First published in the Aug. 25 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
While several La Cañada Flintridge panels are taking a break from formal meetings this month, the city’s Planning Commission is as busy as ever reviewing the long-awaited revised housing element.
Commissioners will discuss what is considered to be the final draft of the housing element, which is in its sixth cycle, at a meeting in City Hall chambers Thursday night at 6 p.m.
Stakeholders can access the lengthy document, which details LCF’s housing conditions and needs and the strategies to address them, on the city website by viewing the agenda for the Planning Commission’s Aug. 25 meeting. They then can provide input on the amendment to the general plan’s housing element during the public comments portion of the meeting.
City staff is recommending that the commission adopt a proposed resolution that recommends adoption of the housing element to the City Council, which is scheduled to hold a special meeting on Sept. 12 to move forward with sending the finalized document to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD.
With the Oct. 15 deadline less than two months away, La Cañada Flintridge staff and officials are furiously working toward adopting a housing element that would be approved by HCD, and the city isn’t alone in such a journey with most municipalities racing to submit a revised document.
According to HCD, 85% of cities in Los Angeles County are not compliant with the sixth cycle of the housing element, and only 34% of municipalities throughout California have adopted a housing element that was approved by the state.
The city’s amendment to the general plan must show that it can accommodate the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, which projects how many dwelling units are needed in each municipality. The Southern California Association of Governments tasked La Cañada Flintridge with showing that it can allow for the development of at least 612 residential units — though that does not necessarily mean they would be built.
LCF staff unveiled a site inventory list, which identifies properties that could be considered for development, for public review last month, and most of the parcels included were along the city’s main corridor of Foothill Boulevard.
The city is preparing a comprehensive zoning code update and proposing changes to mixed use designated areas within the Downtown Village Specific Plan, or DVSP, which is a planning and design document adopted in 2000 that guides development in what is considered the city’s commercial downtown area along Foothill Boulevard. The document was intended to create a pedestrian-friendly area of LCF with enjoyable public spaces and mixed use commercial sites.
Little to no multi-family development has occurred within the DVSP because of the restrictive design standards set by city officials, and so LCF staff is proposing the creation of mixed-use zoning districts that would increase the maximum density allowed. A mixed-use 12 zone would permit 12-15 dwelling units per acre and a proposed mixed-use 25 designated area would allow 25-30.
The changes of increasing the density in certain areas come at the recommendation of Michael Baker International, a consulting firm hired by the city.
Fortunately for LCF and cities working on their housing element, the state Legislature gave some relief to municipalities by extending the deadline for rezoning, allowing them to focus on adopting a general plan compliant with California’s requirements.
In devising the site inventory list, city officials attempted to include as many properties needed without affecting existing homes. Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gunter said that only two LCF homes are being affected as a result of the finalized list, and the homeowners are fully aware.
“We’re not redoing any single-family homes into something else,” Gunter said at a City Council meeting Aug. 2. “We worked very hard to make sure that the site inventory list is reflective of the whole city and is focused on commercial and multi-family residential.”