La Canada Sets Curbs on Development Unit's Scope

Times Staff Writer

La Canada Flintridge city officials unveiled guidelines this week for a proposed redevelopment agency that would restrict the agency's scope and condemnation powers.

Under a plan proposed at Monday's council meeting by City Manager Don Otterman, the redevelopment area would include only commercial properties along Foothill Boulevard. New construction would be limited to 35 feet in height, a maximum of three stories. And the right of eminent domain, which empowers redevelopment agencies to take over private land and sell it to developers, would not extend to residential properties.

A public hearing is scheduled for July 20 on the proposal. Meanwhile, Otterman said, he hopes the restrictive measures will quell public fears.

"There's so many rumors flying around that the city wants to build low-income housing and high-rise development. They're all false," Otterman said.

Fears Not Allayed

But several residents said Tuesday that they still have reservations about forming a redevelopment district in their semi-rural city.

"When you establish a community redevelopment agency, what you have done is increase the power and authority of the city . . . to propose its own projects," said Jack Cane, a La Canada Flintridge activist. Cane was a vocal supporter of the unsuccessful Proposition A last year, a controversial measure that sought to give residents veto rights over developments of one acre or more. Cane also said the city could lose money if the costs of providing more municipal services outweigh the revenues generated by new construction.

Redevelopment has become a hotly debated topic in La Canada Flintridge since Proposition A. City officials have repeatedly said that a redevelopment agency provides the only realistic way to pay for proposed renovations of Foothill Boulevard that could cost as much as $5 million.

"There are no general funds available to improve that area of Foothill," Mayor J. Bixby Smith said at the council meeting Monday. Besides, the city levies no property taxes, another potential source of revenue.

Improvements Planned

La Canada Flintridge hopes to prop up sagging businesses along the city's main commercial thoroughfare and make the street more attractive to local shoppers by installing Craftsman-style street furniture and bus stops, antique street lamps, extensive landscaping and cobblestone walkways. Officials also want to replace unsightly overhead utility poles with underground lines.

Redevelopment could finance at least some of those improvements. Within a redevelopment area, any increase in property value after the agency's starting date is generally split between the city and the county, Otterman said. Even if no construction takes place, Los Angeles County raises property values by 2% annually, which Otterman said would give La Canada Flintridge about $4,700 annually in redevelopment revenues.

$45,000 in Revenue

But city officials are expecting about 10 times that much for the first year of redevelopment. Otterman said four small commercial and retail projects are now planned for Foothill Boulevard and that they could generate up to $45,000 in revenue this year. He said all four have been approved by the city's Architectural Review Board and are scheduled to go before the Planning Commission for final approval.

The projects are:

A $3.5-million retail center at 528-534 Foothill Boulevard, the site of the former Oak Grove Nursery.

A $5-million retail center and a 20-unit condominium building at 2220 Foothill, on the former Hauter Ford used-car lot.

A $1.5-million Century Federal Savings & Loan Assn. project at 707 Foothill, which would include a Thrifty Jr. store and other retail shops.

An about $1.5-million office and retail complex at Young Drive and Foothill Boulevard.

Officials said some residents have voiced fears about increased traffic but there seems to be little opposition to those projects.

A number of residents have expressed concern, however, that the city could use a redevelopment agency to condemn their homes and sell the land.

Otterman said Monday that his proposal would prohibit the agency from taking over houses now in residential use and that the project boundaries would exclude the "Island," a mile-long stretch of about 63 homes that could eventually be consolidated and developed for commercial use under the city's zoning law. The Island is so-named because it is formed by the intersection of the Foothill Freeway and Foothill Boulevard at two points.

May Ask to Join District

Otterman said Island residents will have the option of petitioning the city if they want their homes included in the redevelopment district. One such petition is expected from Norbert Olberz, the Sports Chalet founder who bought about 25 homes on the island with hopes of expanding his sporting goods store and building a small retail center on adjacent property. Olberz withdrew his proposal in 1984 because of residential opposition, but a Sports Chalet official said the company may submit modified expansion plans within six months.

Otterman also attempted to allay residents' fears that redevelopment would force the city to build low- or moderate-income housing--which most residents in the affluent community do not want.

Although the agency would be required to spend 20% of the incremental revenue from the county or new construction to benefit low- or moderate-income residents, Otterman said that provision could be satisfied by plowing the money into its Dial-A-Ride program.

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