May 11, 2013 Meeting Summary

May 11, 2013

Preparation

E-mail and phone reminders

Attendees

10 members

Acknowledgments

Susan brought brownies.

Meeting

Agenda Items:

The meeting began about 11:18 am

  • General Plan Update summary
    • On April 8, the City Council held a Public Hearing about the General Plan Update that has been underway for several years.
    • This hearing was about several aspects of the Update with the goal of having the Council vote on the 22nd for staff to start the Environmental Impact Report process.
    • Among the aspects being discussed are a revised Land Use Diagram which indicates the general type of land use allowed for each parcel in the city and the allowed intensity of that use.
      • General types of land use are Housing, Commercial, Mixed Use, and Open Space.   Commercial is such things as retail, office, industrial, institutional.
        Mixed Use allows, but does not require, a combination of Housing and Commercial.
      • Intensity for Housing is described by the number of units allowed per acre.
        For Commercial and Mixed Use, intensity is described by a Floor Area Ratio (FAR) number. The amount of floor space divided by the size of the parcel.  So a FAR of two could be two stories over the entire parcel.  But for many reasons, buildings aren't built that way, so it is more likely to be accomplished with three or four story buildings with space around and between.  The higher the FAR number, the denser / more intense the development.
    • The General Plan is not the zoning code.  After the General Plan is complete, then a long process of updating the Zoning Code to be in sync with the General Plan begins.  This includes updating each of the areas covered by Specific Plans.  Most, but not all, the land use changes currently proposed in the draft General Plan Update are to areas in Specific Plans.
    • Most pertinent to our neighborhood is the East Pasadena Specific Plan area.  This area includes PCC-CEC to our west (although PCC is not subject to city zoning anyway), everything to our south including the commercial strip on the north side Foothill through Colorado Blvd, and all the office and retail areas to our east.
    • A Specific Plan includes details such as required building setbacks and height limits, as well as broader concept statements about envisioned usage for each area.
    • A major point of discussion in this hearing was the relationship between the General Plan designation for a parcel in a Specific Plan area versus what the Specific Plan specifies.
      • When the Specific Plan concept was initiated with the 1994 General Plan, the Specific Plan areas were left as unspecified "pink blobs" because they were considered areas in need of detailed thought and discussion, especially by the residents and business interests of the area.   It was left to lengthy Specific Plan planning processes by specific community committees to figure out the "vision" for each area and corresponding land use designations.  So having this General Plan Update specify different land uses and intensities in these areas feels like an undercutting of the Specific Plan process and local input.
      • When the General Plan is finally updated, but the Specific Plan has not yet been updated, the Specific Plan still rules.  But when the Specific Plan is updated, it is supposed to be updated to conform to the General Plan.  But is it required to conform?   How closely?  If the designation in the General Plan is Mixed Use, must the Specific Plan also designate that?  If the General Plan specifies a FAR of 0 to 2.0, is the Specific Plan required to set setback and height limits so that a 2.0 FAR development could reasonably be created? Or,can the Specific Plan determine setbacks and heights independently based on what fits the area and local wishes?  The answers given by staff in the meeting were somewhat contradictory and unclear.  Sort of, we want you to think you got the answer you want so you won't make a fuss and will vote for what we're proposing.
    • Another issue brought up in the hearing is a state law that allows a developer who includes a certain percentage of so called "low" and/or "moderate" income housing in their multi-unit residential project to get a "bonus" that allows them to exceed height and density restrictions in a city's zoning code.   Whatever the city's zoning specifies can be overridden to add an additional story on buildings and include substantially more units.  Given this reality, should the zoning code limits be reduced from where they might otherwise be set?  Although the issue was raised, it didn't get a lot of discussion; certainly no resolution.
    • The proposed drastically higher FAR of 2.0 for the office area to our east between Sierra Madre Villa, Rosemead, Halstead, and Electronic Drive was raised.
      • This area, sometimes referred to as "The Triangle", is the area including Cogent (originally Allstate), 24-Hour Fitness (originally Burroughs), and the recently renovated property on "the point".
      • A current limit of 1.2 FAR would have allowed a proposal in 2007 for six three and four story buildings to be built in the middle of the block, replacing all the former Allstate buildings, the parking lots, and landscaping.
      • The current as-built FAR is probably well below 0.4.
      • There wasn't really any indication given of a willingness to lower the proposed FAR.  Some suggestion that it is just a number for the EIR to evaluate, that the Specific Plan could set lower values.   But, as noted above, it isn't clear that the Specific Plan actually would be allowed to choose lower values.
    • The proposed change of all the areas that are currently retail and low office to Mixed Use designations with FAR values many times larger then current designations was also raised.  This goes along with the proposal to allow an additional 850 residential units in these areas.  The controversy was acknowledged, but basically dismissed.  The "transit village" concept being pushed requires a high density of residential and retail.
    • In the opposite direction, in the Central District of the city, there is a vociferous campaign by businesses and residents to vastly increase the limits for both residential and commercial.  The proposed General Plan actually reduces both numbers from the current plan.  The proponents contend that to reach their vision of an area where everyone can get whatever they need via walking, biking, and transit it must become far more urban and dense, including a larger percentage of housing.  If you are interested in a better understanding of this viewpoint, check out the correspondence sent to the City Council.
    • For details of what was presented to the Council, and the written correspondence sent to them, see Item 20 of their  April 8 Agenda.
