On Tuesday evening the City Council unanimously approved another new downtown office building, a three-story structure built around an oak tree at the corner of Bryant and Dana streets.
The building will replace Dunn's Automotive, Peery Piano academy and a pair of single-family homes. "It's maybe a little too much building for the area, but it really does need to be redeveloped," said council member Jac Siegel, adding that neighbors would no longer have the noise of an auto shop in their neighborhood.
While council members praised its design -- council member Ronit Bryant said she was "thrilled" to see the oak tree saved -- some neighbors and council members had concerns about traffic congestion and parking problems as downtown becomes packed with increasing numbers of people.
Neighbor Kathy Sherman said the driveway entrance and exit onto a narrow portion of Dana Street would increase congestion, and called for the city to limit parking along the street during rush hour. City staff members said the narrowness of the street is beneficial in slowing traffic. And while a traffic study indicated no major impacts, an agreement was made to study actual impacts after the project is built.
Developer Boyd Smith said it was challenging to design the building and the garage around the large oak tree, which has roots and a canopy that protrude 30 feet into the site. The unusual measure was taken after the council made saving the city's tree canopy a top goal this year.
The 67,772-square-foot building is large enough to house 300 employees, but the project's underground garage and small surface lot provide only 153 parking spaces -- 41 less than normally required. Smith defended the parking ratio, saying the project and a similar one nearby, would be contributing $5 million in fees towards creating a new parking structure downtown.
"It is going to reduce the number of spaces at the CVS garage," council member Jac Siegel said of the nearby parking structure at Brant and California streets. "We don't have any more land to build any more parking structures."
Council member Margaret Abe Koga disagreed, saying the city owned several lots downtown where a parking structure could be built, at a cost of around $15 million. Mayor John Ins said the downtown committee was going to start looking at how to meet the increasing parking demand downtown, demand which soon could justify a new parking structure, according to a recent study. Council member Mike Kasperzak has been pushing for the city to begin charging for parking downtown to reduce demand, and suggested that the employees of the new building pay for parking if they decide to drive.
The design has a LEED Silver rating for environmental friendly features, including bike lockers and racks, and electric car charging stations.