Midtown Sacramento high-rise goes onward and upward

A proposed high-rise that would become the tallest building in midtown Sacramento is still on track after the City Council upheld a planning commission approval during a contentious meeting late Tuesday.

After hours of public comment, the City Council voted unanimously to reject an appeal against the 15-story, mixed-use condominium proposal known as the Yamanee.

Backers of the project located at 25th and J Streets largely focused on the need for more housing in the urban core and a desire for sustainable building models.

“Humans have spent too much time destroying our planet,” Midtown Neighborhood Association Chairwoman Angela Tillotson told the Council while speaking in support. “Building up alleviates the need to build out. This project will bring much-needed homeowner opportunities and additional property taxes to our city.”

Opponents focused on the building’s 178-foot height and the need for affordable housing rather than market-rate units.

“You are destroying areas for artists to live and to create art,” argued midtown resident A.J. Dellaringa. “You are encouraging a population of people who have money … while displacing people who are lower income.”

Central city historian William Burg filed the appeal in May, shortly after the project was approved by the city Planning and Design Commission.

In addition to opposing the height of the structure, Burg said earlier that he is concerned with the process that allowed it to win a deviation from the 2035 General Plan policy guidelines for the area.

Since 2013, the planning commission has been able to grant a deviation when it considers a project to have a “significant community benefit.” Before then, developers had to prove the existing rules created a “hardship,” often because of site-specific challenges that made codes unusually difficult to follow.

Burg said that the standards for a variance are too loose, and “significant community benefit” isn’t clearly defined.

“I’m opposed to this project and this site and this location because of the height, but it’s possible at all because of the (variance) loophole,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “That’s the larger issue.”

Developer Ryan Heater also presented at the meeting, saying the project would “set the bar for green development” and help Sacramento meet its growing housing needs.

Councilman Steve Hansen, who represents the midtown district where the building is slated, made the motion to reject Burg’s appeal, saying that he had “thought about the project for months” and believed that the under the current development atmosphere, “we micromanage so much we are afraid” to take chances. He added that previous generations of city leadership may have had more “jazz in their hearts” when it came to growth.

Burg said after the vote that he was “disappointed” and unsure if he would pursue the issue further or consider litigation.

Heater said that he would continue to pursue building permits and could begin construction next spring.

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049