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Council approves $3.3M sale of current City Hall building, eases restrictions on granny flats

On Tuesday, the La Cañada Flintridge City Council approved a $3.3-million purchase and sale agreement with Glendale's Knight Insurance Services for the current City Hall building on the northeast corner of Foothill Boulevard and Lasheart Drive.

The sale comes as officials make plans to relocate the city's headquarters from 1327 Foothill to its new location in La Cañada's Town Center, in the building that once served as Sport Chalet's corporate office. The city closed escrow on that building on Feb. 22 for a purchase price of $11.23 million.

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According to city documents, Knight Insurance Services will provide a $250,000 deposit upon opening of escrow and will engage in a 45-day due diligence period during which it will inspect the 7,160-square-foot property.

The closing date will be within 30 days after the city vacates the premises, but no later than Dec. 31, 2018. The city was given unilateral right to extend the closing by an additional 60 days if needed, beyond the end of 2018, a staff report indicates.

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Council members did not engage in discussion on the agreement Tuesday, but Mayor Mike Davitt said after the meeting he was glad negotiations seemed to work for both sides.

"We were fortunate to find a buyer who was willing to work with us, primarily on the time frame," Davitt said, estimating it could take about 16 to 18 months for the new City Hall to be move-in ready. "The timing was a critical piece."

State eases ‘granny flat’ restrictions, city must comply

Also Tuesday, council members approved an ordinance amending portions of the city's zoning code pertaining to accessory dwelling units, commonly referred to as "granny flats" or ADUs, to bring the city into compliance with a state-mandated easing of restrictions passed in the 2016 legislative session.

Deputy Director of Community Development Susan Koleda explained the easing was intended to create more affordable housing options in response to a statewide housing crisis.

"The state has a number of bills this year which are, in some cases, essentially the state taking over local zoning codes with the regards to the permission of housing," she said. "The intent is to provide more opportunities for various types of housing throughout California."

Koleda admitted the new state rules override several municipal regulations previously established by city officials, including shrinking the setback of existing garages converted to ADUs to a maximum of 5 feet, even when they are second-story units, and eliminating a requirement that each residential structure have a two-car garage.

According to the new laws, parking requirements may not exceed one parking space per unit. Requirements cannot be imposed when the accessory unit is located within one half-mile of a public transit stop, is in a historically significant district or is part of the existing primary residence.

Additionally, in the event a garage or carport is demolished or converted to an accessory living space, replacement parking spaces may be placed in any configuration on the property, covered or uncovered, tandem or not.

City staff recognized that while such units may only be built on lots 10,000-square feet or larger, owners of smaller lots can get around the restriction.

Because state law mandates cities to approve building permits for ADUs where the unit is contained within the existing area of a single-family residence or existing accessory structure, like a garage, property owners of smaller lots could renovate their existing structure and then have it converted to an accessory dwelling unit after the fact.

Council members made it clear there was nothing they could do but comply with the new mandates.

"I understand why the state's trying to ease things up, but at the same time I don't love taking away local control," said Councilman Jon Curtis. "I'm not happy where you could literally have a situation where there is no on-site parking, covered parking, required but we don't have a choice."

While many city regulations will be overridden, others will be upheld, including the requirement that the property owner reside in either the main house or the dwelling unit and that both units share a single address and utility hookups.

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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