La Cañada planning commissioners expressed disappointment Tuesday that an indoor cycling studio coming before them for a minor conditional use permit to operate in a suite at 1111 Foothill Blvd. had ostensibly opened and was already holding classes.
Deputy Community Development Director Susan Koleda recommended approval of a permit to allow Pedal Spin Studio to conduct spin classes out of a 2,800-square-foot store front during restricted hours, to avoid parking conflict on a block where spats over spaces are historic. Staff would review the parking situation six months after approval, she added.
But commissioners who'd visited the property said the studio was open and taking customers the day before the matter was to appear before them.
"I visited Monday night and there was a full spin class in progress," said Commissioner Mike Hazen. "They were already in business, so I'm a little confused."
Koleda said Pedal Spin Studio owner Cindy Bell's business license had been put on hold pending permit approval. Assistant City Atty. Adrian Guerra told commissioners operating without a license was a code violation subject to an administrative citation and fine.
Bell, who currently owns a studio in Pasadena, previously closed a Montrose store and wanted to open a new location in La Cañada. She connected with property owner Dr. Cecelia Kaesler and arranged to move in and operate on a trial basis before signing a lease, to straighten out any noise and parking problems.
"We've been doing some test runs and sound checks and invited our clients to test it out to see how the parking is going to go and to see if there's any sort of sound issues," Bell said, describing the space as offering different classes besides cycling.
Kaesler told commissioners she didn't want to sign a lease until Bell's use permit had been approved, and recommended the sound check to ensure morning classes didn't disturb her meetings with patients in a nearby suite.
Last October, Kaesler got commission approval to build a new parking lot north of Valley Sun Lane, which runs behind businesses on the 1100 block of Foothill. The project would bring the total number of spots from nine to 19. On Tuesday, she said construction was tied up pending review by the Design Commission.
"We didn't know we needed to have more hearings," Kaesler said. "I'm happy to build the parking lot; just let me know when it's good to go."
Nearby business owners expressed concerns the studio would negatively impact them by blocking 20-minute parking spots intended for pick-ups and overcrowding an already crowded lot.
Zora and Ray Yasseri, owners of Cakery Bakery at 1119 Foothill Blvd., claimed the city's staff report "watered down" the studio's parking requirements — from 58 spaces to just 20 — and said restricting Bell's operating hours to 5 to 9 a.m. and from 5 to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 7 to 11 a.m. on weekends would still interfere with their business.
"Approving the project after we've informed you of false information that's served as the basis for your recommendation amounts to an abuse of discretion," Zora Yasseri said.
Commissioner Jeff McConnell said despite Bell's infringement, he believes the city's parking requirements were unrealistic and unwelcoming to new businesses.
Commission Chair Rick Gunter and others suggested Bell straighten out discrepancies with city staff about the types and times of classes and the true parking demand and amend the permit to clarify actual needs and use. They suggested Kaesler's parking improvements might need to be finished before Pedal Spin Studio could reopen.
"I'm somewhat alarmed the applicant is operating a business and presumably everyone involved in this transaction is a professional of some sort," Gunter said. "Everyone involved is either a real estate owner or a broker or has signed a lease before in their life — 100% of the time a permit's required."
April 13, 2:57 p.m.: This article was updated to reflect that Cindy Bell had previously closed her Montrose store and wanted to relocate to La Cañada.