Siskiyou condos approved

Come next fall, there will likely be 13 new condos on Siskiyou Boulevard, as the Planning Commission gave the go-ahead to the developer, even though neighbors argued the area was already too crowded at the Tuesday night meeting.

Commissioners voted 6-0 to approve the project but, in a move that neighbors requested, mandated the builder, Steve Asher, install standard city sidewalks in front of the lot on the corner of Siskiyou Boulevard and Bellview Avenue.

Commission Chair and Mayor-elect John Stromberg, and Commissioners Dave Dotterrer and Tom Dimitre were absent from the meeting.

The contentious meeting was a continuation of one last month, when the commission ran out of time to vote on the project, which calls for demolishing the existing house on the property and constructing five buildings around the perimeter of the 2300 Siskiyou Blvd. lot. Asher plans to start construction this spring and have the condos move-in ready seven months later, he said.

"We are concerned about the impact the development will have on an already crowded neighborhood," Mike Tillinghast, president of the Bellview Homeowners Association, told the commission Tuesday.

Tillinghast and a few other neighbors said Bellview Avenue is already lined with parked cars and traffic has become a problem.

However, Mark Knox, a development consultant hired by Asher, said the lot could actually allow almost 16 condos, but Asher chose to keep the project small.

"They say that our development is too dense but the neighbor's development is actually more," Knox said.

To neighbors' chagrin, Asher plans to build the entrance to the condo project on Bellview Avenue, because it's safer than having residents turn in and out on Siskiyou Boulevard, he said.

Asher also told the commission that instead of installing standard sidewalks, he wanted to mend the existing asphalt path and plant trees alongside it for aesthetic reasons and to maintain consistency with other portions of sidewalk on that side of the street.

"I don't want to set precedent as a developer, because that's usually what starts happening is we bear the brunt of that. My point is, do we want to do that or do we want to take a look at that whole side of the boulevard and decide what we want to do there?" he said.

However, Woo Gardenswartz, a Bellview Avenue resident, said he thought the sidewalk was unsafe without standard curbs and didn't think it was fair for the developer to sidestep the city requirement, in case sidewalks had to be installed later.

"Then the homeowners will foot the bill. I don't think that's right," he said.

Although the commissioners voted to require Asher to install standard sidewalks, several said they agreed with the developer and disliked the look of the concrete paths, but felt forced to comply with city requirements because of liability concerns.

"It feels suburban, it feels over-engineered, it feels a bit inappropriate," said Commissioner Mick Church, who voted "reluctantly" to require Asher to install the standard sidewalks.

But Commissioner Pam Marsh said she felt the sidewalk needed to be improved for safety reasons and to make it more pedestrian-friendly.

"The path, although it's been romanticized in many of our comments, it's actually not that great," she said, adding that she walks "up and down it" regularly.

Some neighbors also expressed concern that the riparian space on the project will be damaged because the developer plans to install a parking lot that overlaps with part of the buffer zone established to protect a former creek. According to Derek Severson, the city's associate planner, the creek water is now piped underground in the area.

Because there is already concrete in the area and the creek is piped underground, the commission voted to allow Asher to build part of the development's parking lot on the riparian space.

In other business

Commissioners also voted 5-1, with Mick Church dissenting, to approve a proposal by Kerry Ken Cairn to create a new lot on Vista Street near Glenview Drive, where a home could eventually be built, by splitting an existing lot in half. The lot does not have access to a paved street and will be accessed from Glenview Drive.

Church said he felt the street should be widened to accommodate the new lot, but other commissioners said widening the street would create erosion problems and cause the removal of too many trees.

Staff writer Hannah Guzik can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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