YMCA of the Foothills is forging ahead with its $7 million expansion proposal to improve and expand its interior by more than 4,000 square feet, build a new two-deck parking lot and create more accessibility to the community.
The YMCA will present its plan to the La Cañada Flintridge Planning Commission on Tuesday, Aug. 28, detailing the parking lot increase and access easement from the lot to YMCA facilities, as well as its longer-term vision of creating more holistic health and social spaces for members of all ages.
The outcome of the meeting is seen as making a great impact for La Cañada Flintridge residents, who make up about 60% of the YMCA’s total household memberships, showing how deeply ingrained the Y is in the LCF community.
“Our YMCA has been servicing this area for the last 60 years. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate an anniversary,” CEO Tyler Wright said as he explained the vision behind the planned expansion.
The YMCA has experienced 71% growth in the last five years, bringing its total membership to more than 40,000 across its three area locations, 20,000 of whom are older than 70.
These senior citizens, as well as parents with young children, athletes with injuries and others with disabilities, are faced with an almost two-story set of stairs to climb from the parking lot to the YMCA facilities. Though handicapped parking is available closer to the buildings, there are only 12 spots. Rapid membership growth has also led to limited parking space, with cars circling and waiting during peak hours.
“If you access that YMCA in the morning or evening you are painfully aware of the parking issue and access being an issue,” said Brian Daniels, YMCA of the Foothills board chairman.
Phase 1 of the YMCA expansion would include adding a level above the main parking lot to provide about 70 more spaces, totaling 270, as well as allow for greater accessibility from the lot to YMCA buildings by closing that nearly two-story gap.
“Right now, of the $7 million, we have successfully raised $3.5 million,” said Daniels, noting the effort is on track to raise $4.5 million for phase one.
Phase 2 of the project revolves around creating more social spaces and holistic health resources, with an addition of more than 4,000 square feet.
“This phase takes what we are currently doing and expands upon it,” explained Wright. The east building has an adult wellness office for consultations, a STEM room for kids’ camps and a music room.
Current plans call for tearing down this wing and replacing it with a three-story building. The basement will have storage, the ground floor will include youth creative spaces — such as a larger STEM room and more music and art rooms — and the second floor will include adult wellness resources.
“We want to focus on true well-being which centers on holistic health: spirituality, emotions and physical health. We have been partnering with Verdugo Hills Hospital and would love to have a nurse, physical therapist or doctor available for consultations on that floor,” Wright said.
Along with expanding the east wing, plans also include tearing down the free-standing center building (located in the central patio), that is no longer compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. That building, which currently houses the Building Blocks child-care center on the first floor and multipurpose rooms on the second floor, will be razed to create a large intergenerational community space in the center of the facilities. The child-care center would be moved into the ground floor of the newly built east building.
“By creating this space in the middle, we hope to create more space for the arts, putting the ‘A’ into STEAM,” Wright said.
The larger central community space will have an amphitheater with permanent seating around it and shading above. Additionally, the space will have tables, benches, ping-pong tables, grassy areas and trees. It could be used for children’s concerts, performances, speeches and other community events.
While the Y is looking to increase the resources it offers on site, its programs and memberships have been growing so quickly that it has also been increasing its mobility. A partnership with the city has allowed the Y to run some fitness classes at local parks, as well as offer classes at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital and, in the near future, potentially offer classes at local schools for teachers, administrators and students.
The YMCA may also mobilize its youth government program to take place at La Cañada Flintridge schools instead of YMCA facilities, as it does currently.
Wright emphasized that city officials “have been very supportive of our projects and have the community’s best interest at heart.” He also complimented the YMCA’s neighbors, those with nearby homes, for the way they’ve reacted throughout the expansion proposal and past construction projects.
Neighbors of the YMCA were invited to the facility Monday, Aug. 20, to hear the plans for the new building. “We want them to hear from us and we want to hear from them,” Wright said.
Should the expansion proposal be approved by the Planning Commission, the YMCA facility does not plan to be completely closed during any of the expansion projects. YMCA officials are working with an architect and a construction engineer on the project and the plan is to complete the first phase in eight months after a groundbreaking, Daniels noted.
If the plan is approved, officials plan to start work soon afterward.
— Wes Woods II contributed to this report.