May 8, 2009

Open Space and SEADIP

I received a few questions yesterday in which I was asked about what constitutes open space under SEADIP (Southeast Area Development Improvement Plan).

The current SEADIP ordinance (06-0001, 2006), provision A4 states exactly this, "A minimum of thirty percent of the site shall be developed and maintained as usable open space (building footprint, streets, parking areas and sidewalks adjacent to streets shall not be considered usable open space. Bicycle and pedestrian trails not included within the public right-of-way may be considered usable open space)..."

What does this mean?

That streets and parking areas (parking lots) aren't considered to be open space is a "no brainer" and probably doesn't merit much explanation. Sidewalks adjacent to streets aren't open space either as they are in the public right-of-way.

Building footprint, however, is a "thinker." I suppose the devil is in the details and the answer is predicated upon one's interpretation of "building footprint" (who knew it was open to interpretation?). My understanding is that the "building footprint" is the horizontal area of the built structure from the rooftop down to ground level. I suppose others could say that the footprint is only the area covered by the structure at ground level (or at grade).

This distinction is key. Under "my interpretation," rooftops and balconies are not allowable acreages which can be used in open space calculations, as they are essentially building features falling within the building footprint. Under the "other interpretation," balconies and rooftops are allowable acreages to be included in the open space calculations as these would be features present above the ground floor, and "exempted" from the building footprint disqualifier.

Clear as mud?

Consider a very, very simplistic example which I think highlights the difference: a 5-acre lot is "blanketed" with a single 10-acre building (i.e. 2 stories, each being 5 acres), on which the rooftop has patio chairs and is accessible to the public. Under "my interpretation" of what constitutes useble open space, this 5-acre lot with a 10-acre building has 0% open space as the lot is entirely "built out." Under the "other interpretation," this 5-acre lot with a 10-acre building has 100% open space, as the rooftop is publicly accessible.

Fundamentally, and bottom line, it matters little what I (or a developer) consider to be usable open space. it is the City's (and the California Coastal Commission's) interpretation of this SEADIP provision which is germane to the argument.

So perhaps we should ask them!