Richmond City Council is set to review a controversial proposal to construct a mini storage facility with artist studios at 205 Cutting Blvd.
The council is set to meet tonight at 6:15 p.m. at 440 Civic Center Plaza.
In separate letters to council (we’ve posted them in full below this report), the developer and local neighborhood council each made their case on whether the proposed project should be built
Baranof Holdings, a Texas-based developer, wants to construct a 3-story, 82,000 square foot mini storage project featuring space for artist work studios, a café and bike shop. Currently, the light-industrial site harbors a 7,788 square-foot masonry building used by Whale Point Marine & Hardware. The owner of Whale Point reportedly aims to relocate the hardware store to 145 Tewskbury in Point Richmond.
In February, the Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for the project. In April, a law firm representing the Sante Fe Neighborhood Council appealed the decision. Council is now being asked to decide whether to approve or deny the appeal.
Vernon Whitmore, president of SFNC, says the neighborhood council, of which the director of the nearby Bridge Storage and ArtSpace is a member, voted unanimously on two occasions to reject the project, first on July 26 and again on Feb. 28. There are six similar businesses in the area, and another would be “inconsistent with the goals and requirements of the City’s General Plan,” Whitmore’s letter states. The SFNC says the project doesn’t qualify as “meaningful mixed business use” that “add to the tax base, create new jobs, enhance healthy living and provide economic growth.”
The neighborhood needs “more uplifting projects” like “grocery stores; live work lofts; coffee shops etc.,” Whitmore stated in a separate letter earlier this year.
Supporters argue that an influx of new housing developments in Richmond is increasing demand, and also the cost, for storage, and that the storage/art space project is an ideal use for a contaminated industrial site.
David Schoenthal, a Richmond consultant representing Baranof Holdings on the project, says the project has changed considerably following public outreach. After hearing from city officials and the neighborhood council, the developer incorporated artist studios, the cafe and bike shop into the project. The Planning Commission’s conditions for approval required artist work studio space to increase from 12 to 18 studios, Schoenthal said. The developer has also agreed to fund nearby trail improvements and pay for a “Welcome to Sante Fe Neighborhood” sign at 2nd and Cutting, among other community benefits, he said.
In discussions, SFNC indicated an openness to receiving a $5,000 annual community benefits grant from the developer should the project move forward, Schoenthal added.
“The developers have been striving to do the right thing from the beginning and want to be good neighbors,” he said.
As promised, letters to council from SFNC and the Schoenthal follow: