Zoning Vote Tied to Sport Chalet OKd

Times Staff Writer

A group of La Canada Flintridge residents has succeeded in placing on the next municipal ballot a controversial measure that would require voter approval for zoning changes in residential areas that involve projects larger than two acres.

The measure, if approved, could affect plans by the Sport Chalet, a sporting goods firm, to build a 9.5-acre shopping center on Foothill Boulevard. The center would replace the Sport Chalet's three aging stores and remove 22 residences behind them.

The Sport Chalet plans, reportedly on hold, sparked a petition drive that resulted in the ballot measure.

The City Council on Monday certified the Residential Preservation Ordinance for the April, 1986, ballot. The measure garnered more than three times the 1,380 signatures needed to qualify.

Berge Yeghiaian, a supporter of the measure and owner of a sandwich shop near the sporting goods store, accused the City Council before the vote of doing the "dirty work" of Sport Chalet owner Norbert Olberz by appointing a committee to study the issue.

Purpose of Committee

He questioned the real purpose of the 20-member Mayor's Advisory Committee on Foothill Boulevard, appointed in March as an outgrowth of the Sport Chalet controversy. The committee, he contended, is not representative of the community and was formed to help Olberz.

The committee was appointed by the City Council to study conditions on the boulevard, the city's main artery and only commercial strip, and to recommend what direction its upgrading should take.

Olberz ran into stiff community opposition last year when he unsuccessfully attempted to have his property rezoned from mixed residential and commercial use to commercial planned development. Some residents said they opposed the plan out of fear that it would attract increased crime and traffic.

In October, Olberz withdrew his request, saying he wanted to work with residents to develop a more acceptable plan.

If the City Council approves Olberz's plans for expansion later, Yeghiaian said, it would find itself in "a head-on collision" with the 4,225 residents who signed the recent ballot petitions.

"Those 4,000 people are trying to tell you something--that they want their views to be heard," Yeghiaian told the council. "What they're trying to tell you is, you should back off a little bit."

Mayor Barbara Pieper and other council members disputed Yeghiaian's contentions.

Priority Identified

Jim Reynolds, co-chairman of the Foothill Boulevard advisory committee, responded angrily, calling Yeghiaian's remarks a "vicious, demagogic attack on the City Council." Reynolds said he didn't believe that the citizens would "vote against progress" by supporting the preservation ordinance.

Before Yeghiaian's comments, Reynolds and the committee's other co-chairman, Kent Frewing, told the council that the committee has made its priority the study of the "island" area of Foothill Boulevard, a strip of businesses that includes the Sport Chalet and stretches from the Foothill Freeway underpass at La Canada Boulevard to the freeway overpass at Hampton Road.

In conducting that study, Reynolds said the committee would welcome community input. "We're here to listen and learn and come up with a reasonable report," he said.

But, during the debate, the committee was criticized by one of its own members for not being open-minded. Wilfred Grifka, also an opponent of the Sport Chalet's proposed shopping center, said the committee was overloaded with lawyers and real estate agents.

Another committee member, Sam Allen, president of the Sport Chalet and a resident of La Canada Flintridge, was also in the audience but did not speak at the meeting. However, Allen, commenting on the proposed preservation ordinance during an interview last week, said the Sport Chalet, a major source of sales tax revenue for the city, could end up leaving town.

"If the city adds more restrictions and more regulations and makes it more difficult for us to do anything here, we're just going to have to look elsewhere," Allen said.

The shopping center project is on the back burner because of other business priorities and not because of the ballot proposal, Allen said. He said it could be another two or three years before the Sport Chalet submitted a revised plan, if it does so at all.

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