  • Map Your Neighborhood disaster response program
    • This program was the subject of a section of last month's agenda:  /wp-content/archive/meetings/130309-meeting-summary.html#MYN
    • The program was presented to Las Lunas Street on March 23.  20 out of 32 residences attended along with 3 representatives of the Pasadena Fire Department.  Las Lunas is now "disaster ready".
    • If you are interested in setting up the program for your block, you are invited to contact Alex Perez for information at [email protected]
  • Way finding signs
    • These are signs the city is adding all over town that are supposed to help people find business districts and landmarks.
    • There are some around the intersection of Sierra Madre Villa and Foothill.
    • Who has noticed them?  What do you think?  Some opinions expressed:
      • Stupid waste of taxpayer money.  Arrows here pointing west down Foothill to get to Old Pasadena, Playhouse District, etc seem guaranteed to frustrate and confuse visitors unaware that they're miles away.
      • Over 1 million tax dollars spent on these signs when they still haven't taken care of street signs in our neighborhood damaged or destroyed in the windstorm.
      • Who decided what should be on signs and where?
      • What we need are signs on Sierra Madre Blvd pointing the way to Sierra Madre Villa, and vice-versa.
      • Pointers might make more sense to the dog park or Eaton Canyon Nature Center.
      • What use are signs pointing to Hastings Village?  People ask how to get to specific stores; the Hastings name doesn't mean anything except to local residents.
      • Signs elsewhere in the city refer to place names none of us have heard of.  For example, Washington something. Perhaps the hope is that putting up signs will make the places into known entities.
  • Local Crime Summary
    • For the last month, from crimemapping.com:
      • Saturday April 6, 8:31 am, Grand Theft Auto, 3100 block Mataro St
      • Incidents in surrounding areas are way down from previous months.
  • Pasadena Police "Curbside Chat"
    • Pasadena Police Chief Sanchez is promoting "Curbside Coffee & Chat meetings (CCC)" between residents and patrol officers in their area
    • "CCC's are designed to bring neighbors together for highly visible brief meetings with officers to instill a sense of community-police partnership in prevention and crime fighting. "
    • "These meetings are 15 to 30 minutes in duration, held at the curbside in public view with three or more residents and an on-duty uniformed officer."
    • "There is no agenda - just a time to meet the officers that work in your neighborhood and socialize over a cup of coffee and chat."
    • An officer's presence at the meeting is dependent on them not happening to be on a call at that time.
    • If you wish to schedule such a meeting, contact the Service Area 4 (East) Lieutenant Jari Faulkner via e-mail from their contact web page: cityofpasadena.net/Police/Contact_Police_Citizen_Service_Area_4_Lieutenant/
  • Earth Day festival on April 20
  • Mother's Day Basket of gifts raffle
    • At Hastings Branch Library, a raffle to raise funds to support Hastings Branch Library.
    • One basket of Mother's Day gifts valued more then $360, including:
      • Certificate for one year's membership to Huntington Library.  Membership includes ability to bring a guest on visits.
      • Certificate from Savor The Flavor in Sierra Madre for a Private Shopping-Tasting-Fundraising Party, including $100 towards purchases
      • Certificate from Massage Envy (near Whole Foods) for a 1 hour massage
      • Autographed Cookbook by the Barefoot Contessa
      • Truffles from Trader Joe's
    • Raffle tickets are $10 each.  Purchase at the circulation front desk.  (Hopefully, it will be on display by Monday.)
    • Drawing is Tuesday May 7 at 6 pm.  Winner to be notified by phone call.
  • E-Waste collection event May 11
    • E-Waste collection, including on-site shredding of up to 5 legal size boxes of documents
    • Saturday May 11 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
      • (Suggest rechecking the web page closer to the event date. Between late Friday April 12 and early Sunday April 14, the event listing disappeared from the web page, with just a past event of Feb 2 listed.  But that past event links to a flyer for May 11, so I think somebody just messed up editing the web page.  But...maybe it's been cancelled/moved.)
    • Brookside Parking Lot I (south of the Rose Bowl loop)
    • Run by Pasadena Public Works.
    • (Note this is E-Waste only, NO hazardous waste collection at this event.)
    • www.cityofpasadena.net/PublicWorksOne-day_E-Waste_Collection_Events
  • May meeting
    • Laura, may not be available to chair May meeting, in which case Vice-President Kathy Vacio will chair.
  • anything else attendees wish to discuss
    • Construction at New York Drive & Sierra Madre Blvd
      • Construction on New York Drive just north of Sierra Madre Blvd is a reconfiguration of the intersection of New York Drive with the Sierra Madre Villa going off to the north east.  Think heard it is a county led project.  Cannot remember the problem it is supposed to solve.
    • Former Pacific Hastings Theater news?
      • Have not heard or seen anything since the announcement in November that LA Fitness signed a long term lease lease for a "full service health and fitness club facility".
      • At that time it was said that construction would start soon with a goal of opening in the Fall of 2014.
      • There is no evidence of new activity on site.
    • Aquatic Center at former Marie Callendar site on Foothill
      • Attendee noted a sign on-site saying something about an aquatic center, but couldn't read most of it passing by.  Now it is covered up by subsequent construction activity.
      • Discovered in February from city permit records that the tenant is to be "Water Works Aquatic Center", a company located in Irvine, and it is to be a two story building with 15,878 sq ft.
      • At our meeting, we speculated what an "aquatic center" is.
      • Subsequent to our meeting, a web search found www.waterworksswim.com/Pasadena
      • According to that web site, it is a swim school that teaches infants through adults how to swim.  But it appears to focus mainly on children.  The Pasadena location will also host birthday parties.
      • The Pasadena location is expected to open on May 15, 2013. They are offering grand opening discounts online.
      • The Pasadena location will have two indoor heated pools: a 25 yard lap pool with 5 lanes, and a teaching pool.
      • There is already a location open in Sierra Madre that has outdoor pools.

Next meeting is May 11, 11:15 am, at Hastings Branch Library

Adjourned about 12:15 pm

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