Reno’s Puritanical Streak

Reno City Council just moved forward with an ordinance to force current Adult Businesses in the Downtown / Redevelopment Districts to get the fuck out in 6 months, or 5 years if they comply with business killing regulation.  I have never been more embarrassed by the gross stupidity of Reno government.

These 6 businesses are legally established today as non-conforming existing land uses.  The standard being used to boot them into de facto combat zones in Industrial zoned areas is the ephemeral “secondary effect” doctrine.  Titty bars and titty bars alone exert negative effects across the neighboring area according to the evidence presented at Council.  Oh wait, NO evidence was presented at Council whatsoever on secondary effects.  And certainly no evidence was presented representing Reno’s specific case as a downtown with unlimited gambling and Federally illegal recreational and medical marijuana retailers.

So Karl Hall, Reno’s elected City Attorney, sent private Dicks to the titty bars to check out the action in case they filed suit over the ordinance, which they rightly will.  The results of these questionably legal incursions were presented to each Counsel member evidently, with enough impact to apparently swat their votes.  Brekhus would never have voted for this, but was appalled by the PI report.  So what did Karl do?  Did he report the findings of his investigation to Reno Code Enforcement?  To the Reno Police Department?  Nah, protected by attorney/client privilege. Karl Hall’s skill set has cost Reno taxpayers over $1M and counting on his mismanagement of the Clinger affair, and look at Tittygate to cost another $10M (I’m dead serious about the costs) because he overstepped his authority.  I seriously double anything his incursions turned  up will be admissible, given the process.

This is all happening because of the Wild Orchid,

in spite of any city wide policy the talk heads espouse.  The Keshmiri family who owns it has constantly tweaked Reno’s nose, specifically about their (worst ever resolution) digital billboard at the corner of SVA and California.  It is actually the case that got me activated in Reno planning issues, and I had total respect for Reno Planning holding their nose and defending the sign.  I’m losing that now.  Keshmiri’s now promise to demo the sign, but to little to late.  There tackiness is having consequences.

Is the Wild Orchid really the problem, or is it the weekly Ponderosa weekly motel (also Keshmiri) behind it?  Code Enforcement knows, and they are silent to date.

The Council seems whacked out right now, and this ordinance has a couple more iteration to go through before it is enacted and becomes law.  Get involved.   Think about this lucidly.  Is banning architectural offices downtown because of our “secondary effects” next in line?  Are you really offended by the Men’s Club?

Suzie’s?  You’ve driven past it a 100 times and weren’t offended. Do you want to create a combat zone of strip clubs only accessible by a 10 mile car ride, then be oh so shocked by drunk driving arrests?  Tell you councilperson to stop this stupid initiative. Keep Reno Reno.

 

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The Bigs

Some rather large transaction this week.

  • Sparks Legends – Sold for what looks like to me $85,536,861, though it appears to be an internal fund transfer.  The transfer generated a $405,261 in Transfer Taxes.  (Where do transfer taxes go? NRS authorizes $3.90/$1000 in Washoe, where is the other $.20/$1000?)
  • Kiley Ranch – 68 vacant but flat acres at Kiley Ranch (APNs 510-171-44 and 510-072-01) went to Lewis Investments for $9,584,100.  At 8 lots per acres net, that would be about $35,000 per raw lot.  Finishing an easy lot runs about $45,000 streets and utilities based on Meridian 120, so you are at $80,000 per lot before you start.  Add $15,000 in water, Sewer Connection Fees, Park Fees, and Transit Impact Fees, and you are at $95,000 per lot before you even start construction.  In a secondary location.  The houses will need to sell for $450K or so, 25% above our current median.
  • Great Western Marketplace – The GWM has finally given up the ghost and sold out.   $4,525,000 for 10.61 acres = $9.79/SF for the parking lot.  This will become the 288 unit Sky Mountain by Vintage project, subsidized to 40 and 50% AGI.  This is a fantastic location for a project like this based on need and public transit access.  The 8.93 acre parcel that included the building went for $3,685,000 = $9.38/SF, and will become storage for crap and RVs.  The building has negative value.  Why are we allowing storage uses on such a highly desirable potential housing site?  I ReImagine Reno a bit differently.

Verdi Today

Lots happening on the Western Frontier:

  • The long closed Taco Bell at Gold Ranch is transforming into a 24 Hour Subway with a drive-thru.
  • The Verdian Works is going vertical.  Still rumored to be a facility to renovate vintage trains.
  • West Meadows Estates by DR Horton continues terraforming for 323 homes.
  • Meridian 120 N just started site work for their 273 homes.
  • The new water tank to serve the private Boomtown system and the Meridian 120 projects is rising S out I-80.
  • Meridian 120 S is in front of the Planning Commission this week for a Tentative Map for 78 Units.  Reno Planning forced the developer to acknowledge that  this is in a Major Drainageway (thanks, Nathan!).  But I can tell you from over 15 years living in the neighborhood, this project is gonna flood no matter what accommodations are constructed.
  • Toll Somersett Village 6.  Everyone thought it was going to be sort of hidden away, but it is going to be one of the most prominently visible pieces of the Somersett PUD.  Treat yourself to a meal and a beer at the Sasquatch, and then take a look at what you see driving back East on old US 40 aka W 3rd Street.
  • No news on the Stan Lucas properties just West of Sierra Canyon and East of West Meadows Estates except some easement adjustments.  A potential of 666 homes, 132 only accessible from Sierra Canyon via Bennett’s Court.
  • Kronish owns 1000 acres above West Meadow Estates spanning from the Stan Lucas properties to above Riverdale in Verdi.  A few additional lots are being prepared in Riverdale, but the potential for another massive development exists.  General Rural Zoning is for suckers.

