San Marino Home Demolition Plan Retains Narrow Approval

Despite protests from residents, the San Marino City Council will continue to allow a home at 1470 Virginia Road to be demolished.
Petitioners tried a second time to save the home at last week’s City Council meeting, where the body was voting on resolutions to uphold its findings regarding the project in January. Council members had, in January, voted 3-2 to both deny a petition that would have designated the home as a local historical landmark and to deny an appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision approving the demolition.
The three councilmen who approved the resolution and are allowing the project to move forward — Mayor Dr. Richard Sun, Richard Ward and Dr. Allan Yung — voted the same way in January.
“I think it would be wrong for us to go back and forth on a decision we’ve already made,” Yung said at the March 31 meeting, as he made the motion to finalize the earlier decisions.
Councilmen Dr. Steven Huang and Steve Talt have consistently voted in favor of prolonging the project and hoped at this meeting to commission a focused environmental impact report, or EIR, that could help sharpen the picture for the City Council.
However, that motion, made by Huang, failed on the same 3-2 margin that has followed this project. Huang advanced the motion after the City Council discussed a letter prepared by Jagels and Daniel Ryan of Monrovia-based Historic Preservation Services alleging the city improperly granted a Class III California Environmental Quality Act exemption that precludes an EIR.
It has now been more than nine months since the homeowners — William and Madeline Chan — cleared all of the necessary channels with both the city’s Design Review Committee and Planning Commission to finalize and submit plans to the city. Jagels, a preservation advocate and resident, appealed the Planning Commission’s decision shortly after and petitioned to designate the current home as a historic landmark after the fact.
The original home was designed and built in 1938 by Theodore Pletsch, a popular local architect whose designs helped to shape many Southern California communities, including San Marino. It was for much of its existence owned by the Stathatos family, who formed Stats Floral Supply in Pasadena.
The original staff report for the home determined that the home is a fine example of English Tudor architecture, but it is not uniquely or specifically associated with someone critical to the formation of San Marino.
In other business, the City Council discussed implementing the Mills Act into its developing historical preservation ordinance.
The Mills Act allows cities to grant property tax breaks to homeowners who develop a plan to invest in maintaining structures formally deemed historic. City governments have the freedom to set limits on the number of applicants each year, the minimum or maximum value of the home or a cap on the amount of property taxes waived, among other areas.
Applicants enter into a contract with their city governments and are expected to meet their agreed-upon improvements or renovations each year. If they don’t, the city has the freedom to void the contract and the homeowner must resume paying the full property tax.
Despite the loss in property tax income, the program is popular among cities because it incentivizes applicable property owners to maintain or improve property value and also because cities have the power to set terms.
The City Council also reviewed a number of added, modified or removed fees for services that are being proposed for the next fiscal year, the full presentation for which can be viewed on the city’s website.

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