First published in the July 28 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
The much-anticipated second draft of the sites inventory list identifying properties that could be considered for housing development was unveiled by La Cañada Flintridge staff last week and will remain posted on the city’s website for public review through Friday.
Foothill Boulevard is the main corridor featured on the list with 92 of the 116 sites either on or adjacent to the city’s main street.
Municipalities must submit a list of potential housing sites to the state that could accommodate the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, which projects how many dwelling units are needed throughout California and tells cities how many it should be ready to provide. LCF was tasked to show that it can provide 612 residential units, though it does not necessarily mean they would be built.
Stakeholders are encouraged to review the list and provide city staff with feedback by submitting a form on the website or emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After the public input process, the city will then finalize the list and move forward with a revised housing element that will be published for review within the next few weeks, according to Mayor Keith Eich.
Most of the parcels listed are zoned within the city’s Downtown Village Specific Plan, or DVSP, which is a planning and design document adopted in 2000 created by city officials with the help of residents that guides development in what is considered the city’s commercial downtown area along Foothill Boulevard. It was intended to create a pedestrian-friendly sector of LCF with enjoyable public spaces and mixed use commercial sites within the design standards set by the city, but no multi-family residences have been built in LCF since the DVSP was implemented more than two decades ago.
Like many other cities in Southern California, La Cañada Flintridge is racing to submit a housing element that will be approved by the state Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD, by the Oct. 15 deadline. Subcommittees that include members of City Council and staff have been meeting weekly this summer to perform the due diligence needed to expedite the process of updating the housing element that has been further complicated by state legislators with laws passed that address the California housing crisis and require cities to plan for new home building to meet the demand.
According to the HCD, only eight of 89 municipalities in Los Angeles County have adopted a housing element compliant with the sixth cycle.
“While we’d love to have us work faster, this is not an easy process, especially given all the factors — engagement with the community and commercial parcel owners that we’re doing,” Eich said during a City Council meeting July 19. “I know that between [Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gunter] and me, we’ve talked to over 50 parcel owners now, and the staff has sent two letters to all 100-plus parcel owners and religious institutions.”
The revised sites inventory list features commercial properties and parcels zoned as religious institutions on Foothill Boulevard and city staff is proposing a density range of 25-30 dwelling units per acre for most of the sites listed, as was recommended by a consulting firm that evaluated current densities in LCF and the economic feasibility of development in the town.
Michael Baker International, a consultant firm hired by the city after its initial draft of the housing element was rejected by the state, recently informed city staff that a minimum of 26 dwelling units per acre for housing projects is required for developers to benefit financially.
Gunter noted that none of the properties listed is residential. “We did not change the zoning in any of the properties with a single-family home, and that was one of the feedback items we got working with the community, that that wasn’t appropriate at this stage,” he added.
Rezoning is the next daunting task for LCF, but some relief given by the state Legislature in that process with the recent passing of a bill that extended the deadline for rezoning.
The reprieve on rezoning allows LCF to focus on the housing element, which is expected to be adopted by the City Council sometime during the second week of September.
“This doesn’t change the urgency or importance of the work that we’re doing, though,” said Eich, who has updated the community on the subcommittees’ work during the summer at City Council meetings. “And the hard work begins on design standards, rezoning, etc. Our Planning Commission and staff will be consumed with these details, and there’ll be even more opportunities between now and then and after then for our community members to engage, not just at the 10,000-foot view, but in all the details.”
Eich’s assurance of community engagement and stakeholders’ involvement in the process came not long after resident Dorothy Juett expressed concern over the lack of consideration for the city’s senior citizens. She asked that the council consider having a town hall meeting to go over the housing element and any discussions pertaining to the matter be had earlier in meetings.
“These important discussions are being held this summer when many citizens are away and, worse yet, the housing element is usually the last agenda [item] at the city meetings,” Juett told the Council. “Because of the late hours, many citizens, especially our seniors, leave these lengthy meetings before the housing element is even up for discussion, and they are shut out of making any public comments.”
A revised draft of the housing element is expected to be posted on the city website by Aug. 19, and the Planning Commission will likely discuss the revised document at its Aug. 25 meeting.