A mixed-use project approved by the planning commission on Thursday will fill some gaps in downtown’s East Village. But in some ways, the modern 9G tower resembles an earlier era.
241 new dwelling units in a 22-story tower will rise up over the old Pacific Telephone and Telegraph company garage on the south side of G Street between 9th and 10th avenues. The ground floor will hold a large retail store with a grocery department. There will be a dog park.
The art deco garage, built in 1932, was added on to in 1946.
But there won’t be any affordable housing. Downtown has about 28,000 dwelling units, but only 5,141 of them are affordable and the city needs to bump that up – way up – to meet its share of regional housing needs. The city needs 88,096 units through 2020, out of which nearly 62 percent is for low and moderate income households.
By paying an estimated $2.7 million “in lieu” fee to support affordable housing elsewhere, developer Cisterra gets around the city’s inclusionary housing policy that would require 10 percent of the homes to be set aside for households earning at or below certain income levels.
Another measure the city passed to boost affordable housing repealed the minimum parking rule. Now, new housing doesn’t have to include new parking. The 9G project, however, comes with 243 parking spaces for cars – which seems better suited to the existing building’s historic use.
“The increasing importance of the automobile as America’s favored method of private transportation from 1900-1956” helped earn the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph company garage historic designation last year as a special element of the city’s economic growth.
Another reason for the designation was the building’s art deco style, emphasizing bold geometric forms. The garage, built in 1932, was added on to in 1946. The 9G project will make far bigger changes, keeping the historic façade, except for the later addition, while rebuilding the interior to house Target.
Directly over the historic garage will go five above-grade parking garage levels.
Before the planning commission last week was a batch of permits to approve or deny. A site development permit was needed due to the massing, size, scale and proportion of the proposed 21-story tower above the garage.
Historic building rules don’t allow a similar art deco design for the new portion, and some commissioners thought there was a lack of visual symmetry.
Laurie Jones, Target’s senior development manager, said they would try to meld the historical aspect into their bullseye signage, as they did in North Park.
A neighborhood development permit was requested for five deviations from the city’s development regulations, mainly due to constraints of the lot size and the historic resource; such as reducing the number of required personal storage areas.
Extended hours of alcohol sales at the retail store was opposed by the San Diego Police Department. Instead of the standard 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., the applicant asked to make it 8 a.m. to 12 a.m., an exception made for Albertson’s and Jimbo’s.
Jason Wood, with Cisterra, said the longer hours were a condition of the lease with Target, though 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. would likely work.
The last deviation was a tentative map for seven commercial condos.
The permits were unanimously approved with a modification to the alcohol sales hours from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The downtown community planning group has reviewed the project, and, like several commissioners, questioned the lack of affordable housing, which Cisterra’s Wood says has prompted a “tentative arrangement” with affordable housing developer, Chelsea.
“We’ve elected to go down the in-lieu path,” Wood said, “but there are discussions between us, the city and San Diego Housing Commission and Chelsea about a transaction to help fund one of their projects where we provide our units on site.”
Commissioner Austin praised the developer’s tenacity at a difficult time, noting how much new housing is needed across the board. “Twenty-eight thousand units is still woefully short of where we want to be downtown,” he said.
“But without redevelopment I’m concerned that affordable will also suffer before too long.”