The city of Half Moon Bay recently approved several zoning amendments to make it easier to develop in and around downtown.

After months of discussion by the Planning Commission, elected officials voted to preserve ground-level retail on Main Street, reduce parking requirements for development, and streamline the permitting of housing in mixed-use districts at the Feb. 4 Half Moon Bay City Council meeting.

“Our vision here is that we want to concentrate development in the downtown core,” Councilwoman Debbie Ruddock said. “To do that we have to ease up on restrictions in the downtown core, make it business friendly, and streamline the permitting.”

Last year, the council passed an urgency ordinance that limited new uses on Main Street. At the Feb. 4 meeting, city staff recommended approving amendments that would replace the emergency order and offer some flexibility.

The “Heritage Main Street” provisions restrict storefronts on the 300, 400, 500 and 600 blocks of Main Street to active ground-floor uses such as restaurants, retail establishments and bars. Offices, banks and other businesses will not be permitted on the ground floor on that stretch of Main Street.

To allow flexibility, staff proposed exempting four converted single-family homes on Main Street that were built in the early 1900s. It also proposed allowing some storefront spaces to be used for an office, on a temporary basis, if there is a period of a long vacancy and the office has walk-in clientele.

The other proposed amendments will make it easier to facilitate the creation of housing in some of the city’s mixed-use districts. The city will no longer require a use permit for residential development in the district. Additionally, staff proposes a minimum density of 15 units per acre downtown for multifamily development.

Finally, the city is addressing its parking ordinances. For years, the city required garages for all of the parking spaces needed for a multifamily or residential portion of mixed-use development. Now, with the amendments, one or two of the required parking spaces must be a garage, but the other may be uncovered in most of the mixed-use districts.

For residential development downtown, the amendments will now only require one parking space for studio or one-bedroom units, and 1.5 spaces for each unit with two or more bedrooms. Previously the city required two spaces regardless of the unit size.

For commercial uses downtown, staff is proposing one space per 300 square feet to ease development constraints on small lots.

Several residents said the changes were long overdue and will ease restrictions when it comes to development. Some were interested in looking for property that could lend itself to a public parking lot or garage as the parking requirements change.

“If we change the code and allow more development with less parking, will it work?” Half Moon Bay resident Chad Hooker asked. “People want to park in front of the door where they are going. This will work now, but will it work 10 years from now?”

Councilman Harvey Rarback, however, said he hopes people will rely on vehicles less in the future, and that there will not be the demand for parking like there is today.

The next step is for the council to approve a second reading of the new ordinances at its Feb. 18 meeting. Then they would be submitted for certification to the California Coastal Commission.

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