Nevada City Council votes on Cashin’s Field next week | TheUnion.com
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Nevada City Council votes on Cashin’s Field next week

John Orona
Staff Writer

For educational researcher Dr. Erin Bird, there was nowhere to go.

Last November — as part of a National Science Foundation grant project linking the University of California, Davis and the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools — she was set to train area elementary school educators in best practices for teaching environmental science to young children.

But unable to find adequate housing even after pushing the project back to March, she settled for what she could find and signed a lease to a 120-square-foot cabin, she told the Nevada City Planning Commission.

“I was disappointed to learn how few options were available in town, especially in a price range I could afford,” Bird wrote in a public comment. “When I could no longer postpone the move due to increased work demands in Nevada City, I found alternative living arrangements outside of town.”

On Thursday, Nevada City got one step closer to bringing the 56-unit affordable housing complex, Cashin’s Field, to fruition after the Planning Commission approved the project with amendments addressing some of the public’s biggest concerns: evacuation routes and increased traffic.

At the meeting project developers presented a new “horseshoe” design which would add a second driveway east of the main entrance that connects to the west driveway via a parking lot in the rear.

The new design addresses evacuation concerns by giving residents and emergency vehicles an additional exit from the complex. The design would also elongate the two-way left turn lane on Ridge Road to fit three cars, helping to alleviate some congestion issues.

However, several public commenters during the meeting were still not pleased with the speed with which the development is progressing and how it might affect traffic on the heavily frequented Ridge Road/Zion Street intersection.

According to City Engineer Bryan McAlister, while traffic in the area is an ongoing concern, the project itself would not add significantly to congestion. During peak traffic hours, the project would increase volume by 3%, 70% of which would be going toward Highway 49 on Ridge Road, according to the project’s traffic study.

With Planning Commission approval, the project will go to the Nevada City Council on Wednesday for a final vote.

The county has already committed $650,000 in long-term loans toward funding the project while Nevada City has committed more than $150,000 to help get the project off the ground.

CASHIN’S FIELD

The 51,000-square-foot project slated for 170 Ridge Road is targeted at the local workforce, which has few housing options for moderate and low income households, and aims to create a community setting.

The six-building development would span up to three stories and feature two outdoor/play areas, a community center with public-facing patio, and open green space. Social programs like resume building and personal finance classes may also be included. The complex would include 11 one-bedroom units, 30 two-bedroom units, and 15 three-bedroom units, with one manager unit and 81 parking spaces.

Between 2014 and 2019, Nevada City had a goal to build 85 housing units, 49 of which were to be affordable units. It built 17 units, only two of which were affordable.

Because it did not meet state housing targets, the city is subject to 2017 Senate Bill 35, which requires it to streamline affordable housing projects by shortening the review timeline and restricting some local control of the project’s design.

The project has only 90 days for approval, which can only be based on objective standards — those enumerated in the municipal code — rather than subjective standards found in the city’s design guidelines.

Due to housing density law, the project is also allowed four exceptions to the city’s development standards, which will be used to skirt two setback requirements and allow the buildings’ roofs to be higher than 40 feet in some places.

To fund the project, the county is also applying for $3.5 million in special disaster tax credits available to counties victim to the 2017 and 2018 fires. Officials expect to find out in September if they receive that funding.

If funded, developers expect construction to begin spring 2021, with families able to move in summer 2022.

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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