I'm Just Sayin'

In August I wrote about a retail and office building just beginning construction in the 2600 block of Foothill Boulevard in La Crescenta. At that time a concerned neighbor, who saw the approved plans, questioned the height of the building in relation to the slope of the parcel.

After further review, and a visit to the site, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works revoked the grading permit when it determined that the plans submitted by developer Gevorg Voskanian's architect, Varooj Saroian, had misstated the grade and were off by as much as 8 feet on some parts of the building.

The developer claimed that this was simply an error, but I find it hard to believe that an architect who's licensed in the state of California could make such a huge but basic mistake.

In any case, the building was redesigned and recently re-approved by county planners.

The new design has a few changes, most notably the removal of the entire third floor. Even though it now has only two stories, it still reaches the maximum height of 35 feet on both the front and rear of the building. Obviously, if it had been built as it was first designed, the rear of the building would have been as high as 43 feet in some places.

What hasn't changed is the subterranean parking plan. It still shows a wall on the east side just 2 feet from the property line.

It's troubling because that wall requires grading down more than 11 feet, which will sever the roots of the Moreton Bay fig tree right next door. No one knows if the tree will survive this new assault, considering that the developer chopped off several major limbs last August.

Now that the third floor is gone, the required number of parking spaces has dropped and the plans show a reduction of eight spaces on the first-floor rear parking area. If only the developer had cared enough about saving the tree to redesign the subterranean parking and to give the tree a break.

When I was on the Crescenta Valley Town Council in 2005, a nearly completed condominium project on Florencita Avenue in Montrose, which also had been approved by the county, was subsequently found to be several feet taller on the front of the building than the zoning code allowed. That developer was forced to remove one unit.

In a motion by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, passed on Sept. 7, the directors of planning and public works must "investigate the cases at 2435 Florencita Avenue in Montrose and 2626-2636 Foothill Boulevard in La Crescenta; and identify what went wrong in terms of staff review of grade and height relative to the proposed development projects; identify remedies that can be implemented to prevent such errors from occurring on future development; and report back to the board within 90 days with their findings."

No matter what solutions or policy changes the county might put into place, as we've learned, nothing is more effective in catching these kinds of mistakes than an alert and informed community.

SHARON RAGHAVACHARY is on the steering committee for Crescenta Valley Community Assn. and a member of the Family Advisory Council for Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. She may be reached at sharonchary@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World