6881 Indian Creek Drive, Devon Hotel
City Commissioners this week approved a rezoning for 6881 Indian Creek Drive from RM-1, residential multi-family to TC-3, which also allows certain types of office and hotel uses. There is an existing hotel on the property, though it is now considered non-conforming. When originally licensed, the area allowed hotels but the current zoning does not, making the hotel a non-conforming use. Under the 50% rule, a property that is improved by more than 50% of its value would need to cease its non-conforming use and comply with current City code, meaning it could not remain a hotel under the RM-1 zoning.
The current owner is not able to improve the property according to Micky Marrero, an attorney representing prospective buyers of the hotel. “Our clients … would like to buy the hotel. They are under contract and what they want to do is simply renovate the existing two-story hotel.” The hotel, which he says is “not in great condition” is “the gateway to North Beach.”
He told Commissioners, the improvements call for the two-story hotel to remain with no addition to the height. “There’s been some concern,” he said. “I just want to be clear, about what would happen, what are the negative impacts of this rezoning. Right now the maximum height in the [RM-1] district is five stories. The maximum height in what we’re asking for [TC-3] is four stories. So it’s almost to some extent a downzoning in massing.” However, he emphasized, the proposal of the new owners is for a two-story hotel.
Commissioner Ricky Arriola pointed out the dilemma of the 50% rule. “If we don’t do this, then what will happen there is the hotel will stay in this, sort of, dilapidated, antiquated fashion that it is … it stays the way it is and it’s not the best gateway to North Beach.” He asked Marrero, “If somebody comes in and buys it and can’t do the renovation because of our existing legislation, what are their options [with the current zoning]?”
Marrero responded, “What could happen is they could demolish [what is] a nice quaint building and put a five-story building there, a residential building. It could have a pool, it just couldn’t function as a hotel.”
Commissioner Michael Grieco who later voted against the rezoning said, “The one reservation that I have … is that nothing stops the new purchasers or any subsequent landowners from knocking the building down and building a four-story hotel.” He acknowledged the RM-1 zoning would allow construction of a five-story condominium, but he said, “A four-story hotel is more intense than a five-story building.” The one vote he would like to take back he said was one to allow a change for a project in North Beach that was what he called “a bait and switch” and resulted in a larger building. “When it comes to increasing intensity or potential intensities, they can make all the promises they want,” he said. “I’m a no on this because there’s no way to guarantee that they’re going to keep this two-story hotel or that future owners or purchasers are going to keep it as a two-story hotel. They could build up to four stories and have a huge hotel there … this is another one of those spot zoning benefiting one property owner kind of operations and there’s no way to limit it.”
That’s not the intent of his clients, Marrero said. “We’ve been consistent from the very beginning with what we’re doing here.” Plans for the two-story hotel renovation are ready to be filed with the Planning Board as soon as the zoning change is approved. He added, “As far as whether [the new zoning is] more intense, yes. Theoretically you build a four-story hotel but all those things that make a hotel intense – open air entertainment, outdoor bar counters open past 8, and neighborhood impact establishments – all those things are prohibited in TC-3 and you cannot get a variance for [those uses].”
The rezoning, on its second reading at this meeting, passed. The project will now go to the Planning Board for review.
Rezone west portion 600 block Washington Avenue, Angler's Hotel
The block between 6th and 7th Streets on the west side of Washington Avenue is the only parcel in the area not zoned for commercial uses, meaning the Angler's Hotel which is located there can’t take advantage of incentives for the Washington Avenue Overlay District.
Planning Director Tom Mooney told Commissioners, “When the Washington Avenue Blue Ribbon Panel met a few years ago and came up with a series of recommendations, this particular block was not included as part of those recommendations because it was zoned RM-2 [residential multi-family, medium intensity].” The reason, he said, was that Pennsylvania Avenue used to go through the block, however the right of way was eliminated for vehicles “so this particular 600 block on the West side of Washington Avenue now technically has frontage on Washington Avenue.” The rezoning proposal calls for a change to CD-2, commercial, medium intensity.
Attorney Mickey Marrero, also representing the Angler's, said renovation of the historic hotel is now almost complete. With the rezoning, he said the allowable uses and incentives, including outdoor cafes, would be extended to the Angler's. After meeting with surrounding neighbors, the owners made a formal agreement not to increase the height, even though that is not part of the current renovation.
Mayor Philip Levine praised the new development efforts on Washington Avenue and the renovation of the hotel. “We began this whole Washington Avenue re-visioning and I really think it’s coming into shape,” he said. “It’s really changing Washington Avenue which is gonna be fantastic [and] which desperately, desperately needs what you’re doing.”
Second reading of the ordinance will be June 7.