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Horizons Project Not An Easy Fit:

The adaptive reuse development of the landmark Horizons West surf shop at 2001 Main Street continues to be controversial.

At the second of two community meetings to discuss the proposed design for the project, a mixed-use apartment complex incorporating the Horizons West building, City Associate Planner Steve Mizokami and architect Howard Laks heard many complaints from neighbors, ranging from fear of losing neighborhood character, to safety issues about a boarded-up house on the property.

The vintage Craftsman bungalow at 212 Bay Street, around the corner from Horizons, is not a landmark, although it is included in the parcel to be redeveloped. Unoccupied for two years, the house has been boarded up, but in recent months the wooden front fence has repeatedly fallen down, graffiti has been scrawled on the fence, and neighbors have witnessed transients sleeping in the yard.

A petition signed by over 200 residents has been sent to the City’s Building and Safety Department and Nuisance Abatement Board, asking that the house be demolished as soon as possible. But Laks explained that this cannot be done until the City issues a replacement permit.

Randy Wright, owner of Horizons, wondered why the property owner couldn’t invest in a wrought-iron fence to keep transients out of the unoccupied house. He said that he himself had spent $3500 to construct a fence around the parking lot of Horizons.

Laks suggested that if residents can gather enough evidence from police reports of trouble at the house site, then the City might do something. “Nothing will get done if somebody doesn’t do something!” Wright responded.

Laks promised that, if the house is not demolished by October, he will talk to the owner about putting up a stronger fence.

Another architect, Ralph Mechur, weighed in on the project’s goal of preserving Horizons’ heritage as a surf and skateboarding mecca. “I think it’s the wrong project,” he said. “It’s nice but it doesn’t help to save Horizons.” Because Wright will have to move out of the Horizons building during construction, due to the need to renovate the building, Mechur feared that Horizons would not be able to survive as a business.

Wright also expressed that concern and had a “radical suggestion.” He thought the old house should be demolished and something new built on that lot, “but leave the surf shop as it is. Just fix it up a little.”

Other residents commented that the new project is simply too big, that it dwarfs the one-story Horizons building in the front, and that the plans for other retail businesses on the ground floor may not yield better results than the larger Archstone complex across Main Street, where most of the retail spaces are still empty.

One supporter of the project was longtime activist and City Council candidate Jerry Rubin. He liked the owner’s intentions to keep the complex small and to build it to LEED Gold Certification standards. Some people were surprised that Rubin, a longtime critic of many City policies, was “pro-development.”

“I’m pro development when it’s a project like this one,” said Rubin.

Mizokami said that the next step is public review of the project’s EIR (Environmental Impact Report), which will be on view for 45 days beginning in September. Following that, the design will be subject to a courtesy review by the Landmarks Commission, a review by the Planning Commission, a Landmarks Commission review for a Certificate of Appropriateness for the design, and finally a plan check. Construction will probably begin, Mizokami believes, by next summer.

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