Planning Commission OKs proposal for two-story office and more parking in historically cramped commercial area

An empty parcel at 1109 Foothill Blvd. currently being used for parking could soon become a two-story medical office building after planning commissioners moved the project forward Tuesday, making the necessary recommendations to the La Cañada Flintridge City Council for consideration.

The project — a plan nearly seven years in the works, according to property owner physician Cecilia Kaesler — would also include the annexation of a 5,600-square-foot lot previously owned by Caltrans and a reconfiguration of parking spaces behind the Foothill businesses, north of Valley Sun Lane, that would boost the total number of spots from nine to 19.

Commissioners and La Cañada planning department officials agreed that the plan to add spaces would improve logistics in the commercial area, where battles over parking have reportedly escalated to the writing of nasty notes and threats involving the county Sheriff’s Department.

“Staff believes this is a good solution for an area that does have a severe parking shortage at the current time,” said Deputy Community Development Director Susan Koleda.

Due to the scarcity of parking for businesses on the block, some of which predate the city’s 1976 incorporation and, therefore, the requirement of providing one space for every 250 square feet of gross floor area, commissioners recommended merging three contiguous parking parcels north of Valley Sun Lane into a single lot.

Together, those 19 spaces are to be used solely by the businesses occupying 1109, 1111 and 1113 Foothill Blvd., all of which are owned by Cecilia and Rudy Kaesler. To ensure that covenant remains intact moving forward, commissioners asked the couple also agree to merge the three commercial lots into a single lot operating with three separate addresses.

“It’s very important, at least in my view, that these three lots should be merged together,” Commissioner Arun Jain said.

Cecilia Kaesler, an internist who currently sees patients in her office at 1113 Foothill Blvd., explained her plans to build more space to someday accommodate a part-time physician, so she could decrease her own hours. The 2,450-square-foot building would have two stories in the front, as seen from Foothill, but would be a single story as seen from Valley Sun Lane, north of the properties.

The physician said neither she nor her husband have any desire to sell off individual lots.

“I’ll probably be practicing for the next 25 years, and we’re hoping to keep everything together,” she told commissioners. “We’re not moving, because this is our home.”

The couple secured a portion of land owned by Caltrans to create additional parking in the back, in order to ease historic tensions over spaces.

“I’ve had patients who’ve had threats put on their car by other tenants,” Cecilia Kaesler said, recounting a judge who once notified the Sheriff’s Department after receiving a threat from someone at a neighboring business. “We’re just trying to decompress the situation.”

Planning officials said the commission’s recommendations for a general plan amendment and zone change recognizing the addition of the 5,600-square-foot parking parcel would be heard by the City Council soon. Once approved, the Kaeslers would first build out the parking lot before moving onto the construction of the office space, at the city’s request.

sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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