The loss of two cedar trees nearly killed a plan for five, $1.6 million condos which the City Council narrowly approved Tuesday for a downtown portion of California Street.
"The project is very attractive, however it would be very attractive somewhere else," said council member Ronit Bryant, who opposed the project with members Jac Siegel and Laura Macias. The council's four other members quietly approved it.
"I don't want to send a message, 'Come buy the property, cut the trees and put a lot of development on it," Bryant said. "I think it's more important to say, 'We want to save heritage trees.'"
The five condos would be built on .3 acre, replacing a pair of older but not historic -- homes at 948 and 976 California Street near Franklin Street. The homes would be built atop an underground garage which would leave little or no soil for two cedar trees (18-inch and 23-inch diameter) classified by the city as heritage trees. Only smaller box trees would work as replacements in the project's central courtyard over the garage. A 32-inch cedar near the front of the property would be saved.
"It's almost like you could have put in four homes and not cut the trees down," Siegel said.
Macias said such projects turn the area "into another suburb with very new construction." There needs to be "a way to preserve old homes and trees."
The architects on the city's design review committee said developer Pacific Peninsula Group had designed the project well to fit the neighborhood and would use high quality materials.
The city will receive $120,000 in park fees and $240,000 in below market rate housing fees from the project, which increases property tax revenue by $10,432.