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Five-Story Potrero Hill Apartments Appealed Over Definition of 'Bedroom'

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A window, or lack thereof, could bring the entire plan to a halt

A 127-unit apartment building proposed for the corner of Arkansas and 17th, on lots presently home to an abandoned warehouse from the 1920s, looked like it was on the way to final approval last month. But now it's being appealed over the strict legal definition of a bedroom. For want of an exterior window in certain rooms, three years of work could be scuttled.

The proposed five-story building, designed by BAR Architects and backed by local developer Martin Building Company, would cover 118,000 square feet, including two courtyards, a solarium, and a roof deck. Twenty percent of the building would be priced as affordable housing. If completed as proposed, it would run $1.6 million in fees.

It would also throw some shade onto the Jackson Playground across the street, but Park & Rec put their support behind it anyway, calling the overcast minimal. Planning gave its stamp of approval at their March 3 meeting.

Enter an appeal.

The complaint, raised by the Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association, claims that the two-bedroom apartment designs are not really two bedrooms, because one of them does not have a window.

Strange as this sounds, it’s important: The technical definition of a two-bedroom apartment under the neighborhood plan demands both rooms have an exterior window. The layouts for the 88 Arkansas Street building have a "nested" design, with one bedroom sitting entirely inside the unit. The city requires that a development of this size be at least 40 percent two-bedroom units, a requirement 88 Arkansas fulfills only if the nested rooms count.

The Planning Commission waived this in March, but neighbors are making a stand on the letter of the law. The appeal includes several missives from Booster members criticizing the present design for not being "family-friendly housing" and observing that "if the commission wants to revisit the question, they can do so by changing the law."

MBC replied that the commission has the authority to make exceptions under the plan and doesn’t need to meet any particular criteria to justify them.

The Board of Appeals will meet Wednesday at 5 PM. Stay tuned.