Condo design wrong for us

June 19, 2007 12:00 am
El Dorado Hills-based Development Consultants Inc. is seeking approval to construct a three-floor, 51-unit condominium complex on A Street at the site of the former Del Norte Healthcare District center. (Ilustration courtesy of Development Consultants Inc. ).
El Dorado Hills-based Development Consultants Inc. is seeking approval to construct a three-floor, 51-unit condominium complex on A Street at the site of the former Del Norte Healthcare District center. (Ilustration courtesy of Development Consultants Inc. ).

As an interested and involved Pebble Beach Drive resident and as a Crescent City architect, I attended the public presentation of the proposed Coasta Norte Luxury Condo project by El Dorado Hills developer Randy Baugh ("Condo proposal receives local feedback," June 14).

After a brief overview presentation of the project, Baugh fielded questions and concerns of the more than 50 interested residents in attendance. As one of those in attendance, I couldn't help feeling that there was a lot of smoke and mirrors on the part of the developer.

Baugh was always quick to point out that everything being proposed was within the prevailing zoning and planning codes and/or the requirements of the city's General Plan. As a professional architect who's seen all of this before, my assessment is that several of his responses were vague, unresponsive, and/or putting "lipstick on the pig."

As designed and presented, the Coasta Norte Luxury Condo project is exactly what Crescent City doesn't want or need. It looks like someone brought a 35-foot high aircraft carrier in and parked it along the beachfront property. The proposed project massing is much too dense, creating a China Wall blockage of the ocean. In addition to the non-human scale, and bulk massing proposed, there is no sense of our Northcoast vernacular architecture. The proposed project's massing is indicative of a maxed-out, developer, econo-box, profit-driven solution.

Yes, we need and want development in Crescent City and Del Norte County, but we can't and shouldn't accept such imposed, insensitive developments as the proposed Coasta Norte project. New developments must represent quality and the character of our coastal town along with time enduring character and qualities. Coasta Norte fails.

My wife and I walk this area often, and we don't want to walk in the shadow of this insensitive, arbitrary, maximum density, non-descript development massing.

Village-like character

Some real world, Crescent City luxury condominium development considerations would include:

•Reduce the proposed development unit density by 30 percent

•Create two-story home-like, walk-up street frontage units, perhaps some units with a loft

•Use gable and/or hip roofs with overhangs to soften the project silhouette against the sky horizon

•Use dormer windows and fireplace chimney elements as architectural enhancements

•Introduce soft landscape lighting to enhance development nighttime friendliness

•Introduce front porch/balconies for people to pause and/or reduce the scale of the massing

The proposed Coasta Norte should create a neighborhood, user-friendly residential development that has a sense of fit to its adjacent neighboring single-family residences. The project exteriors should consider wood-like siding, wood plant on trims around doors and windows along with color palette changes from one living unit to another which individualizes each home and also helps to give visual relief to an otherwise boring, monotonous, institutional development massing.

How the project's building silhouette massing touches the sky is a very important issue. In other words, this project needs to develop a village-like charming, residential character - then Coasta Norte will truly have luxury home-like qualities.

Currently, in our city we have no standing Architectural guidelines, yet an architectural review committee is going to pass some kind of judgment on Coasta Norte. What will the measure be based on? So the question begs, what is our image of ourselves for today and our future? How do we attempt to build a sense of community when we don't even have a stated or defined guidelines or vision of ourselves? I guess we can make it up as we go or just not be concerned with it. Or perhaps our future is established on the basis of who gets here first or who has the most money.

Leadership

Obviously, this is not the way to develop a desirable, distinctive built environment and community. We need leadership and a vision. We need sensitive developments that lead by example, that are "good neighbors" and developments that make a lasting contribution to our community.

If this first of it's kind project doesn't develop and contribute these suggested friendly, neighborhood-scope character and qualities, then Crescent City will perpetuate mediocrity in our built environment. As a community we need to make the right and best decisions for our communities long-term future.

Reach Charles Slert, a Crescent City resident and architect, at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it