some fast-buck operator from L.A."
Neil Senturia, managing director of the Century Towers development group, stressed that the project has been ready to present to CCDC since December and was not, as some critics had charged, presented at the 11th hour for approval without adequate review by the public or the redevelopment agency staff.
Board member Jan Anton championed the Century Towers proposal, arguing that the group was not seeking final approval of its residential towers but only an exclusive negotiating agreement to work on developing a contract CCDC would approve.
But board member Carol Randolph Caplan questioned whether the high-rise proposal should be given any approval before a Marina residential development plan is adopted. She said the project apparently violated the major restrictions proposed for the Marina area--namely height and density limits and land use restrictions. The first five floors of the Century Towers project would be used for retail and offices, she said, violating the proposed 80% residential-20% mixed-use guidelines.
Century Towers "scares the hell out of me," said attorney William Sauls, who was representing downtown residents. If Century Towers promoters are allowed to negotiate a final development agreement with CCDC staff, Sauls warned, "it will open the door to back-door dealing" with no protection for the rights of residents or the public.
Board members voted to instruct CCDC staff members to draft final design regulations for the south-of-Broadway Marina redevelopment area, bringing the documents back to the board for approval in late August.
Board member Janay Kruger said language in the Marina plan must ensure that residents are notified of public hearings on projects, and that procedures to allow for exceptions to the Marina guidelines must be strengthened to avoid major deviations after approval.