City Planning Commission Suggests More ADU Restrictions

The La Cañada Flintridge Planning Commission held a special meeting last week to discuss updates and possible changes to the city’s zoning code.
The city has been working with consultants from CityPlanning to organize part 11.4 of the zoning code, which pertains to special regulations.
The consultants — organized the section by making each use — whether it’s permitted or requires discretionary review — into its own chapter to keep it consistent with the formatting of other chapters.
One of the biggest topics of discussion was the first chapter dealing with accessory dwelling units. One issue was the possibility of a homeowner reconverting an ADU to their home to add square footage and later adding another ADU.
“What I don’t want is people utilizing this to just increase the size of their home,” said Commissioner Jeffrey McConnell. “It’s just a way to get around our FAR [floor-area ratio] by 800 sq. feet. … I’m not against somebody who’s adding an ADU that is within their FAR.”
Commissioner Mark Kindhouse agreed and reminded the public of the purpose of ADUs.
“The intent of the ADU is to relieve housing issues. It is not to create, especially when you don’t have [transient occupancy taxes] out here and things like that,” he said. “It’s not to create a side household.”
The panel suggested adding a covenant that would restrict a homeowner from reconverting an ADU to the home and last for the life of the structure.
Commissioner Samir Mehrotra also asked city staff and consultants to create new design and development standards, especially for setbacks, and study for parking to prevent adverse impacts.
“There should be some flexibility in that where we as local government should be able to apply some design and development standards for certain types of [property], depending on lot sizes, depending on parking issues that we have, depending on the streets,” Mehrotra said.
Among the new chapters of uses presented by Patricia Blumen of CityPlanning was alcoholic beverage sales. It establishes regulations intended to mitigate potential adverse land use impacts on peace, health and safety that may arise from establishments selling alcohol.
McConnell worried that the wording made it seem like a de facto banning of establishments selling alcohol and asked staff to clarify locations where alcohol could be sold. Susan Koleda, LCF director of community development, said she’d create a map “to ensure we have sufficient area where the use is allowed.”
The Planning Commission, which was without chair Mike Hazen and vice chair Henry Oh, also expressed concern on another new chapter that addresses drive-in and drive-thru facilities, which are prohibited in La Cañada Flintridge.
Mehrotra said this is an issue that needs to be studied further, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. His fellow commissioner, McConnell, proposed adding a conditional permit that is used by other cities.
“We have had a love-hate relationship with the drive-through for various reasons,” McConnell said. “I think what we hear often from adjacent neighbors is the noise created, the fumes, and everything else, but some of that has been improving over time and it’s dependent upon the business operator to maintain good relationships with their neighbors and to make sure it’s not a nuisance.”
Other updated and new chapters in the zoning code include adult-oriented businesses, animal keeping and animal clubs in residential zones, animal sales and services, bed-and-breakfast inns, community gardens, conversion to condominiums, cottage food operations, day care facilities for children and adults, donation collection bins, emergency shelter facilities, flags and flagpoles, home occupations and kiosk uses.