Thursday, April 24, 2008

Big Kensington Terrace News!!!

This just in from Heart of Kensington:

For several months core members of the Heart of Kensington Organizing Committee have been working diligently to ensure that the Kensington Terrace project complies with California law and preserves the character of our neighborhood. We understand that any development must meet economic realities, and we are committed to a balanced approach that would allow for profitable development while at the same time protecting the essential nature of Kensington.

The Heart of Kensington sought meaningful changes to the project's original conception and design that addressed a number of significant community concerns including traffic, scale/density, retail usage, and historic/community character.

Today we are happy to announce that an agreement has been reached between the Heart of Kensington and Terrace Partners that is the result of sometimes difficult negotiations between the two parties. As a result of this legally binding agreement, Terrace Partners can now begin redeveloping this block of Adams Avenue to the benefit of the entire community.

Please join us tomorrow, Friday, at 11 am in front of the library for the announcement of the settlement to the media. Bring friends and neighbors and celebrate with us and the wider San Diego community!

Click keep on reading for the full Heart of Kensington announcement and details of the agreement.


The foremost concern expressed by residents of Kensington was in regard to the scale and height of the proposed building. Under the agreement, the new building has been significantly scaled back and no longer requires a zoning variance or deviation in the CN-1-3 (30 foot) zone. The three rowhomes on Edgeware Road will stand separately from the main commercial building, providing a much smaller impact in bulk. The retail space on the corner of Edgeware Road and Adams Avenue will only be single story, to better match the single story directly across the street (the Autism Institute). The remaining retail/office space in the CN-1-3 zone will be two-story only. The only three-story component will be in the CU-3-3 zone and consists of a 5,000 square foot third floor located approximately where the gas station and pumps are situated, yet significantly stepped back on all sides so that the shadowing on the residential properties to the north has been reduced or eliminated. The building at its highest point will be 35 feet, which is the same height as the Starbucks building.

The portal on the south fa├žade on Adams Avenue has been significantly enlarged, both in width and height, and is open all the way through the roof. A plaza will now be located at this entrance where previously there was none. The building exhibits varying heights and, with the portal, good articulation.

The overall building square footage has been reduced from 56,000 square feet to 49,000 square feet.

The community also was concerned about the increase in traffic brought by the proposed uses of the building. HoK has negotiated a number of terms that will reduce traffic levels. These restrictions relate to allowed uses, retail store size and caps on projected traffic, measured by "Average Daily Trips" or "ADTs." First, no high-turnover convenience stores will be allowed. You may recall that City Councilmember Toni Atkins attempted to add this as a condition of the permit during the City Council hearing, but the developer indicated it was opposed, and she dropped it. HoK put this limitation back in. This is a big win, as convenience stores are major traffic generators.

We have also negotiated terms relating to maximum size of individual retail space and percent of national brand or formula businesses allowed, to encourage the recruitment of neighborhood-serving mom-and-pop businesses rather than traffic-generating chain stores and fast food establishments such as Burger King and Target. We have also reduced the allowed project ADTs by 20%, subject to the Mitigation, Monitoring and Reporting program conducted by the City.

With regard to parking, Terrace Partners' new design should provide seven, free parking spaces behind the building adjacent to the alley. The inclusion of these spaces not only mitigates the loss of the on-street parking resulting from the widening and red-striping of Marlborough Drive, but causes the building to be stepped-back further from the alley and away from the adjacent residences.


With any negotiation comes compromise. In order to reduce construction costs, Terrace Partners' new design for the main building includes only retail and office space. The first floor is retail and the second floor is office, as before. The third floor, which previously had been 15,000 square feet of residential, is now 5,000 square feet of office space. Overall, there has been a decrease in residential space and an increase in retail/office space. By choosing to eliminate the inner courtyard, the architect and developer created more leasable space. All of the other terms that we negotiated regarding retail space size, use and ADT caps are intended to offset the traffic impact of the overall retail/office space.

