A package of building restrictions and design inducements proposed by Los Angeles city planners to encourage more pedestrian-oriented growth along Colorado Boulevard was given its first public view this week.
The plan, called the Colorado Boulevard Specific Plan, was developed by city planners and a citizen’s committee appointed 14 months ago.
It is designed to induce developers to add amenities such as trees and awnings and to restore endangered older buildings along Eagle Rock’s main thoroughfare.
The plan proposes greater restrictions and development controls, along with some innovative ideas such as allowing those who restore older buildings to sell enhanced development rights to others. It is designed to encourage the development of green open space, public parking and wider sidewalks and the preservation of architecturally significant structures. It would prohibit motels, auto body shops, automatic laundries and gas stations, to name a few.
If the plan becomes law, it will limit development along the commercial strip from Eagle Dale Avenue on the west to Eagle Vista Drive on the east. Under the plan, zoning would be more restricted on properties fronting Colorado Boulevard. The plan would also prohibit certain types of businesses and certain design elements deemed by city planners to be unsightly, such as garish signs and parking that fronts the street.
Long Way to Go
If the plan is approved by the Los Angeles City Council, it will become one of more than a dozen specific plans in the city. But city planners acknowledge that the Colorado Boulevard proposal has a long way to go before it becomes law.
What the more than 40 people at Saturday’s open house saw were enlargements of parts of the plan’s 67-page first draft, completed just a few weeks ago. On Monday, the plan will be the subject of a public hearing conducted by Los Angeles city Planning Department staff. Sometime in the future, it will have to pass the planning commission and be approved by the City Council.
Colorado Boulevard today is a fast-moving street lined with diverse commercial ventures ranging from auto body shops to supermarkets to banks. It includes many pre-1930 masonry buildings, but in recent years the older buildings have been overshadowed by the mini-malls and supermarkets.
Many of the most architecturally significant buildings along the street face renovation or replacement under the city’s earthquake ordinance.
The plan is an outgrowth of a moratorium on mini-malls along Colorado Boulevard passed by the City Council in 1987. The moratorium expired in January, and the homeowners groups that gained strength and savvy from the struggle to restrict mini-malls have lobbied intensively for a more restrictive plan.
“It’s about the beginning stages of people saying, ‘Hey, come on, we live here,’ ” said John Muir, an Eagle Rock resident who was at the open house. “A lot of people have lived here for years and not worried about it, but there has been a mass of development activity over the past three years and people are starting to notice.”
Muir was one of a number of homeowners at Eagle Rock High School on Saturday who were clustered around drawings on easels and photographs stacked against the wall.
“The community has finally gotten to the point where they are concerned about what is happening to it,” said Ralph Boyd, a doctor who has offices on the street. “Colorado Boulevard is crucial to our future in Eagle Rock. It certainly hasn’t been planned well so far.”
The Colorado Boulevard proposal is an example of what city planners call “three-dimensional” planning--laws that limit not only the height of buildings or the types of things they contain, but the way they are designed.
It is just such planning that preservationists want. And preservationists have gained a strong foothold in Eagle Rock over the past two years. They have held demonstrations to block the development of more mini-malls, auto services and motels along Colorado Boulevard, and they have launched a fight to prevent development around the Eagle Rock, a large rock formation north of the Pasadena Freeway from which the community gets its name.
Some of the preservationists active in those struggles sat on the 11-member Colorado Boulevard Specific Plan Committee. The committee also included real estate brokers, developers, architects, commercial property owners and businessmen. It was guided by two Los Angeles city planners.
Under the area’s present divergent zoning, commercial buildings up to four stories tall are allowed on some parts of the street and multi-unit residential buildings are allowed on others. The specific plan will lower the zoning, limiting new buildings to low-density commercial projects.
To encourage the preservation of older buildings in the area targeted by the committee as “cultural resources” and to encourage developers to design buildings that look good, the specific plan also includes a mechanism that will allow developers to build more if they do things that benefit the community.
The plan as proposed will reduce the floor-area ratio--the amount of floor space a merchant or developer can build in one lot--to below the amount that the zoning allows. But under the plan, developers can take several different steps to increase the size of the building they are allowed to develop.
For instance, if a developer agrees not to demolish an architecturally significant building, the plan would give him the option of selling enhanced development rights to another property owner somewhere else on Colorado Boulevard.
If a developer provides amenities like public parking, child care and green open space, he will be allowed to build a bigger building than the new zoning will allow.
“We’re reducing their potential to build by right but giving it back to them if they give something to the community,” Daniel O’Donnell, a Los Angeles city planner, said. “We have to give some incentive or else they won’t care what they build.”