Council Drops Controversial Plans to Put City Offices in Historic Home

Times Staff Writer

The La Canada Flintridge City Council voted last weekm to abandon plans to refurbish the historic Lanterman estate for use as city offices, closing the door on a controversial proposal that divided the city and angered a state assemblyman.

At a meeting in Descanso Gardens, the council voted unanimously to pursue only one of five options previously considered for the property--renovating the large, California Craftsman-style home as a combined museum and recital hall.

"When you look at the opposition, it (the City Hall plan) doesn't really look like a good alternative," Mayor J. Bixby Smith said. "It also costs twice as much."

Estimated Cost

An architect hired by the city estimated the cost of the renovation at between $501,000 and $637,000. In October, the city received a $500,000 state grant to restore the historic home.

The 73-year-old house was left to La Canada Flintridge when city patriarch Lloyd Lanterman died early this year. But plans to use the home for city offices were opposed by residents and by Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale), who inserted the $500,000 allocation for restoration of the house into a bill signed by Gov. George Deukmejian in October.

The grant secured by Nolan specified restoration of the house as a museum. Nolan sharply criticized city officials when he learned that they were exploring a plan to move city offices from their rented facilities on Foothill Boulevard into the house.

Nolan said city officials never told him of their plan to combine a museum and city offices in the structure. But city officials said they had planned to use the state funds only for the museum portion of the combined museum and City Hall, using city money for the upstairs offices.

City Council members said at the meeting that they had hoped to save the city the $60,000-a-year rent it now pays for its offices.

But more than $1 million would have been needed to install city offices in the home, and Smith said those plans were no longer politically or economically feasible.

While council members voiced their support for the museum plan, residents who live near the Lanterman home repeated their opposition to any plan that would bring more traffic into their quiet neighborhood. The Lanterman home, located on 1.3 acres in the 4400 block of Encinas Drive, is surrounded by tree-lined streets and large homes.

"I'd like to be able to go home tonight and say that issue is basically put to rest," said Ed Phelps, who lives next door to the property. "I'm tired of not sleeping at night because no decision has been made."

A traffic study and an environmental impact report presented before the council vote found that using the home for a museum and city offices together would generate the most traffic of the five options, about 280 vehicle trips per day. The Planning Consortium, a land-planning company that prepared the estimates, found that the combined museum and organ recital hall plan would generate about 65 vehicle trips per day.

Other Options

The other options ranged from doing nothing with the property to demolishing the home and selling the land to a developer.

Under the terms of the state grant, the council has until July 1, 1988, to hire a contractor to renovate the property.

The Planning Consortium was asked at the meeting to prepare a detailed environmental impact report on the museum/organ recital hall plan. The city must apply for a conditional use permit to renovate the home for public use, a process that will bring the museum proposal before the planning commission and eventually back to the City Council for final approval.

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