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Bankers Hill neighbors fight against proposed high-rise building

‘Quince Apartments’ would bring 162 units to Bankers Hill, zoning for the area only allows 27. Proposal one of many under city's new Complete Communities Program.

SAN DIEGO — Residents of Uptown’s neighborhood of Bankers Hill are rallying against a proposal for a 17-story high-rise apartment building overlooking Maple Canyon.

Applicant Cast Development proposes the high-rise apartment complex at 301 Spruce Street. If approved, the project would include 162 residential apartments, with 150 parking spaces. According to the site development plans, 11 units would be designated as affordable housing units.

Credit: Cast Devlopment

But Bankers Hill residents say the building is oversized and goes against current zoning regulations. Zoning regulations cap the maximum number of units at 27. They also restrict new developments from being any higher than 40-feet. 

The proposal falls under the city’s newly-adopted “Complete Communities” building strategy,  a plan that incentivizes high-density developments

It does so by allowing developers to exceed height restrictions and housing unit requirements in exchange for high-density developments as well as those near transit and with park components built into them.

Frank Fortunato lives just feet from the proposed high rise. Fortunato says the building will overshadow the entire neighborhood.

"It’s going to be 10-feet from my wall to the building’s wall," said Fortunato. "This house is two stories. It’s going to be 8-10 times the size of this house.  It’s going to command the landscape around.”

Other neighbors agree.  

They say a building this size would be better suited a few blocks over on 6th Avenue where larger buildings have been built.

“I think it would fit if it were a couple of blocks to the east, but right here where it is, none of the other buildings are that size," says community member Dan Trapp. "It’s just way out of spec for the neighborhood.”

Longtime resident and local planner Tom Mullaney says the proposal goes against the community plan that he and other neighbors worked on.

"This is a project we call a ‘plan buster’ because it goes completely against the community plan.," said Mullaney. "We worked for seven years on the community plan and zoning and this project goes completely against that, so I think it’s fair to say people feel violated by this project.

However, pro-housing advocates and neighborhood planners say the only way to address housing shortages and affordability issues is to build more units regardless of older zoning regulations and despite objections from nearby residents. 

Brer Marsh is a member of the Uptown Planners, the neighborhood planning group for Hillcrest, Mission Hills, University Heights, and Bankers Hill. Marsh says more units are needed.

"People like to see the things they like but ultimately there’s more than one perspective in a neighborhood," said Marsh. “I’m sympathetic to that and how they feel about changes in their neighborhood. Change is hard but it happens in cities and we have a lot of needs for housing that aren’t being served by our current development trends."

Lawrence Howard, from Cast Development, told CBS 8 that his company will continue to work with the city on the affordable housing component.

Commenting on the proposal, Councilmember Stephen Whitburn says more housing should be a priority but stressed that community planning groups such as Uptown Planners need to be involved and provide feedback.

“We need to find the right balance of creating housing and ensuring affordability. In doing so, it’s critical that we engage our neighborhoods and work together to solve our housing crisis,” said Whitburn. “Generally, I believe projects of this size should include more affordable housing and should be presented to community planning groups for feedback.”

Neighbor Frank Fortunato, whose home is less than 10-feet from the lot line hopes that is the case.

“Just allowing the community to have a bigger voice in what’s going on and actually allow the community to feel like they can influence the development that’s going on in the neighborhood.”

WATCH RELATED: College Area upzoning plan sparks debate (May 2022)

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