By Phillip Pesola– New design standards for residential and mixed-use development along Auburn Boulevard were presented to and unanimously supported by Citrus Heights Planning Commissioners during their meeting on Wednesday.
The standards, which will now go before the City Council for final approval, apply to a two-mile section of Auburn Boulevard, from Sylvan Corners to the border with Roseville. The draft plan would classify two different zones on the boulevard: “Neighborhood Zones” and “Main Street Zones.”
Neighborhood Zones Less urban areas of the boulevard are classified as Neighborhood Zones, with the goal to “create a more walkable neighborhood environment and are within close proximity to neighborhood-serving retail and services,” according to a staff report. The areas between Twin Oaks Avenue and Rollingwood Boulevard, as well as the area north of Sylvan Corners to Rusch Park.
Neighborhood Zones would allow development of duplexes, tri/fourplexes, and townhouses up to three stories. Other standards are also spelled out, including aesthetics, setbacks of 15-25 feet on Auburn Boulevard, and design principles focused on pedestrian use.
A “road diet” is also listed as a potential long-term consideration, which would reduce the number of travel lanes on Auburn Boulevard to reduce vehicle speeds and allow for “additional buffer elements like street trees, street furniture, and parallel parking.”
Main Street Zones Main Street Zones would be at Sylvan Corners as well as the area surrounding Grand Oaks shopping center and the large commercial area at the northern end of Auburn Boulevard at the Roseville border. Uses in Main Street Zones would include a heights up to three stories at Sylvan Corners and Grand Oaks Plaza, and up to four stories in the northern-most commercial area.
A staff report says these areas would be for medium-to-large buildings, with “mixed-use and commercial activity centers along the corridor where retail and service activity can be concentrated, leaving the remainder of the corridor to transition to a neighborhood environment over time.” Building setbacks of 10 to 20 feet from the boulevard are listed in Main Street Zones.
Gradual Redevelopment Several pages of the 100-plus page design standards lay out principles for gradual redevelopment of shopping centers where existing buildings are set back from the roadway, separated by large parking areas — such as Grand Oaks Plaza. Illustrations show new residential or mixed-use buildings could be constructed nearest the roadway, with existing retail buildings still remaining in place behind the new construction.
The Sentinel previously reported that the Planning Division had drafted “Auburn Boulevard objective design and development standards” (ODDS) in order to provide developers with a clear understanding of the city’s rules for mixed-use and multi-family residential projects within the Auburn Boulevard Specific Plan (ABSP) area, while complying with recent state legislation.
In recent years, the California legislature has passed AB 2011, allowing housing in commercial zones, and SB 6, which promotes higher-density residential projects. The state has also introduced laws which require expedited review of qualified housing projects and limit jurisdictional discretion to objective standards.
Objective design standards, as defined by state law, “involve no personal or subjective judgment by a public official and are uniformly verifiable by reference to an external and uniform benchmark or criterion.” These standards are a key component of housing legislation, as they replace subjective design guidelines and discretionary review with objective standards and ministerial approval.
During the March 23 Planning Commission meeting, Senior Planner Allison Bermudez presented an overview of the drafted regulations to the Planning Commission, along with Caroline Cochran of Opticos Design Group, an urban design consulting firm which has been working closely with city staff to produce the ODDS. Bermudez said funding for creating the design standards document had been provided through a grant from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.
The current document addresses the Auburn Boulevard area specifically, but city staff expect to have a document addressing the rest of the city this summer.
In response to a question from Commissioner Marcelle Flowers about how current businesses would be affected by the plan, Bermudez clarified that the new objective standards would only apply to new residential projects. She also pointed out that developers would be able to apply under the current rules if they desire, even for residential projects, but that they would miss out on the expedited process that the new rules aim to provide.
Commissioner Tom Scheeler asked how standards were determined for Citrus Heights, to which Cochran responded that a stakeholder workshop had been held to gather subjective input, and then economic feasibility was considered, to determine what could actually be built.
The design standards are now set to be presented to City Council for final approval on April 27. Comments can be emailed to [email protected] or to the council directly by emailing [email protected].
See full design standards: click here.
Like local news? Sign up for The Sentinel’s free email edition and get two emails a week with all local news and no spam, ever. (Click here)