Commercial Buildings in R-3 Zones Can’t Expand — Yet

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council will wait for input from the state to decide whether to allow owners of commercial buildings within multifamily zones in the city to expand their facilities.

As it stands now, those nonresidential buildings cannot expand, per the R-3 zoning adopted in 2014. That re-zoning affected a few areas of the city, satisfying California housing regulations.
But because council members don’t want to limit the ongoing use of legal nonconforming commercial buildings in those zones, they directed staff during Tuesday’s City Council meeting to explore the potential for permitted expansion of commercial structures, such as the La Cañada Pet Clinic.
The veterinarian’s office is among those businesses limited by the current zoning regulations — which came as a surprise to its owner, Dr. Woody Walker (his wife, Councilwoman Terry Walker, recused herself from the discussion Tuesday).
“I followed this a bit when this was originally proposed,” Woody Walker said. “Because obviously, we’re affected. I’m not an expert, but I have a vested interest, and I didn’t in my wildest dreams imagine that now you can’t improve or expand your property.”
The state could find it problematic if a business within those R-3 zones expanded and reduced the amount of space available for multifamily housing, city attorney Mark Steres said.
“It was a math issue,” he said. “It was density times the number of acres. And that math formula came up [because] we were providing enough [space] that could accommodate our housing requirement. So if you take away some of it, you’re reducing the total amount that’s potentially available for it.”
City Manager Mark Alexander said he thought there might be a way to both meet the state’s housing element requirements and allow for some limited expansion of existing commercial properties.
Mayor Jonathan Curtis agreed, asking staff to check into it.
“I don’t think the state of California wants to choke the commercial sector just to create the technical capacity for [multi-family housing],” said Curtis, asking Alexander to bring back the issue at a future meeting.


LCF also will wait on deciding whether to accept the county’s offer to consolidate the March 7 City Council election with a potential countywide special election, council members decided.
LCF is one of 37 cities in the country with a general municipal election set for March 7, the same date that voters might be asked to vote on a county tax measure addressing homelessness and other issues. The county’s Registrar-Recorder office has offered to administer the election for those cities.
Council members mulled over the offer Tuesday, including the county’s offer to cover election costs of $29,538. That estimated total, Alexander said, could change depending on factors such as how many cities participate in the consolidated election.
Without consolidating, the city has budgeted $96,425 for the election, but that amount includes funds for consulting services, overtime and part-time help, if necessary.
Like his colleagues, Mayor Pro Tem Michael Davitt was not enthused about the prospect of letting the county handle the city’s votes.
“The way our city has run our elections is very, very efficient,” said Davitt, adding that LCF likely wouldn’t see results until at least a day later if the county collects the votes. “And it’s nice to have it locally controlled.”
Still, council members didn’t rule it out, agreeing to discuss it again at their Dec. 7 meeting, when they’ll have a better idea about whether the county actually plans to go forward with the tax measure and how many other cities plan to consolidate.


After much deliberation Tuesday, council members reluctantly voted to uphold the Public Works and Traffic Commission’s decision to deny an unpermitted wall in the 5000 block of Crown Avenue.
Peter Martin, who resides at the house, explained that he put up the retaining wall to protect his home from substantial flooding. But because he put it up approximately 3 feet into the public right of way without getting an encroachment permit, it violates city code.
“I do believe the solution you came up with is the right solution for that corner,” Councilwoman Walker said. “So I’m very torn because I think the project is right, but I wish you would’ve gotten that permit. You would not be here today.”

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