By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
A sweeping overall of city planning codes allowing for “mixed use” development combining commercial and residential uses goes before the Garden Grove Planning Commission tonight (Thursday).
The planners meet at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers, 11300 Stanford Ave.
Planning officials will present to the commission their proposals to allow a mingling of offices, stores and homes in several locations in Garden Grove, including in stretches along Garden Grove Boulevard, along Chapman Avenue in the city’s busiest shopping area, and along Valley View Street, the major thoroughfare serving West Garden Grove.
“This is a reflection of the general plan changes that were approved earlier by the city council,” according to Lee Marino, senior planner.
Under the proposals, height limits ranging from three to 10 stories will be set to reflect a combination of new urban living trends and concerns about keeping the neighborhoods intact.
“We had workshops and the feedback we got from the public was that while they generally supported the idea of mixed use, they wanted to preserve the residential character of their neighborhoods,” said Marino.
Mixed use has become increasingly popular across the country, as a way of reducing traffic, creating more urban vitality and making the most efficient use of land in an increasingly crowded Orange County. This concept can allow, for instance, for retail and office uses on a first floor, and residential uses (apartments or condominiums) above.
Such areas can create a more “walkable” area, where residents wouldn’t need to drive to a market, restaurant or other location, thus reducing traffic congestion, pollution, and other concerns.
Mixed use planning is more popular in the eastern United States and in Northern California, but is gaining popularity as Southern California becomes more crowded.
Still, the changes won’t have much of an immediate impact.
“I think it’ll be quite a long time,” said Marino, about a transformation visible to the average resident. “You might see it at the Brookhurst Triangle, and maybe if the Garden Grove Galleria [the city’s first proposed mixed-use development, now stalled with just a steel skeleton] ever gets built.”
He added that a major goal of the new zoning is to create flexibility for developers and property owners. “Sometimes when zones are changed, it creates a lot of non-conforming uses, which we didn’t want to do,” he said.
But there’s not a lot of immediate passion from developers to start mixed use developments.
“There was a lot of interest initially,” said Marino, “but not now with the economic slowdown.” However, local developers are generally positive about the concept, he said.
Marino is encouraging residents to attend the meeting and make their feelings known on the proposal. If approved by the planning commission, it will go to the city council — probably in September — for final approval.