A 29-house development on 10.4 acres in eastern Redlands that had been the target of a lawsuit is moving forward again.
The Planning Commission on Tuesday, March 22 approved a site plan for the project in a former orange grove south of East Highland Avenue and west of Moore Middle School. The move was approved 5-0 with commissioners Steven Frasher and Matt Endsley absent.
A lawsuit was filed after the City Council first approved the project in September 2019 by neighbors concerned over the project’s impacts on air quality, biological and cultural resources, traffic and more.
Both sides worked on a settlement, and after a few months all parties agreed to dismiss the case.
Project planner Catherine Lin told commissioners Tuesday a new state law aimed at increasing housing went into effect. In January 2020, SB330 started prohibiting, among other things, jurisdictions from denying housing projects based on subjective design standards such as architectural design guidelines and “compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods.”
Commissioner’s review this week was limited to making sure the project meets the city’s development standards and the conditions of approval laid out in 2019, she said.
The five houses on the project’s west end that abut other residences are required to be single story, with fencing less than 6 feet high as viewed from the existing homes.
Four mature palm trees on the site will be preserved and relocated to an infiltration basin on the northeast corner of the project.
Neighbors had been concerned the project would segregate itself from the existing neighborhood, but Lin said the lawsuit led to a requirement that walls along existing Highland Avenue be kept under three feet.
Commissioner Karah Shaw thanked the applicant for the design.
“You could have squeezed, or tried to squeeze, a lot more homes in that acreage,” she said, “and it’s refreshing to see new builds with larger lot sizes, because we’re usually stuck with these tiny little backyards.”
Shaw then asked even though commissioners can’t take into account architectural standards due to SB330, if the design would otherwise meet standards in the area.
City planning manager Brian Foote answered affirmatively.
“Staff’s opinion is the proposed design is generally consistent with other subdivisions that have been approved in recent years,” he said.
Housing plans run from 2,308-square-foot single story houses to 3,325-square-foot two-story models.
A discussion of how SB330 affects the commission could come back at a later date.
Vice Chair Joe Richardson said the state rules would be good for a larger discussion around whether the board’s “hands (are) tied as pertains to residential projects as long as the (non-subjective) boxes are checked.”