Sentinel staff report–
Plans to bring a 42-unit townhouse project to a 2.5-acre vacant parcel behind the Bearpaw Village shopping center at Sylvan Corners will be heard by the Citrus Heights Planning Commission on Jan. 24th — and a vocal neighborhood association is not happy.
The townhouse development proposal was submitted in 2014 by Bearpaw Shoes owner Thomas Romeo, who owns the shopping center and adjoining vacant land on the southeast section of Sylvan Corners. The project has slowly made it through the planning process and is now seeking planning commission approval for construction of nine new buildings for rental units, along with a 2,300-square-feet clubhouse, a pool, and a community garden with 20 raised beds. Planning division staff also recommend that commissioners approve a condition to require the development to have an on-site manager, along with an additional two parking spots for a total of 86 spots.
According to a planning division staff report, each of the proposed units are about 1,200-square-feet in size, with two bedrooms and a small private rear yard. Each unit would also have an attached one-car garage, as well as one outdoor parking spot. Primary vehicle access would be off Old Auburn Road, next to Vice’s Collision Repair, and residents would also have egress through a gated exit leading into the existing shopping center on the Sylvan Road side.
In a letter submitted to the city last month, Romeo described the proposed development as “the transformation of an empty lot into peoples’ homes, complete with new trees and manicured green spaces.” He further envisioned that his shoe company, which is headquartered at Sylvan Corners and employs a staff of about two dozen, will continue to grow and the Bearpaw Village Townhomes will present “an amazing opportunity for employees to minimize their commutes,” by living next door and walking to work.
Jayna Karpinski-Costa, president of the area’s Sylvan Old Auburn Road neighborhood association, said her group is opposed to the project and submitted a letter of opposition to the city’s planning commission. A copy of the letter acquired by The Sentinel cites concerns about traffic on Old Auburn Road, limited green space in the plan, and concerns about too many rental units in Citrus Heights.
“It is clear that jamming [that] many buildings on that lot is motivated by greed/profit,” the letter states. “There is no sense of community on this project. It is exactly how the building on Sayonara were originally planned – small lot, small house rentals… and look at how many resources the city spends there now.”
Asked for comment on the objections, John Richey, spokesman and general counsel for Bearpaw Equities, the property division of Romeo’s shoe company, said he believes traffic impacts will be “completely nominal,” due to the number of housing units proposed and entry and exit points being close enough to the intersection to not affect other residential side streets. He also said the plan focuses on building a “walking community,” where tenants would hopefully walk to work or grab a bite to eat at Sylvan Corners, rather than drive a car.
Acknowledging common problems with absentee landlord’s, Richey said “there’s always a challenge of renting these properties,” but added that the housing being situated next door to Bearpaw’s headquarters would make it easier to keep an eye on and would be “a point of pride” for the company. Richey said the company also has a track record of keeping up other rental properties it owns, citing Garfield Village Apartments, located just outside Citrus Heights on Garfield Avenue.
He also said the townhouse aspect will likely attract different tenants than a standard apartment and said additional greenbelts and lawn areas are still being discussed.
Asked about the percentage of rental units in Citrus Heights, Planning Division Manager Colleen McDuffee said about 58 percent of housing in the city was owner-occupied, and 42 percent renter-occupied, as of 2010. She said the numbers have likely changed slightly in the past eight years, but called the figures “a pretty good estimate for now.”
Karpinski-Costa previously called the 42 percent rental figure “plenty” for the city and said, in her experience, homeowners tend to be the ones who are more involved in her neighborhood. On Friday, she sent an email to her neighborhood association members, encouraging them to attend the upcoming planning commission hearing.
Planning commissioners are slated to holding a public hearing on the proposal at 7 p.m. on Jan. 24 at city hall. Commissioners will consider four motions related to the project, including adopting a mitigated negative declaration and monitoring plan, approving a minor use permit for the project, and approving a design review permit and tree permit.
More information about the project can be found in the Planning Commission’s Jan. 24 agenda packet. (Viewable by clicking here)
Want to share your thoughts on this housing proposal? Click here to submit a letter to the editor for publication.