Affordable Housing in Reno

How do we get some?  Monthly rents at the scuzziest weekly motels are now $800+, Midtown 1 bedroom apartments are $1500, and suburban 2 bedroom apartments are $1600+.  The pipeline is full of high amenity luxury apartments, but virtually bereft of low amenity workforce housing.

The easy answer is that we need to make affordable housing more profitable to build  than luxury apartments. Harder is getting there.

  • Reno does have some programs increasing density and lowering parking requirements on certified projects at 50% AFI and below.  This threshold needs to be raised (80%?) to attract developers into this arena.
  • Sewer Connection fees and Transit Impact fees need to be drastically reduced within the targeted infill zone, inside the McCarran loop.
  • We need committed individuals willing to work in this arena.  I’ve been lucky enough to be working with a client who has added 48 workforce units to the Sparks market in the last 2 years.  Notice this was in Sparks, not Reno, where the Planning Code is more progressive.
  • We need massive public infrastructure improvements in our targeted redevelopment zones.  I have an inner city project being down-sized 50% because TMWA’s water system can’t support additional fire hydrants, and I’ve never met an infill project where NVE didn’t need a new transformer due to undersized existing capacity.

No solutions, but I wanted to get the discussion started.  What do we do to make housing affordable?

Sliding Hills Estates

… Not only a home with a view, but each day a different view!

Not my riff, but from the Puppet Man at the Cannery in SF a few decades ago.  Does anyone else remember him as fondly as I do?

SOA (Somersett Owners Association) just file a $360,000 permit to basically reinforce the rock retaining wall around 1760 Timaru.  The walls failed during this sever winter, and no one seems to be disputing that SOA is on the hook for the repairs (how many similar conditions exist?).  I know of at least 8 other Toll Brothers properties built over double rock retaining walls that have failed, and Toll is footing the $100,000+ per lot to stabilize the foundations.  But you have to sue them first.  Think 2340 Trail Ridge is a deal?  Do some research!

There are numerous locations where the rock retaining walls failed around the Somersett Golf and County Club imperiling the homes above.  SGCC has a 4 year warranty period on these walls, so the cost of repairs may well be the final nail driving the SGCC into BK, even before their clubhouse opens in “2016”.  Their financials weren’t too sunny before all this.

What is Plan B?

Seigel Buying Days Inn?

Say it isn’t so.

Reno’s “savior” looks like they are going to strike again, and take another property off the market to convert to “weeklies”.  Can we at least hope they won’t reuse the 3-day-old-urine color scheme from their Sparks project?

Siegel does have a permit for a new entry canopy at the Virginian.  Their original plan had posts into the public sidewalk!

This and That

  • Park Lane – I wanted to report on just what this development is going to be, but every single source of information I have found is showing different plans.  1200 units or 1600?  Grocery store or no grocery store (my bet is no)?  There are no permits filed for real construction to track.  The developer Reno Land is on record bitching about the permit process, and this is why their projects have a hard time gaining traction – lack of transparency and a moving target.
  • Smithridge – Smithridge is a 600+ unit condo complex from the ’70’s that is of my bellwethers.  Units got bid up to over $225,000 on the boom, fell to $75,000 in the bust, then appreciated to $140,000 and held there for at least 6 months.  Then instantly jumped to $155,00 with takers, and now $165,000.  Rents were around $850 in the bust, but are now $1250+ according to the Craig’s List listings.
  • University Housing Part II – There is an application to abandon the alley from 6th to 7th between NVA and Center.  I can’t tell what the actual extent of the abandonment really is – The Travelodge seems to need the alley for fire separation, access, and garbage pick-up.  I can only speculate that the Berengo parcels are included, but Schneider would not be proposing this without NNUD as the master.  Sniping the Standard  or equal from Italian Capital across he street?  Priceless!

The Greens at Town Center

A 10 unit townhouse/condo development is coming towards Somersett.  Sited on the “golf lot” adjacent to the Club, it is an allowable use under the CCRs for the community.   The project will be a lump roughly the size of each Town Center commercial building, so should fit in rather OKish scale wise.

Toll Brothers is dismantling their double-wide sales center with “$25,000” pergola at their Boulders project, and is presumably moving over to Village 6.  Lots of Quick Delivery homes at the Boulders.

