HomeCity Government NewsPlanning Commission Endorses Revised Housing Element

Planning Commission Endorses Revised Housing Element

First published in the Sept. 1 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

The city of La Cañada Flintridge took a major step forward in its process of updating the housing element of the general plan last week with the Planning Commission endorsing the final draft of the document and recommending it to the City Council for approval.
After hearing from more than a dozen residents expressing concern over the finalized housing element, the commission voted unanimously to recommend the draft to the City Council, which is expected to meet Sept. 12 and approve the document before the Oct. 15 deadline.
Nearly every stakeholder who spoke during the public comment period disagreed with city staff’s plan to increase the density in certain areas, especially along the southside of Foothill Boulevard.
“I feel like we’re trying to thread a needle here of doing what we can to get this thing approved but also doing what is seemingly the least amount of harm that we could possibly inflict upon Foothill Boulevard,” said Planning Commissioner Jeffrey McConnell, who, along with Commission Chair Henry Oh, was on the subcommittee that assisted in creating a sixth-cycle housing element that would be approved by the state.
City staff proposed having mixed-use zones that would no longer be required to incorporate a business in the structure and can be purely residential. Mixed-use zoning would allow 12-15 dwelling units per acre in certain areas and 25-30 in others in an effort to accommodate the regional housing needs assessment, or RHNA, which projects how many dwelling units are needed in each municipality.
LCF is expected to show that it can allow development of at least 612 residential units through its sites inventory list, which identifies properties that could be considered for development.
Oh agreed with his fellow residents regarding multifamily development in LCF and stressed that there isn’t much leeway for the city when it comes to orders from the state.
“I don’t think multifamily housing is appropriate for the city of La Cañada, let alone 612 additional units of multifamily housing. That’s not what La Cañada is about,” Oh said. “But again, we’re under a state mandate. This is not punting to the state or blaming the state, but this is the card that we’re dealt and the penalties for refusing to comply or not abiding by their mandate is severe. It’s something we cannot afford.
“This is the best compromise and solution that we could come up with that complies with the state mandate,” he added.
Oh informed the public that penalties for cities that do not comply with the requirements from the Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD, include lawsuits, fines and not allowing the issuance of permits.


Another issue some stakeholders had with the lengthy document was the fact that the sites inventory list includes 788 parcels with a surplus of 347 dwelling units. Cities are required to have a 20% buffer on their lists of properties, meaning municipalities must have extra development sites should some fall through. LCF’s current sites inventory list has a 57% buffer.
“We wanted to make sure we had enough room in there that we could accommodate during this eight-year period,” said Susan Koleda, the city’s director of community development.
The city was hopeful of being able to incorporate more accessory-dwelling units, or ADUs, in accommodating the RHNA, but staff was limited in how many ADUs it could project during the current cycle.
Municipalities are only allowed to project the number of ADUs using a three-year average. With 13 ADU permits issued in 2020, 10 in 2021 and 24 so far in 2022, LCF is averaging 15 per year, which means it could project a total of 120 units to HCD.
Longtime LCF resident Linda Deacon asked that the city consider increasing the number of ADUs permitted and reducing density on the southside of Foothill Boulevard to avoid congestion and large developments on the city’s main corridor.
“Let’s meet our RHNA requirements but do it in a way that is safe and constructive and doesn’t just cater to one developer who wants to put a very inappropriate project at a very busy corner,” Deacon said.


The corner Deacon was referring to is Woodleigh Lane and Foothill Boulevard, which is where the controversial parcel of 600 Foothill Blvd. is located. The property, owned by a group that includes former Councilman Jonathan Curtis, is the former site of the Christian Science Church and has gone through a few development proposals, most recently last November. The developers had proposed a three-story structure that would have included senior housing, hotel units and office space, but the project was shot down by the City Council.
Residents worry that projects with high density and the existing 35-foot height limit would create more traffic on the main corridor and interfere with the aesthetic of the downtown village area.
“If 35 feet high is approved in our housing element, the character and charm of our city will be destroyed, and the community is going to be stuck with the impact of these decisions forever,” said Nancy Antonoplis.
Commissioners assured concerned community members that development standards and zoning will be worked on over the next year, and they would do their best to keep La Cañada Flintridge’s allure and appeal intact.
“This is a long journey, but if we don’t take into consideration each one of these items, we’re going to end up with just something that’s going to potentially ruin our city, and I just won’t stand for that,” Commissioner Mike Hazen said.
McConnell hopes to preserve part of the original vision of the Downtown Village Specific Plan, 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.
“I personally am extremely concerned about the loss of commercial activity in our one commercial corridor and what that means for the city financially,” McConnell said. “To that end, we have to put in our mixed-use, but then we also want to make sure that it doesn’t get overrun with all residential along the way and that blows apart what we want for how we want the boulevard to look like.”


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