Interpretations of Grove Mediations

How is everybody feeling after the Grove goes through second reading?

Artist rendering of the Grove at Shoal Creek

Bull Creek Road Coalition President Sara Speights, in her testimony to City Council during Tuesday's special-called meeting over the Grove at Shoal Creek PUD, cut to the chase. "One thing I've learned is mediation is hard," she said, pointing out that her surrounding neighborhoods had gone into talks with the developer proposing the Grove, ARG Bull Creek Ltd., with one single bargaining chip. To get anywhere, she explained, BCRC would have had to leverage commercial units ARG desperately wanted so the neighbors' most dire demands could be met. Michelle Cheng, the attorney who helped the BCRC file amicus briefs during its valid petition lawsuit against the city, added to Council that while she doesn't have a practice, she is licensed as a mediator, and therefore took part in negotiations. She echoed Speights' sentiment, explaining that normally when two parties reach an agreement in court, they don't have to then convince a third party – Council, in this instance – to accept the terms of mediation.

Those terms in question, explained online Sunday (see "Peace in the Grove?"), in BCRC Vice President Grayson Cox's words "do not include all of the changes to the PUD advocated by the BCRC for the past 20 months, but … address many important issues to the surrounding neighborhoods and advance multiple priorities in our campaign." That includes 138 units of affordable housing, a win considering the estimated number of such units had steadily decreased over the past year.

Another agreed feature is the elimination of the connection at Jackson Avenue. ARG had planned, with support from city staff, to bulldoze two houses on 45th Street to add another release valve on the property – a plan fought bitterly by the owners of the home next door, Cat and Ryder Jeanes, who told the Chronicle earlier this year that the city would destroy their quality of life if the road extension went forward. The Jeaneses, like most people involved in the closed-door talks, are less interested in speaking with the media now, but Ryder told the Chronicle via email this week that the couple was waiting to hear what Council had to say on second reading Tuesday, since the entire agreement was contingent on approval from the dais. (The agreement passed on second reading.)

"Overall this is a good thing and really what should have been acquiesced to a long time ago," Ryder added. Cox agreed: "It's a horrible precedent to set to encourage a developer to then start buying out homes adjacent to them for the sole purpose of knocking those homes down, and building a brand-new road that is going to serve what is essentially a pretty sizable commercial development. Especially when the people who still live on that road didn't buy their house thinking it was going to be at the corner of a major intersection."

The Friends of the Grove group, an advocate for the developer throughout the saga, mentioned Jackson Avenue specifically in its statement on the agreement, saying that while they're disappointed to lose that connectivity, they remain happy about the increase in affordable units.

Council passed the PUD on second reading on Dec. 6. Staff is expected to work out final details before a third reading, which could take place as soon as Dec. 15.

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The Grove at Shoal Creek, Sara Speights, Michelle Cheng, Grayson Cox, Friends of the Grove, Cat Jeanes, Ryder Jeanes

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