Foothill Blvd. Project Elicits More Debate on Scope, Scale

First published in the Nov. 4 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

Four former La Cañada Flintridge mayors have weighed in on the development proposed at 600 Foothill Blvd. with a formal letter submitted to the City Council that echoes similar concerns previously raised by local stakeholders.
Donald Voss called in during the public comments portion of a virtual City Council meeting on Tuesday urging the panel to deny the proposed three-story structure — which would include 47 senior housing units, 12 hotel units, underground parking and 7,600 square feet for office use — when it comes before the council. The letter Voss submitted to council members was co-signed by former city leaders Gregory Brown, Stephen Del Guercio and Laura Olhasso.
Voss told the council that the plan “undermines the [Downtown Village Specific Plan’s] concept” with its size, density and traffic.
“Unfortunately, the current proposal for development of the property at 600 Foothill Blvd. completely reverses the village vision of the DVSP and would undo the balance and progress made,” he said during the Zoom meeting.
In the letter, the former mayors — who wrote that they support senior housing in LCF — asked that the council “preserve and protect the significant progress that has been made over the last 20 years in improving and maintaining the small-town scale and feel of the downtown area.
“The vision for the La Cañada Flintridge [DVSP] is characterized by traditional, small town, ‘main street’ development rather than typical suburban development and includes the desire for ‘elegant townhomes for seniors and all ages so they are able to live near retail, enhancing the pedestrian character of the area,’” they wrote.
Applicants Alexandra Hack and Garret Weyand, both LCF residents, told the Outlook Valley Sun in an interview on Wednesday that they believe the proposal is in line with the DVSP’s vision but added that the plan is outdated and has stifled development since it was adopted in 2000.
“There is not one goal in the DVSP that was accomplished,” Weyand said. “There has been no new development in 20 years. [The discussion about the DVSP] needs to be framed that the plan did stop development and we are in the problems we are in because of that document.”
One of the “problems” Weyand referred to was that of housing crisis in California. The recent Regional Housing Needs Assessment will project how many new dwellings are needed throughout the state and instructs cities how many new housing units it should be ready to provide. LCF is expected to show it can allow for the building of 612 residential units, though that does not necessarily mean they would be built. In previous Planning Commission meetings, city staff supported the proposal at 600 Foothill Blvd. because it might help the city accommodate such demands.
“I truly respect the passion and energy, enthusiasm and care individuals have for their city, and that includes the former leaders,” Hack said. “The fact they are committed to the future of this city after years of public service is truly commendable, but they have a different perspective for what’s best for the city. We think we are tuned in to what current and future needs of the community really are.”
Voss, Del Guercio, Olhasso and Brown said they believe the project would not provide any relief for the city’s upcoming housing build requirements and suggested two changes that would be more in line with the DVSP’s original vision of promoting a small town, pedestrian-friendly atmosphere.
The first was to eliminate the hotel and office spaces, as well as the third floor, to provide more square footage for senior housing.
The second proposed change, the group wrote, is to move the driveway from Woodleigh Lane to Foothill Boulevard, which would provide on-site parking and delivery facilities to prevent traffic congestion.
Weyand, meanwhile, responded that eliminating the third floor would essentially “kill the project,” and defended the hotel and office space aspect of the proposal, noting that it would create new revenue streams for the city.
“One of the main reasons we went with the office [space] and hotels is the tax that can go along with it,” he said.
An economic analysis of the DVSP done in 2020 stated that the hotel occupancy tax is attractive for municipalities because it is kept local and not shared with other jurisdictions, unlike sales tax.
The Planning Commission adopted six resolutions on Sept. 2 with conditions that advanced the project to the City Council, which is scheduled to discuss the proposal on Tuesday, Nov. 16.
Knowing that the community will want to weigh in on the issue, council members agreed to return to hold the meeting in person at City Hall.
“We have a very important project that is going to be coming before us at our next meeting and the public has made it very clear that they want to be involved in this decision and we respect that decision as well,” said LCF Mayor Terry Walker.