Design Review Slams Door on Proposed Home

It was to jovial applause and whistles that the Design Review Committee voted to put the kibosh on one of two proposed homes on Lorain Road at its most recent meeting.
The unanimous vote marked the success of a neighborhood group coming together to speak out against the proposals. Barring substantial changes to the second home, it is likely that it also will be denied the next time it comes before the DRC.
“I think there are three major flaws with this project that cannot be corrected with fine tuning,” said committee member John Dustin before the vote.
The denied project was for a new home at 2159 Lorain Road. A second project next door at 2151 Lorain Road — which is owned and being proposed by the same party — was delayed a month because of a procedural shortfall.
The two projects have galvanized the residents of Lorain Road and the parallel Sherwood Road, who almost universally view the proposed homes as excessively imposing in the neighborhood and a likely invasion of privacy for the homes immediately surrounding them.
The first red flag for residents was that both homes appear to be mild variances from the house at 2070 Lorain Road, which was designed by the same architect, Pasadena-based James Coane. Neighbors likewise criticized the presence of that home for being ostentatiously large compared to the other homes on the street known for its smaller lot sizes.
One resident, James Fisk, went as far as to call the 2070 Lorain Road home “awful” when speaking to the DRC.
“If this is an example of his future work,” Fisk said, referencing the architect, “he needs to step his game up a bit.”
Another neighbor, Eldon Swanson, called that home “the ugliest house I’ve seen in San Marino.” Yet another neighbor, Joyce Batnij, presented a slideshow highlighting how the 2159 home would seemingly tower into the view from her own property despite not being next door to it.
“It will have a massive impact on me and I am two houses away,” she said.
Emily Burke, who is a practicing architect living on Lorain Road, presented front renderings of the three houses in question to highlight their similarities to each other despite some aesthetic and stylistic differences.
“There is no variety in volume, shape or even scale,” she said.
That point echoed another concern of residents, which was that this could be the slippery slope that leads to tract housing in a community that prides itself on a unique and eclectic set of homes. Alternate DRC committee member Judy Johnson-Brody said even the homeowner of 2070 Lorain Road had expressed concern to the DRC about the design being replicated possibly twice.
Another lightning rod for residents was the exceptionally large balcony that is included on the rear of the proposed home, which, given the height, would significantly impact the privacy of neighboring homes and their yards.
“There’s no need for such a big balcony unless you plan to enclose it,” said neighbor Linda Gutierrez. “I don’t understand why these homes with such a small lot need the balcony.”
Coane, while presenting for 2159 Lorain Road, explained that the home, despite almost maximizing the square footage limits, nevertheless falls within dimensional parameters set by the city’s planning and zoning codes. He also defended this and the second home as being different enough from the one down the street, despite opinions to the contrary.
Coane said he hosted a few neighborhood meetings regarding the projects to inform the neighbors of the plans and solicit input from them. However, he said he was “machine gunned” with complaints at the most recent meeting and ended it amidst a tirade of baseless opposition to the proposed homes.
Audience members, however, disagreed with how amicable Coane claimed to have been to neighbors and indicated he was not as easy to contact as he had suggested.
After nearly 90 minutes of discussion on the two projects, the DRC voted unanimously in denying 2159 Lorain Road. The proposal for 2151 Lorain Road will be scheduled for the March 15 DRC meeting.
That delay was approved because there is a renter occupying the 2151 Lorain Road property who has apparently objected to the placement of story poles and public notices for the project. Coane said police had been called to settle the dispute at least three times, but at the time of the public hearing, the story poles still were not installed.

Leave a Reply