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Market in, Theater out of Planned Center : Center: Management of Sport Chalet complex has dropped plans for four-screen theater in favor of a “country market.”

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A development company announced this week that it has dropped plans for a four-screen theater with underground parking as part of its proposed La Canada Village shopping center.

The management of the company, Sport Chalet, made the announcement at the La Canada Flintridge Planning Commission meeting Tuesday night. The shift was made in response to community opposition to the shopping center.

The new plan would replace the two-story theater complex with a single-story “country market” site with a 50-car parking facility on its roof, according to project architect Millard Archuleta.

About 750 square feet of building space was removed from the 163,995-square-foot development. The number of parking spaces was reduced from 888 to 884.

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Other proposed changes were the reorientation of a retail block to accommodate parking closer to the new structure, the building of a gazebo in place of a statue in the center’s circular plaza section, and expansion of the spectator area in front of the Sport Chalet scuba instruction tank.

Public reaction to the project was the principal motivating factor behind the re-evaluation of the theater complex and underground parking, said Sport Chalet Chief Executive Officer Sam Allen.

The decision to remove the theater and underground parking from the plan was made about a month ago and the planned changes were formalized last week, according to Allen.

The proposed change would barely alter the $25-million cost, according to Allen.

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The inclusion of a market rather than a theater in the shopping complex would provide a more commercially profitable anchor to the center, since market patrons would be more likely to frequent other retail outlets within the complex, Archuleta said.

Archuleta said he hopes that Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Food Markets or a similar organization will occupy the new facility.

“We’re going to do everything we can to get Mrs. Gooch in there,” he said. “They’d be perfect for La Canada Flintridge.”

A spokeswoman for Mrs. Gooch’s said, however, “That is not on our agenda. We have no plans to go into La Canada at this time.”

Public reaction to the proposed change was mixed. While many of the speakers said they favored the removal of the theaters and the underground parking structure, they still expressed opposition to the scale and impact of the project.

“Basic supply and demand theory demonstrates that in order for the proposed businesses within the village to succeed . . . the supply would clearly outweigh the demand of this sleepy little community,” said Justin Kawabori.

Suzanne Reed said of the draft environmental impact report, “even the draft EIR . . . has identified a scaled-down version of the proposed project as the environmentally preferred alternative.”

Reed also advocated incorporation of “affordable housing in the form of condominiums or other multiple dwelling units” to replace the 30 houses slated for destruction on the project’s 11.75-acre site.

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Peter Kudrave, a professional architect and La Canada Flintridge resident, compared the change to “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”


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