Planning Commission OKs Proposed Urgent Care Center on Foothill

The La Cañada Flintridge Planning Commission has approved plans for a new urgent care facility in a Foothill Boulevard shopping center, but consideration of proposed improvements to the YMCA of the Foothills was pulled from the panel’s agenda at last week’s meeting at Lanterman Auditorium.
Exer Holding Co. LLC, at 475 Foothill Blvd., Suite K, seeks to open a medical facility with 11 exam rooms and take over a 7,833-square-foot lease space, according to a commission report. The space was previously occupied by Aaron Brothers and is between Starbucks Coffee and Han’s Beauty Store.
According to its website, Exer More Than Urgent Care was founded in May 15, 2013, with the mission statement that “some patients who are receiving care in an emergency room could be better served in a more convenient, high-quality and affordable urgent care environment.” Exer also operates facilities in Pasadena, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Newbury Park, Northridge, Sherman Oaks and Stevenson Ranch.
Addressing the commission, LCF resident Randy Strapazon wondered if a medical facility is needed when there are others nearby and questioned why Exer seeks to take over a retail space.
“It just seemed a little out of character,” Strapazon said. She added the project’s anticipated 60 car trips per day could take away from existing parking.
“Any of us who go to Trader Joe’s, that’s a very difficult parking lot to pull out of and to use,” Strapazon said, mentioning a store in the same shopping center. “I don’t know if Aaron Brothers created 60 car trips per day, but I think it’s a burden on the parking lot.”
The facility would use 5,283 square feet for its daily operation, with the remainder of the lease space identified as storage. Hours of operation are expected to be 9 a.m.-9 p.m. seven days a week. There would be seven to eight employees at the facility.
The shopping center was constructed in 1995 and has 175 parking spaces in front of the building and 11 spaces on its west side. Under the city code, a facility of Exer’s size requires just 32 parking spaces.
Scott Whitney, vice president of real estate development for Exer, said in response to a question about ambulance service that his company has a “very low” rate of transferring patients to hospitals. Whitney said based on 50 to 60 patients seen per day at the facility, his calculations were that there would be one or two ambulance trips per week. He added the ambulances would use the upper parking lot on the shopping center’s northern side, but “it’s a very rare instance.”
He added if patients have a life-threatening injury, they would “go to ER, but if not, they’re coming to us.”
On a 4-0 vote, the commission approved the facility on the condition that staff members would return in six months to provide an update on traffic, said Susan Koleda, the city’s director of community development. A requirement for ambulances to use the upper parking area was not included in the condition.
Planning Commission chair Rick Gunter said afterward there is a 15-day period in which the decision can be appealed to the City Council.
Assistant planner Harriett Harris said afterward she did not have a date when the urgent care facility had planned to open.
The commission had moved its meeting from City Hall to the larger Lanterman venue in the expectation that a crowd would attend the discussion of the proposed expansion of the 65,000-square-foot YMCA. At a meeting in August, the panel adjourned after about three hours and said it would entertain more discussion because of neighborhood discontent. On Thursday, the item was again continued to a future date.
Koleda said the day before the meeting that staff members would make a recommendation to move the item because of “technical issues” involved.
The commission agreed to delay discussion of the proposed two-phase expansion. It would include adding a 38-foot-tall parking structure on the lower parking area at the front of the property. The 24,500-square-foot structure would help increase spaces from 195 to 268. A second phase includes replacing the old East building with a new three-story structure. The changes are projected to take place over a five- to six-year period.
After the meeting, Koleda said in an email that staff members have no anticipated date when the item will be back before the commission but will “renotice” neighbors and publish a notice in the newspaper and on the city website when it’s rescheduled.
At least one YMCA neighbor afterward was disappointed he did not get an opportunity to speak about the subject.
Jack Labrie, who lives on Palm Drive, arrived late to the meeting thinking it would last longer. He said he would be affected by the construction and a probable change in traffic, and seemed to question whether more parking spaces were needed.
“Those are negative impacts,” Labrie said. “The retail industry is rapidly changing due to the internet. And also Uber and Lyft are coming into play, and they’re not going away. What does that do to parking? They don’t park. They stop and drop off. Therefore, a parking requirement, where will they go in the future? They’ll be reduced rather than increased.”

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