The developer lots in Somersett are starting to run out.  Lennar is building up Verdi View now (there will in fact be some spectacular views), Ryder is getting started in SBE, Hillbrow is also active in SBE, and Lewis is getting active again.  The only surprise ahead is Toll Village 1A – a bead of 96 narrow lots taking off from the formerly “exclusive” River Hill Way and dying back into Somersett parkway at Whisper Rock.

What’s above Somersett?  Well it ain’t public land, that’s for sure.  Maybe a 1000 acres with guaranteed access within the development starved Reno Sphere of Influence.   So much of what we consider as “public lands” on the periphery of current developments are in fact in private hands are are develop-able.  Look at Caughlin  Ranch.  It is NOT the end of potential or proposed development.

Stonegate Gets Stonewalled

Stonegate is a proposed 4217 unit primarily residential development west of 395 in the North Valleys.  I believe the 2nd or 3rd largest single project currently proposed up there, which gives you an idea of just how many units are in the pipeline.  It is coming before the Planning Commission Thursday evening at 6 PM.  The meeting is live on Charter 214 or you can stream it on the City’s website or go to City Hall in person, but don’t miss this meeting.  Reno appears to have grown a pair is saying “no”.

HERE is the Staff Report – it clocks in at 362 pages, but it is well worth reading.  Some take-aways:

  • Reno would prefer that the zoning remain unchanged, primarily Industrial which creates jobs (though generally near minimum wage).
  • The tone of the Staff Report is clearly irritated.  It would appear that back room negotiations have broken down.
  • This Staff Report uses a lot of new jobs and housing data from the studies that are informing the Master Plan update.  There are nuggets here (though some look to be pyrite).
  • For the first time I have seem, Reno Planning is “suggesting” percentages of affordable housing they might find acceptable, and the income levels that should be targeted.
  • The developer owns at least 336 acres east of 395 that are not part of this development proposal.  I could be developed to include the service Planning found to be lacking in the Stonegate submission.
  • Reno has already approve bigger and farther out projects in the North Valleys, so their reticence on this one is a little hard to defend.

This appears to be a shot across the bow, a line in the sand from Reno Planning as to what sort of development they currently find acceptable.  I don’t disagree with them, but I know the “development community” of the Old Boys is going to go apoplectic.

Never forget that the Planning Department’s Staff Report is purely advisory to the Planning Commission.  The Planning Commission can accept it, reject it, or ask or additional conditions.  Nothing will be resolved Thursday evening, but the tone of the debate and the players who start showing their cards should be fascinating.  When finally approved by the Planning Commission, Council will have to approve the project.   McKenzie No.  Brekhus No.  Delgado No.  Duer No after discussing it for at least an hour.  My guess is Jardon No, Bobzian No, and Mayor Shieve No.

This is going to be great a test case with far-reaching implications, and I am not really sure what the legal grounds are to reject the Project.  So watch and listen!

Par-King

This is where I honed my miniature golf skills during high school.  And right out front is where Dad handed over the Beetle and let me go solo an a stick shift for the first time.  Good memories,and I’m glad to see Par-King is still around 50 years later.

But I want to drop the hyphen and talk about parking in Reno.  HERE are the general requirements, though they are adjusted in specific Districts.  Midtown and Wells do not require parking for Bar, Restaurant, or Retail uses.  Downtown Reno Regional Center California District does not require parking for ANY land use – go figure.

Why?  Who came up with the parking standards currently in use?  Sedway.  Has there ever been any attempt to prove out their assumptions on what should be parking requirements?  No.

Retail:

From what I can tell, these images were taken sometime on a work day – all the spaces downtown at the Courthouse were full.  Just look at how much of our city is useless, unused asphalt.  It seems retail parking standards assumed the worst case of 3:00 PM Christmas Eve as the baseline.  I have NEVER seen the W parking lot at the NW Home Dept serve as customer parking, and I have never seen the E parking lot even 50% full.  Same with the NW Wally World and Total Wine on SVA (with another vacant parking lot at the Home Depot across the street).

Residential:

Why is the parking requirement for DRRC generally 1 per unit, when the actually populated and walk-able Midtown and Wells Districts are higher?  Why does Reno (alone in the region) round parking requirements UP, making Midtown parking requirements actually higher than Somersett for an equivalent unit?  Sparks specifically rounds down, and has in fact eliminated guest parking requirements from the MUD districts (Mixed Urban Development, their equivalent to Reno’s transit corridors).

Opinions:

Reno is in the process of revising their Master Plan.  As far as I can tell, they are changing some titles and really doing nothing substantive.  Huge gaffes in existing zoning are just being played forward.  HERE is their interactive map to see what is proposed in your neighborhood and citywide.

Reno is planning to get around to looking at Title18 Zoning Code at some point, which includes parking standards.  There is a backlog of several hundred text amendments already in the queue, and Planning continues to focus on things like Bedroom definitions to placate squeaky wheels instead of big picture issues.  STFU works in the private sector, but the public sector needs to respond to constituent input.  I wish it were being done in a much more proactive way instead of constant capitulation to whoever bitches the loudest.

I’m am obviously frustrated that the ReImagine Reno process doesn’t seem to re-imagine anything at all.