A proposed three-story building mixing retail shops, a boutique hotel and condominiums at Water and Van Ness streets is heeding the mantra of smart-growth advocates: "build up, not out." If concerns about parking can be addressed — and they need to be — the project should be a welcome addition.
Developers propose a mix of retail spaces on the ground floor, a 26-room hotel on the second floor and 10 condominiums on the top floor, with a rooftop garden, walls that incorporate plantings and grounds offering open seating and benches.
Before the Planning Commission Tuesday night, city planning staff raised concerns about the number of parking spaces, saying the developers are offering 44, but the number should be 63. Anyone who has tried to find parking in the vicinity on a busy summer evening might question the developers' assertion that on-street parking usage in the area is low.
A consultant for the developer said the staff assumed every resident would be at home with a car and all the retailers full, and "that's not how business works." She also said hotel guests would take a cab from the airport and walk. But that's not how travel works. Many Ashland visitors drive here, or rent a car after arriving. The developers should incorporate more parking.
Some planning commissioners expressed concerns that the project might attract "vagrants." Ashland's homeless problem needs solutions, but rejecting development proposals because they might be a magnet for loiterers will only prevent desirable projects from being built.