At their May 26 meeting, commissioners heard a request from Blake Hunt Ventures, the leasing and property manager for the Rose Garden, asking that the current variance of 12 percent be increased to 27.2 percent. Blake Hunt CEO Brad Blake explained that having the variance would allow them to lease out space to more "personal service" businesses such as nail salons, fitness studios and tutoring services.
Since its opening in 2008, the Rose Garden has been primarily a retail/restaurant area. The initial variance to parking was granted in order to allow the Burke Williams Day Spa to set up shop there.
Town staff explained that each business is allotted a certain number of parking spaces. High turnover uses, such as retail, require fewer spaces because customers park, shop, then leave.
Personal service uses like the day spa require a greater number of parking spaces because customers will generally be there for a longer period of time. Since the parking for the Rose Garden was designed to provide 368 spaces divided up between the various tenants, variances must be approved to allow those uses to occupy more than their share of parking.
Blake explained that having more of the personal service uses in there serves the dual purposes of providing additional businesses in the Rose Garden, but also brings in more customers who are likely to stay and patronize the other merchants.
"We'd really like it if this were all retail with a massive parking problem," he stated. "The parking problem right now is no one is parking there."
"Retailers are having a difficult time getting the people out of the restaurants and into the stores," he added. "Of all the uses we've listed here we've had opportunities to sign leases with them and had to turn them away. They've gone to San Ramon or Blackhawk."
In the variance request, any business vacated would revert to the previous parking variance after 90 days. Blake said that having such a short turnaround time would make it difficult to get another occupant in before the variance ran out. He requested that the commission amend the request to read 180 days.
Commissioners had several questions over the issue, not the least of which whether it made sense to approve such a large increase in the parking variance. In leading off the public hearing, Chairman Bob Nichols asked Blake how such a change would help him.
Blake responded that having the ability to solicit the wider range of clientele for the shopping center would allow them to fill the space at the Rose Garden and increase traffic.
"If those tenants are out there, conceivably we could put them all in there," he explained.
Commissioner Lynn Overcashier expressed concern that allowing tenants in there for five years would basically guarantee that it would never change, that the variance would be there in perpetuity.
"I want a line drawn in the sand," she stated, "that after five years they look at the tenant mix."
Fellow Commissioner Renee Morgan disagreed.
"Our intent is to keep businesses in Danville," she said. "I think we should do what we can to keep the businesses here rather than see them go to San Ramon or Blackhawk."
Another concern expressed was how the parking can be mitigated if a number of new businesses come in and parking becomes an issue.
Danville Principal Planner David Crompton said that a condition of approval is that the parking management plan has to be approved. He said the town could monitor it and if a problem comes up, it can be dealt with.
After some further discussion, the members of the Planning Commission gave their unanimous approval to the 27.2 percent variance.