Zoning is main topic at LCF council meeting

Zoning dominated Monday's La Cañada Flintridge City Council meeting, as members considered accommodating a new church parking lot and looked at how to comply with laws requiring cities to make land available for the construction of homeless shelters.

One change in the designation of a lot owned by La Cañada Presbyterian Church — from single-family residential to an "institutional" zone within the city's Downtown Village Specific Plan — prompted conversation on what it means to be a good neighbor.

Church officials plan to construct a 117-space parking lot at 4435 Woodleigh Lane, south of the main building with an exit onto that residential street. On Monday, council unanimously approved the project.

Now that the lot is a part of church property, it will no longer be considered a residential lot, categorized as less than 20,000 square feet in area.

"The property has been redesigned in the General Plan, but it has not been rezoned," senior planner Fred Buss told council in a presentation before the vote. "I think it's a pretty straight-forward issue."

La Cañada Presbyterian worked with a local neighbor, whose property lies just south of the lot, to design an aesthetically pleasing and well-landscaped wall in advance of a July 8 Planning Commission vote on the parking lot. The Commission approved the project.

But neighbor Patricia Smith, who's lived in her Woodleigh Lane home for 40 years, said Monday she was worried about the amount of traffic that would be added to the street from cars leaving the lot.

"I am willing to go along with what is necessary for the greater good," Smith said. "I'm just concerned about the impact that building that size of a parking lot will have on my lifestyle."

Councilwoman Laura Olhasso and Mayor Pro Tem Don Voss said they, too, were hesitant about the added influx of cars into a residential area.

"I'm concerned about this, and have been from the outset, that this is parking lot creep in a residential zone," Voss said, before addressing LCPC officials directly. "Just be sensitive to the neighborhood, and be sensitive to parking on Woodleigh."

Another zoning-related decision approved Monday officially created special overlay areas that may be applied to lots in which emergency homeless shelters may be built in La Cañada.

In February, the council amended the adopted housing element and zoning map in its General Plan to allow for the possible construction of affordable housing units, including emergency homeless shelters, as required by state law.

The areas zoned for Commercial Planned Development were largely along Foothill Boulevard, north of the Foothill (210) Freeway.

The city further stipulated that any shelters beyond the city's own need would have to obtain a conditional use permit. The last estimate of the city's homeless population was two people.

On Monday, the panel voted to create an "emergency shelter overlay zone," which would potentially limit where shelters may be built, focusing on a smaller, more targeted area west of La Cañada Plaza Road by Jo-Ann Fabric.

"[There are] still a great number of parcels available for an emergency homeless shelter to be located, should one be proposed by the city," Buss said, emphasizing that the new zone is a "refinement," as opposed to a "restriction" of such projects.

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