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Published August 23rd, 2017
Work begins to simplifying Moraga's commercial approval process

When Starbucks applied to move its operations into an existing drive-through building nearby, it took 14 months for the town to approve it, recalls Moraga Chamber of Commerce's Vice President Bob Fritzky.
Jay Kerner of Realty Partners who owns that part of the Rheem Valley Shopping Center, expressed frustration that Moraga had so many roadblocks, says Fritzky. Kerner's experience with other shopping centers he owns is that the process should have taken no more than four months.
Taking the bull by the horns, the Moraga Town Council decided to work with Kerner and the Chamber of Commerce, and promised that within three months it would review its code to make it more business friendly. The objective according to the Moraga Chamber is to have new retail able to apply with ease in Moraga and to open their businesses quickly thereafter.
Planning Director Ellen Clark is behind this effort to create a Commercial Planned Development District. The idea is simple: The owner of an already developed multi-tenant commercial area can ask that this become a new CPD. The town lawyer Karen Murphy explained that a CPD can be extensive and define all aspects ruling the area such as setbacks, parking requirements, signage standards, landscaping, building height, as well as permitted types of uses. A CPD can also be simpler and limited to defining only exterior modifications without changing the design of the center. Murphy added that the more detailed a CPD is, the easier it will be for future tenants to make changes.
Once the CPD is approved by the town council after review by the design review board and the planning commission, new and replacement businesses will be approved with a discretionary administrative process not requiring any public meeting. CPDs are allowed only within existing multi-tenant commercial centers, and can allow for a reasonable degree of infill development. Major changes would still require applicants to follow the standard Moraga process.
An ad-hoc committee composed of council members Kymberleigh Korpus and David Trotter started the conversation on Aug. 9 about the general parameters for the CPD, including outlining the minimum size, and minimum number of tenants required. The planning commission and design review board will also weigh in on the discussion before the town council takes the final vote defining the CPD.
The committee leaned toward allowing only multi-tenant units to be able to become a CPD, while allowing single occupant buildings to join in an already approved district. The committee agreed that two acres would be a good minimum size for a CPD.
During the first meeting, neither Jay Kerner nor a representative of the Bruzzone family was present. The objective is still to get the process of defining the Moraga CPD by the end of October. At that point commercial property owners can decide if this zoning would be beneficial for their centers.

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