Street hierarchy

The map shows an early proposal for street hierarchy plan for the downtown area

The Downtown Design Review Committee continued its work on reshaping the city of Auburn's Urban Core development and design standards at a work session on Tuesday. 

The committee appeared to favor instituting a four-street hierarchical classification system, which would base development and design standards on the street where the subject property fronts. 

The committee also considered a number of other topics, including the treatment of ground-story uses, facade composition, alleyways, building mass and story height. 

With story height, the committee has landed on a minimum requirement of 18 feet for the ground story, floor to floor, and a minimum height of 11 feet for the next two upper stories.

With building mass, the maximum street-facing building length allowed would be 200 feet. A public, pedestrian 10-foot alleyway would be required for structures longer than 200 feet and have to provide one or more of the following: connect different rights of way; provide access to internal public parking; provide access to pedestrian path networks; or provide access to outdoor entrances and uses which are internal to the development. 

DDRC member David Hinson also wanted Planning Department staff to benchmark how other cities regulated entry courts off of streets for private, residential uses. 

Buildings more than 150 feet in length would also be required to have a variation in height for the roof lines facing the street. Parapets visible from the street would meet that requirement. 

Buildings 100 feet or longer would be required to have articulated facades. Hinson asked staff to provide a more detailed definition for articulation.

"For architects, articulation could mean a wide range of things," he said. "I think it's really important that this one be illustrated with examples.

"There are differences in plane across the surface of the building facing the principal street."

Hinson added that sharpening the language for the definition of articulation could help stave off potential never-ending arguments with architects for projects. 

"What we're trying to do from an image standpoint is keep the building from appearing too long and too flat. I just think we ought to say that," said DDRC member Dan Bennett. "We really want to break that facade down to both enrich it and at the same time keep it from appearing either flat or excessively lengthy."

The proposed standards would also regulate the composition of facades on street frontages, limiting a facade composition to 100 feet. Buildings with street frontages longer than 100 feet would need multiple facade compositions as part of their design. 

The proposed changes to design standards would increase the minimum required fenestration from 30 to 50 percent on the ground story, from 20 to 30 percent on the second story, and keep the currently required 20 percent for the third story and above. 

The proposed standards also cover ground-story uses, requiring  an active use for no less than 70 percent of any street frontage. No more than 50 percent of the ground story may be used as private amenity space for exclusive use by residents of the building. The number falls to 30 percent for amenities from property fronting A streets, which are primarily downtown. 

The committee also expressed a desire for more variety in allowable building materials. 

"Cementitious siding in the hands of a good designer, you'd love it. In the hands of a lazy designer, you're going to hate it," said Hinson.

DDRC member Anna Solomon said she was concerned with the requirement of red bricks for buildings downtown.

"I do understand trying to have some uniformity in brick color, but I also think that we have a lot of buildings that are turning out to be about the same brick color," she said. 

The DDRC will next hold a joint work session with the Planning Commission, a time for which hasn't been set.

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