La Cañada officials talk neighborhood aesthetics

Faced with a light summer agenda Monday night, the La Cañada Flintridge City Council sought to refine city development standards alongside Planning Commission members and later denied a Glendale resident's claim the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In a special joint meeting with the city's Planning Commission prior to its regular meeting, the council discussed a recent van tour in which members from both panels journeyed through La Cañada looking for examples of where home-design mandates might be clearer or better applied.

Topics of concern included regulations regarding basement additions and the construction of light wells around basement windows, whether accent turrets on single-story homes should ever be a part of the city's second-floor review process and what constitutes a neighborhood when considering aesthetic compatibility.

Robert Stanley, director of community development, showed photographs of homes approved by the Planning Commission. Some showed neighborhood consistency done well, while others demonstrated a need for further improvement.

One example — a two-story on Hillard Avenue surrounded by single-story, mid-century homes — raised the question of whether "neighborhood" consists of homes on a single street, or the larger surrounding area.

Council members agreed there was no easy answer, especially if today's determinations failed to hold up tomorrow.

"We've always said (just) because it's a street of single-story homes, that doesn't mean it's going to stay that way," Councilwoman Laura Olhasso said.

Mayor Mike Davitt agreed it was difficult to legislate continuity.

"To me, you're going down a slippery slope when you try to define a neighborhood," Davitt said.

During the regular meeting, Council members heard comments from Carole Weling, a Glendale resident with grievances about La Cañada's general noncompliance with state and federal laws passed to accommodate individuals with disabilities.

She also spoke specifically against a staff recommendation to council to deny a May 7 claim she filed against the city, arguing a lack of handicapped parking spaces at Taylor's Steakhouse.

The claim was evaluated by a third-party claims administrator, who determined the Town Center parking lot was privately owned and, therefore, not under the city's control. Weling said she'd worked on the matter for nearly a year and planned to continue.

"The [Disabilities Act] is not a choice, it is a mandated law," Weling told the Council. "Unfortunately, this claim before you is just the beginning of my quest."

As Weling was commenting on an item in the consent agenda, council members were unable to respond to her remarks. They did approve all consent agenda items in a 5-0 vote.

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