Duarte OKs Master Plans for 2 Commercial Projects

Times Staff Writer

The City Council unanimously approved master plans for nearly 16 acres of prime commercial land along Buena Vista Street on Tuesday, setting tighter landscaping and parking requirements for the two redevelopment projects involved.

The Buena Vista/Central Avenue plan, the larger of the projects, calls for the construction of two auto dealerships on 8.1 acres along the Foothill Freeway. The Huntington Drive/Buena Vista Street plan sets guidelines for the development of a shopping center on 7 1/2 acres between Huntington and Sesmas Street.

Both projects are scheduled for completion next year and are expected to generate $688,800 for the city in annual sales tax revenue, city officials said.

Initially, the council voted 3 to 2 to require an 8-foot-high wall on Millbrae Avenue, blocking off delivery access to the auto dealerships, after residents complained about traffic on the narrow street.

The owner of the dealerships, Stan Foulger, had protested that if his four pickup trucks could not enter from Millbrae Avenue, he would have to redesign his plans.

When City Manager Jesse Duff told the council that the project could be delayed three to five months because it might have to go back to the drawing board, the council recessed to reconsider its decision.

Councilwoman Ginny Joyce, who proposed the wall amendment, announced that she would withdraw from further discussion because City Atty. John Lawson had warned her of a possible conflict of interest. As a real estate agent, Joyce represents one of the Millbrae homeowners who is trying to sell property.

When the council reconvened, the amendment was dropped and the plan was adopted unanimously.

Mayor John Hitt, who with Mayor Pro Tem Terry Michaelis had supported Joyce's amendment, said later that he was stunned about the time needed to modify the plans.

"It would be a serious economic blow to the city. We've already got all our money out there," he said. "We can't wait forever for returns."

Foulger's Ford and Acura dealerships are expected to generate $407,000 annually in sales tax revenue. The businesses will become part of an 18-dealership auto mall on Central that stretches into neighboring Monrovia.

City planner Steve Sizemore said that by adopting special plans for each project, the city can set more stringent development rules.

Details Spelled Out

For instance, architectural details are spelled out and landscaping is called for on 5% more of the land than normally required.

Early California architectural themes must be used in both developments, according to the plans. The use of Spanish tile, wood trellises and textured stucco siding is encouraged, and all free-standing lights must have mission bell lamps or be approved by the city's Architectural Review Board.

Fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, arcades and adult businesses are prohibited at the shopping center. A special restriction stipulates that mechanical equipment such as air-conditioning units must not be visible from adjacent Santa Teresita Hospital, Sizemore said.

The projects are intended to reverse the economic decline of the area, according to the plans.

With the exception of the now-closed Blvd. Cafe, the properties fronting on Huntington have been vacant for at least eight years, said Community Development Director Ed Cox. The Redevelopment Agency has acquired the cafe, a duplex and 12 single-family homes to build the shopping center.

Start Soon

Trammell Crow & Co. of Pasadena will begin construction on the complex within two months, Sizemore said. The shopping center--anchored by a 45,000-square-foot Ralphs supermarket and a 8,800-square-foot drugstore--will have 95,660 square feet in retail floor space. Located at the northwest corner of Huntington and Buena Vista, it is expected to generate $281,800 annually in sales tax revenue.

The auto dealerships will be built on land formerly occupied by homes and the administration building of the Duarte Unified School District.

The Redevelopment Agency owns three of the single-family homes that must be demolished to build the dealerships and is negotiating for one remaining house, Cox said.

In exchange for the land owned by the school district, the Redevelopment Agency built the district a complex on Huntington Drive next to City Hall. The building opened in May.

The old administrative headquarters will be remodeled as the showroom for the Ford dealership. The plan says the mission-style architecture must be preserved.

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