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[whitespace] WG business districts get zone change classification

Space limitations will be reviewed by planning officials

Willow Glen--The San Jose City Council unanimously approved rezoning for two Willow Glen neighborhood business districts to make it easier for the city to enforce their pedestrian-friendly characters.

Concerns of some Willow Glen business owners about space limitations for certain types of businesses, however, will be reviewed by San Jose Planning Department staff.

A section of Lincoln Avenue between Coe and Minnesota avenues and a stretch of Willow Street from Prevost Street to Highway 87 received the changed commercial zoning classification at an Aug. 14 council hearing. They were previously zoned "commercial neighborhood" and are now zoned "commercial pedestrian." A similar change proposed for portions of W. San Carlos Street was dropped.

The new zoning classification requires a maximum front setback of 10 feet and a minimum rear setback of 25 feet, to encourage parking behind businesses. It would also restrict vehicular-related businesses.

At a July 19 community meeting, Lincoln Avenue property owners said they were most concerned about new restrictions to square footage for different business types. The new zoning limits personal-service shops, such as hair salons or drycleaners, to 2,500 square feet; restaurants to 5,000 square feet; and other shops to 15,000 square feet.

Businesses can apply for conditional-use permits to have larger spaces, but business property owners said they didn't want to have to go through another process to attract tenants.

Lincoln Avenue property owner Steve Hanleigh said he met with District 6 City Councilman Ken Yeager and District 3 City Councilwoman Cindy Chavez before the council hearing to discuss property owners' concerns. In a memo to Mayor Ron Gonzales and the rest of the council, Yeager and Chavez said the planning department will "analyze the square footage limitations to determine if they are appropriate and responsive to the goals that have been developed for Lincoln Avenue and Willow Street," as well as hold community meetings about the issue, with final recommendations submitted in September.

Some of Lincoln Avenue's buildings do not conform to the requirements of the proposed new zoning, but the businesses will still be legal if they continue to be used in appropriate ways. If the buildings were modified, however, the city would make sure the modifications adhere to the goals of a pedestrian-oriented business district.

The zoning reclassification is the result of more than three years of work by city officials to establish new zoning codes that conform to the city's General Plan categories. Currently, the codes in neighborhood business districts do not necessarily promote buildings, businesses or streetscapes as envisioned by the city. The new codes, approved by the council last December and effective last February, are designed to reinforce that vision.

The three proposed changes were chosen out of the city's nine neighborhood business districts as priorities to receive the new designations.

The zoning change is unrelated to a study of Lincoln Avenue from W. San Carlos Street to Minnesota Avenue, funded by the San Jose Redevelopment Agency and scheduled to begin later this summer.

District 6 City Councilman Ken Yeager said he hopes to have a citizens'task force of business owners and nearby residents along Lincoln Avenue established in August to participate in the study later this month or early in September.
Kate Carter

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