Jeff Clemetson | Editor
In a narrow 6 to 4 vote, the Navajo Community Planners, Inc. (NCPI) voted to oppose the development of 24 single family homes in the area behind the Chevron station on College Avenue in Del Cerro.
The development is a proposed project of home builders ColRich and property owners Marburn Corporation and has been controversial ever since it was first brought to NCPI two and a half years ago. At issue is the proposed entrance and exit portal to the housing development, which only allows residents to exit onto the northbound lane of College Avenue, forcing them to need to drive to an intersection with a legal U-Turn to get on Interstate 8. Conversely, residents would need to be traveling north on College to enter the development so if they were heading south on College, they would need to drive over Interstate 8 and then make a U-Turn to get home.
Critics of the project say that inconvenience would tempt residents there to make illegal, and dangerous, turns out of the development onto busy College Avenue. They also point to the inaccessibility of emergency vehicles to the development because of the awkward entrance.
During his presentation, ColRich representative Seth Dorros admitted that the entrance portal was not ideal, but it was the only option. He pointed out that the entrance is placed where there was adequate visibility for cars pulling out of the development. Dorros also hailed the design of the mid-century modern homes as being “consistent with the community character” of Del Cerro. He also said that the small scale of the project — only 24 homes — is why the city traffic study showed the traffic impact of the project to be “less than significant.”
“In general, the architecture I think is great — I like it for Del Cerro. I’m not even concerned about the amount of traffic that it would be adding to the community, the amount of traffic is negligible,” said Doug Livingston, NCPI board member representing Del Cerro. “It’s the egress and ingress and the impact that it puts on the community that is my main concern.”
Livingston said he normally supports infill development projects but described that ColRich proposal as developing a “leftover piece of land that wasn’t planned well back in the 50’s when the area was originally planned” that lacks good access.
NCPI Del Cerro representative Lance Grucela brought up a concern with whether the project fits in the community plan. Specifically, he quoted the community plan that said developments should be avoided on steep slopes or canyons.
“That’s exactly what this land is,” he said, adding that the project was only being considered because it is on one of the only empty parcels left in the Del Cerro area. “And that’s not a good enough reason.”
Charlene Owen was one of the small group of Del Cerro residents who spoke out against the project. She said she visited the local fire department to ask about the accessibility to the proposed development.
“[The main engineer] said the first means of entering this property would be going in the wrong way or driving into oncoming traffic lanes at the intersection of Del Cerro Boulevard and College Avenue. If that’s not an option, he said we’ll get there eventually by making an emergency U-Turn by the freeway ramps, but he said it would be brutal to manage this.”
Following public comments, Grucela motioned for the board to vote against supporting the project, seconded by Livingston.
Before casting his vote to oppose the motion, Granville representative John LaRaia urged support of the ColRich project. He cited the fact that the property is zoned for up to 52 units, and if this project failed, a higher-density proposal “could be dropped on your lap” and be much worse for Del Cerro.
LaRaia was joined by NCPI president Matt Adams as well as board members Dan Smith and David Hardy, but the remaining four members sided with Grucela and Livingston to deny support of the ColRich project.
Of course, the NCPI vote is only advisory and an upcoming vote by the city planning department may have a different outcome.
—Reach Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.