The new design has one underground floor of parking. The number of parking spaces provided will meet city code requirements. The previous design provided an excess number of parking spaces, but as it was underground validated parking, the community never saw this as much value added, so the removal of a half-floor of parking in exchange for free parking spaces off the alley is a win. By eliminating a half-floor of underground parking, the developers have reduced their construction costs, which allowed them to make the other concessions.

During the City Council hearing Toni Atkins asked the developers to allow sixty days for someone to come forward to claim the 1923 Roy and Dora Bennett house (just east of the gas station). The developers were to give the house to anyone for free who wanted to move it to another location. It has been well over 60 days and no one has come forward, which is not surprising, since there is very little vacant land available in the urban core of the city. While there is some possibility that after litigation and an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) the city might have directed the developers to incorporate the house into the design, or move it at their expense to a parcel of land that they own, those outcomes are highly unlikely, given the city administration's current policy toward historical designation and the Mills Act, for example. Nevertheless, during demolition of the house, materials will be salvaged and given to Habitat for Humanity.


The outcome of an EIR is unknown, and the cost of going forward with the lawsuit would have totaled approximately $75,000. To date, HoK has raised approximately $23,000 in direct fundraising appeals to the community. The concessions made by Terrace Partners regarding the height and scale of the building, coupled with the at-grade parking and retail use restrictions provided the most important features that the community requested. HoK worked hard for and made a decision to accept the terms of this revised development and we feel the community and all parties involved will benefit.

We understand that not every member of our community will be pleased with the solution that we have achieved. Some people would be happiest if nothing changed and Jacob and the gas station remained, along with the great old eucalyptus tree and the old houses. Others would like to see the new building be smaller still, or even larger. The reality is that Terrace Partners owns the property and has a right to develop it. They have scaled back the design so that they are no longer in need of a zoning variance. We see this as a major win in that no precedent is set for future development on Adams Avenue in Kensington.

HoK believes that by reaching agreement now without going forward with the lawsuit, we have achieved what we may have achieved at the end of the lawsuit and EIR, only at a much lower cost. It may be tempting to think of the HoK Core Team as a disembodied abstract, but we are really your neighbors, and we hold full time jobs, take our kids to school every morning and pick them up every afternoon, coach Little League in the evenings and attend the monthly Kensington Talmadge Planning Group meetings, among other activities that make up our busy lives. We feel good about having accomplished such a significant, meaningful goal and look forward to celebrating with the community.

But first we still have attorneys' bills to pay. Our fundraising to date does not cover the bills we have accumulated, and there will be costs associated with the execution of this settlement as well as unknown future costs for HoK as the development project moves forward. While we have secured agreement from Terrace Partners to reimburse HoK for some of the costs associated with this effort, we are looking to the community for your continued support. Donations are still appreciated and can be sent to HoK at the address below, or visit the HoK website:

In addition, we hope you will join us at the First Annual Landmarked Homes of Kensington Tour on May 17th from 10 AM to 4 PM. Please visit the home tour website for more information and tickets:

The Heart of Kensington will continue to serve as a conduit for neighborhood information and will promote appropriate development on Adams Avenue in the Kensington commercial district by focusing on urban planning and development that conforms to the small-scale, historic, pedestrian friendly guidelines of the Mid-City Communities Plan. HoK represents the concerns of over one thousand Kensington residents to City planners, elected officials and developers to ensure that the existing community character drives the graceful and sensitive renewal of the commercial district.

HoK reinvests in the Kensington neighborhood and donations are used to support several HOK initiatives, including community outreach and communication about issues affecting heritage homes and historic neighborhoods, advice and consulting services from historic experts, legal support and counsel to advise HOK about the rights the community as it pertains to historic preservation, and the ongoing support of lobbying efforts to ensure the community's voice is heard in local government.

We would like to thank you for being a part of the Heart of Kensington effort to make Kensington Terrace a better project for our community. But our work is not done and we look forward to you continued involvement!

To contact any member of the HoK Organizing Committee, please send an email to or call 619-866-4422.

Our postal address is:
Heart of Kensington
P.O. Box 16246
San Diego, CA 92176-6246

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