Radius Condo Towers
April 30, 2006, 9:44 PM
Filed under: Development, Downtown, Young Circle

April 30, 2006

More and More

Developer Steve Berman’s heavily subsidized mixed use condo towers are back before the City Commission AGAIN on May 3.  This time, our elected officials are being asked to approve on second reading an ordinance that will award him air rights over 19th Avenue so that his 17-story condo tower (Radius II) — the one that got added to the agreement for the first condo tower (Radius at Young Circle) without being reviewed on its own merits — can include balconies protruding three feet over the sidewalk on 19th Avenue.  (The ordinance would also vacate the air rights along the alley running east to west for the same purpose.)

Why is it that this project keeps coming back for more and more?  Obviously it was never thought through to begin with.

Why is it that our elected officials give and give and give?    Why not require the developer to reduce the size of the building so that balconies do not trespass on the public space?

The justification for this latest give-away is an insult to our intelligence.  According to the ordinance they will adopt on Wednesday, giving the developer air rights “bears a reasonable relationship to the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Hollywood.”  Do you believe for one minute that our health, safety, and welfare will be improved by granting developer Berman the right to protrude tiers of balconies over the public sidewalk below his 17-story tower?

The staff memo gives no intelligible rationale for this intrusion over the public right of way, nor does it mention potential liability befalling the city from an accident (perhaps a flower-pot falls off a balcony while a pedestrian stands on the sidewalk below?). And so, with no benefit to the public, the city will give another handout to an already heavily-subsidized developer.  We are to understand, however, from the staff memo that this give-away “may be considered in the best interests of the public.”  May be considered by whom?, we might ask.

An earlier report on this project, dated March 20, is posted below in case you have forgotten what was before the Commission at that time – which they subsequently adopted.

High and Higher

17 stories exceeds allowable height downtown

Developer Steve Berman’s heavily incentivized Radius project was originally approved as a single mixed-use condo building and adjoining garage.  The developer had first presented a low- to mid-rise building that did not offend the scale and massing presented by the nearby La Piazza and other downtown buildings. Many residents liked the design at that time.

The City Commission, however, insisted on a high-rise building for the site, contrary to the wishes of many residents in the nearby Lakes neighborhood, and sent Steve Berman back to the drawing board.  The resulting condo building was to be 12 stories at first, but later the developer requested 13 stories and the city approved the increased height without fanfare.

Then, as construction got under way, the developer saw an opportunity to add a second building.  Rather than submitting a new application for the new building, Steve Berman’s sister, Robin, made the presentation for her brother to the City Commission/CRA requesting that it simply be considered Phase Two of the already-approved Radius.

In that informal manner, with no prior public notice, the City Commission approved a greatly expanded two-phase Radius project, all to be covered by the developer agreement the city had already executed for the first building and garage.  In effect, the second building never had to stand on its own merits.  It was simply swept into the existing agreement between Berman’s firm and the city.

Tomorrow (3/21/2006), the developer will be back before the City Commission and CRA with an additional request.  This time, Berman seeks the City’s blessing for a higher Phase Two building.  He wants it to top 17 stories (170 feet not counting a rooftop pool and other amenities).  The City is being asked to approve this request with little if any knowledge of project details.  Phase Two is still in the initial Technical Advisory Committee stage.

By using a development agreement amendment — as opposed to the development review process — to get approval for a height limit in excess of what the city’s zoning allows, the developer will have succeeded in precluding anything but a rubber stamp from the city’s Development Review Board, city staff, or any other required review of the new Phase Two building.  For example, if the City has already approved additional height in the developer agreement, the Development Review Board will be required to grant the necessary variance because the city will have already agreed to allow it.

Development Review Process A Rubber Stamp

The City Commission created a similar short-circuit in approving the development agreement for the 19-story Young Circle Commons to occupy the site of the historic Great Southern Hotel.  Over a year later, the Development Review Board recommended demolition of the old hotel to allow for the big condo tower.  Then, when residents challenged the Development Review Board’s approval of the demolition as contrary to provisions in the city ordinance, city commissioners agreed with the DRB. They said that demolition had to occur because the developer agreement provided for it.  Political decisions thus trump provisions of the city’s development ordinance.

The Radius (Phase One) Under Construction

According to the developer agreement, this Phase One building is to consist of “311 upscale residential units.”

The second phase will create an additional “approximately 105 upscale residential units.” It is to be built after substantial completion of the first phase.

P.S. In case you did not know, Steve’s sister, Robin, not only represents her brother before the City Commission, as she did with the initial request to add a Phase Two Radius building.  She is also the long-time chairperson of Hollywood’s Planning and Zoning Board.





Comments Off on Radius Condo Towers

Comments are closed.