A new development proposed for Johnson Drive narrowly received approval of code changes from the Mission Planning Commission Monday night on a 5-4 vote. At issue were alterations to the city’s form-based code that require commercial developments in sections of west Mission to have a minimum percentage of two-story structures.
The development, called Cornerstone Commons, has been in discussions with the city for more than a year. Natural Grocers is the largest tenant and developers told the commission Monday that two restaurant tenants, Potbelly Sandwich Shop and Pie Five Pizza are the tenants planned for one of the two other buildings in the project.
City staff made two recommendations that would accommodate the project. One was to remove a park area that had been planned for Johnson Drive and move the commercial buildings closer to the street. The other was to allow the percentage of low-rise buildings to increase on developments of three acres or less, which would apply to the Cornerstone Commons project. Developers said the restaurant clients do not want to be in a two-story building.
Commissioner James Brown called the changes a “huge betrayal of public trust” because the city’s comprehensive plan and form-based code that set the restrictions had so much public input. Commissioner Robert Simpson agreed with Brown that “such extensive changes” should not be made without going back to the public. This is the first change to the form-based code since it was adopted in 2007 for the Mission West Gateway District.
Brown and Simpson voted against the alterations to both the park space and the single-story percentages. The vote to remove the park space passed 7-2. “This is literally a developer coming in and telling us what our code should be,” Brown said during the discussion. The code still requires that larger developments are limited to 20 percent low-rise buildings.
Representatives of Natural Grocers attended the meeting to talk about the design for their building and addressed several points, including the amount of window space on the side of the building. The grocery will front on Johnson Drive as will the building with the two restaurants. A two-story building, where tenants have not been identified, sits farther south in the development. Barkley Street is on the east side of the project.
City Planner Danielle Murray had told the commission that the city is not prepared to develop the civic space along Johnson Drive that was part of the plan for the area. The mission of form-based code, she said, was to increase density. The changes might get some development off the ground, she said. The area is the site of the vacant Keystone auto dealership.