In a 3-0 vote, the San Juan Bautista Planning Commission approved a site and architecture review for the historic Casa Rosa building at its Dec. 12 meeting. Design plans for the historic building at 107 Third St. will add three one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom unit, in addition to restoring the restaurant and bar. Commissioners Yolanda Delgado and Luis Matchain were not in attendance with excused absences.
According to the meeting agenda packet, new building owner Raeid Farhat acquired the property this year after the previous owner, Greg Burda, demolished the interior of the building without permits in 2015 and 2016.
Following Burda’s decision to not fix the building after the city stopped unpermitted construction, the city abated the property and placed a lien on it. San Juan Bautista spent about $15,000 to secure the balcony because of public safety concerns and was reimbursed in November, according to the agenda packet.
The three one-bed one-bath residential units range from 357 to 471 square feet and will replace a garage, utility area, and storage area that were part of the design approved in 2017. David Mack with Harris and Associates acting as city engineer said the one-bedroom units could be listed as affordable housing with a maximum rent of $1,703 and the two-bedroom unit with a maximum rent of $1,946.
Though the four units approved were considered affordable, resident Tony Garacha said the city should approve family housing rather than one-bedroom units.
Resident Emily Renzel questioned the affordability of the one-bedroom units. She said the Mission Garden Apartments in town rented one-bedroom units for $1,545, two-bedroom units for $1,675, and larger units with parking for $1,825-$1,975.
In response, City Manager Don Reynolds said the Mission Garden Apartments are offered at below-market prices. He added that the rent limit on the proposed Casa Rosa units are based on 30% of the city’s median income.
With questions arising on the necessity of the three units at the rear of the property, Farhat said the residential component is what allowed him to take on the Casa Rosa preservation project.
Mack said the project could be required to provide one parking space for each of the new residential units. With more than 20 street parking spaces within 150 feet of Casa Rosa and a public parking lot within 400 feet, he said Reynolds had the ability to waive the parking requirements.
Reynolds added that a parking study had been commissioned by a previous city manager and that he expected more parking for businesses and customers in the future. Additionally, he said the city could work something out with the Aromas-San Juan Unified School District for parking near its soccer fields.
Other parking options included requiring Farhat to buy parking permits when the city establishes a parking program with an in-lieu fee per space. Mack said the listed in-lieu parking fee is $7,700 per space, however the Planning Commission ultimately decides on an appropriate fee.
Reynolds said establishing a parking program and requiring businesses to participate was the best option because the money the city would collect through the in-lieu fee would do little to improve a vacant lot into one used for parking.
“That was the option I thought was the most reasonable,” Reynolds said. “So I just throw that on the table as the commission deliberates tonight to think about how to best manage parking moving forward [in] downtown.”
Editor’s note: BenitoLink was contacted after this article was published and informed the property was not sold by auction but in a regular real estate sale, so a correction was made.
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