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Live/Work Changes Again Headed to Council

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, January 12, 2010, at 05:42PM
Santee Village Eric Richardson [Flickr]

The Cornell Building, part of the Santee Village complex, is one of the projects that could benefit from changes to the city's definition of live/work units.

After six months of work, a small code change that could make Downtown condos easier to finance appears ready for passage by City Council.

The change, which would redefine live/work units to be mostly residential, was pushed back to committee in December, but a compromise plan brought only supporters to a Tuesday hearing.

While the new rules were pushed by business advocacy groups and developers from the start, concerns were expressed that the new rules could make it harder for a developer to create space suitable for use as artists' studios.

The new proposal creates a more flexible definition, creating two "tiers" of live/work units. The first tier would have under 25% commercial space, satisfying Federal Housing Administration (FHA) requirements for its secured loans. The second would allow 25 - 50% commercial, and would be more suitable for artist uses. A developer would simply choose one definition or the other when applying for permits.

That would be good news for developers and for stalled Downtown projects. Unsold units at Santee Village were repossessed by a subsidiary of Bank of America last January after only 49 of 216 units had been purchased. Today, a company VP told the Council's planning committee that the live/work change would make it easier to again sell units. "With the approval, Santee Village will be more affordable to the community and ... has a better chance to exist as it was originally proposed," said Robert Benson.

With today's planning committee approval, the rules will now return to the full City Council for passage.

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