|By Nels Johnson, The Marin Independent
Journal, Novato, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
January 12, 2009 - Jack Krystal lost another round in his 30-year battle to develop a hotel on Richardson Bay, but the 69-year-old San Rafael entrepreneur said he's not down for the count.
Krystal said he'll appeal to county supervisors after the county Planning Commission on Monday unanimously rejected plans for a four-story, 71-room hotel and adjacent spa on 2.2 bayfront acres, about a third of which is tidelands, at 260 Redwood Highway in Mill Valley. The hotel would replace a contractors' storage yard.
Krystal first proposed hotel use of the site more than 30 years ago, promoting a 12-story, 300-room hotel in 1977. At one point he stunned county supervisors by burning an architect's model of the complex in the board chambers, saying he would come back with a smaller project.
The plan was withdrawn, revised, pared down and has been resubmitted several times over the years.
Commissioners said the latest version of the 54-foot-high project remains too big and too tall, although three agreed hotel use of the site is appropriate.
"We'll have to go to the Board of Supervisors to see what they say," Krystal said after planners booted the hotel, adding that cutting the plan down any more doesn't make economic sense.
"The merits of this project are more than sufficient for them to modify these restrictive conditions," he added.
Krystal's plan included native landscaping, planter boxes, solar panels, use of recycled materials and green building techniques, public bayshore access and a bay educational program for schoolchildren, among other amenities.
But county planner Christine Gimmler noted the plan suffered from "major inconsistencies" with the Tam Valley Community Plan as well as the Marin Countywide Plan. The 59,000-square-foot project was far bigger than the 42,000 square feet allowed, and exceeded a height limit by 11 feet. In addition, 68 parking spaces included some planned for the public right of way.
"The proposed project conflicts with community plan policies and standards with respect to a number of significant issues including land use, building size and height, and parking location and design," she said.
Commissioners agreed. "This project is clearly too big for this site," said Commissioner Don Dickenson, who handled review of the 12-story proposal as a county planner three decades ago. "It's not even close."
Colleagues had similar sentiments, although commissioners Steve Thompson, Katie Crecelius and Peter Theron said they supported the idea of a hotel on the parcel.
A parade of speakers rose to laud or criticize the project.
The hotel drew support from William Cullen, a member of the Tamalpais Design Review Board. The board, while praising aspects of the plan, remained neutral on it, voting to neither support nor reject it.
Noah Griffin of Mill Valley called the plan a "vast improvement to the area" on a parcel described by Kourosh Ghadishah of Mill Valley as a "dead zone e a big eyesore."
Project foes included the Marin Conservation League, Marin Audubon Society and Tamalpais Planning Area Bayfront Coalition.
Barbara Salzman, head of the Audubon Society, said commissioners should disregard the bells and whistles making the plan look attractive to some. "Green building is often used to avoid other environmental standards," she said.
Area resident Ann Spake, citing problems ranging from community planning policies to Tamalpais Valley traffic jams, called Krystal's project a "very bad idea" in spite of its sustainable building initiatives.
"I am really tired of green bribes," she said.
Contact Nels Johnson via e-mail at email@example.com
Read more Mill Valley stories at the IJ's Mill Valley section.
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