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[whitespace] Council OK's zoning for 233-unit complex at Saddle Rack

Plan includes park and a new street

Willow Glen--One of the city's best known spots for boot-scooting came one more two-step closer to demolition last week when the city council approved rezoning the site to make way for a residential development.

No one from the public voiced comment about the rezoning of the Saddle Rack location, on the southeast corner of Meridian and Auzerais avenues, at the Feb. 6 public hearing.

The council quickly voted to change the zoning of the 6.22-acre site from manufacturing and commercial uses to a planned development that allows 233 condominiums.

District 6 City Councilman Ken Yeager said the lack of public comment was an indication of the success the community has had in their dealings with the developer, Kaufman and Broad.

"I've been very pleased with how receptive they [Kaufman and Broad] have been to the community," Yeager said at the hearing.

City planner Britta Buys said that the council must confirm the rezoning in two weeks before it becomes effective, 30 days after the second reading.

At the public hearing, District 1 (West San Jose) Councilwoman Linda LeZotte also remarked that suggestions by the grass-roots organization for traffic and pedestrian safety, Walk San Jose, had improved the plans.

"Everyone's pleased," Mayor Ron Gonzales said at the hearing. "We like that."

The site is currently owned by Rack Properties, which owns the Saddle Rack, but Kaufman and Broad plans to close escrow on the property later this spring, said Kaufman and Broad manager Joe Sordi. He said they plan to begin construction on the project this summer, if all goes smoothly.

However, Andy Buchanan, general manager of the Saddle Rack, said he thought they would be in operation until the end of this year or early 2002. He added that the dance club is looking for space to relocate somewhere in San Jose.

The proposed development is within the city's Mid-Town Specific Plan. The plan requires certain standards for the development area, said Ray Hashimoto, planning manager with the civil engineering firm on the project, HMH Inc. The residential development is also within the area's approved density range at 47.6 dwelling units per acre, he said. A small public park will be added north of the site, he said.

"It's a very urban development," Hashimoto said. "The city is trying to increase the number of housing units for the city of San Jose."

The plan includes 40 one-bedroom units, 126 two-bedroom units and 67 three-bedroom units, each with its own 60-square-foot balcony, Hashimoto said. The three- to four-story construction would be 65 feet at its tallest, he added.

The plan does not include affordable units, Buys said.

"It's a market-rate project," Sordi said.

Auzerais Avenue, which now ends at Meridian Avenue, would be closed at Race Street. Cul-de-sacs bulb off Meridian and Race on either side of what had been Auzerais.

Rack Properties would build a new 48-foot-wide replacement street south of the development and north of the University Art Center and existing residences. New traffic signals would be added at the intersections of the new street with Meridian and Race, and would be connected to the remaining signals at Auzerais.

Parking for the development would be at street level but hidden from view by the buildings, Hashimoto said. In conformance with city requirements, the plan includes parking for 437 cars on-site. The developer also proposed 31 spots on Race Street, the new street and the cul-de-sacs. Open space plazas would be constructed above the on-site parking, he added.

The mid-town area is due for a number of new housing developments where industrial and commercial buildings and lots had been, and where some still exist.

The city is working with Kaufman and Broad, as well as developer Barry Swenson who is building the townhomes already under construction just north of the proposed new development, on plans for a city park. The park would be built on about two acres of land between the two developments, including what is now Auzerais Avenue, Hashimoto said. Rack Properties would deed their 0.87 acres of the closed street to the city, he said, which would fulfill their requirement to provide open space as a part of their development.
Kate Carter

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