The City Council last week upheld the Planning Commission’s decision allowing Flintridge Prep’s multi-phased campus improvement project to move forward. The council indicated it plans to approve a resolution that will incorporate more updates to the plan at its next meeting on Dec. 5.
Sally Ametrano, a neighbor who lives immediately next to the campus, appealed the Planning Commission’s Oct. 16 ruling, saying she objected to the private school’s plans to build a 17,205 square-foot, 42-feet, 6-inch classroom structure — a Collaborative Leadership Building — in place of the current 3,325-square-foot Alumni House located 23 feet from the property line.
Additionally, Ametrano said
her neighbors did not receive proper notification of the Oct. 16 meeting at which Planning Commissioners OK’d Prep’s revised plans — which included reducing the height of both athletic field lights and the Collaborative Leadership Building, while eliminating the proposed parking garage.
City officials said they did mail out notifications in addition to advertising the meeting in the local newspaper, but City Manager Mark Alexander said the appeal fee would be waived to account for any confusion.
After listening to testimony from Ametrano, her daughter, Michelle Ametrano, and other concerned neighbors, as well as Prep Headmaster Peter Bachmann and architect John Dale, three City Council members on hand Tuesday, Nov. 19, denied the appeal. (Jonathan Curtis and Greg Brown were not in attendance.)
“Schools have always been the cornerstone of our community,” Mayor Pro Tem Terry Walker said. “Schools are why people move here, and we’re fortunate to have wonderful schools, public and private. Our property values here are higher because of our schools, and we have to keep those assets up.”
Echoing prior concerns about decreased privacy, Michelle Ametrano told council members that Prep’s mitigation efforts didn’t solve the problem for her property. The school also plans to plant additional trees to better screen the property and has reduced the number of windows they plan to have face neighbors. Council members said they accepted those measures, and also asked Prep to use obscure glass on those windows to further enhance privacy.
Prep’s offer to help Sally Ametrano — who has lived in her home on Nancy Way for 55 years — find temporary housing during construction didn’t assuage her anxieties, either.
“Prep has been nice and offered to relocate her during construction,” Michelle Ametrano said. “She’s really upset about that possibility of having to leave her home, but there basically won’t be a choice because of the noise. She’ll be closed into her house.”
“Like any construction or expansion project, there’s going to be a little discomfort along the way,” Mayor Michael Davitt said. “I do believe that Prep has every intention to minimize those issues.”
Bachmann said Prep, which has operated at the site since 1933, is exploring ways to keep Sally Ametrano comfortable. That includes partaking in “ongoing conversations where there might be a circumstance under which [Sally Ametrano] might want to sell the school the property; we certainly would be happy to have her remain, rent-free, for a period of time.”
In the meantime, Bachmann and Prep’s supporters were pleased with the council’s decision.
“Everything about this application is about enhancing the student experience and developing new types of 21st century student learning,” Bachmann said.
The plans will still be subject to further official scrutiny, Davitt said, including a review of a storm drain beneath the project site which is “not in the city’s purview at all.”
“This is a big step for Prep and a big step for the community,” Davitt said. “It’s important to move this forward at this point.”
APPEAL DENIED, HOME OK’D
Council members also denied an appeal protesting the Planning Commission’s approval of a new home to be built in the 4200 block of Mesa Vista Drive.
Supported by several neighbors with like concerns, appellant Sok Nam challenged the size and massing of the project, as well as its view and privacy impacts and its consistency with city ordinances.
“We’re appealing because this project is too high and too big and too much for this tiny mature neighborhood,” said Marty Burton, Nam’s attorney.
But council members determined that the two-story home — which will occupy 6,173 square feet on a 25,112 square foot hillside lot — falls within city standards, despite being significantly larger than the 3,290 square foot average home in the immediate area.
“We bought the property in 2015 hoping to tear down a very old house and build a home that would last a much longer time,” owner Lawrence Wang said. “We’ve worked diligently and closely with the city’s planning staff and architects to make sure we’re fully compliant with regulations and code and to make sure we are neighborhood compatible.”
“I live toward the bottom of the street in a house that’s 2,400 square feet, and the house across the street is 1,400 square feet,” Teri Koller said. “The proposed basement is nearly the size of my home and exceeds the house across the street.”
The basement — which is exempt from the floor area total, per city policy — will take up 1,564 square feet underground.
“There’s nothing we can do that’s going to make everybody happy,” Walker said. “However, having seen lots of these [while serving previously on the Planning Commission], I have to say this is a very reasonable project.
“People have talked about the basement, and the reason the city does not count basements is to stop mansionization. So people can get the size and amenities they want and it’s not increasing the mass of the building. It’s doing exactly what it was intended to do, it’s mitigating mansionization.”