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Commission approves plans to breathe life into long-vacant Foothill Boulevard lot

Commission approves plans to breathe life into long-vacant Foothill Boulevard lot
A rendering shows offices and a first-floor retail/restaurant space submitted by landowner and Planning Commissioner Arun Jain for properties at 2236 and 2242 Foothill Blvd., which have sat vacant for years. Planning Commissioners approved the project in a Feb. 28 meeting. (Photo by Sara Cardine)

A corner lot at Foothill Boulevard and Young Drive could soon be home to a two-story office and retail/restaurant space, after La Cañada planning commissioners approved last week a permit for landowner and fellow commissioner Arun Jain.

In a Feb. 28 regular meeting, commissioners approved a conditional use permit allowing for the demolition of two existing buildings at 2236 and 2242 Foothill and construction of a 6,232-square-foot building with room for four office suites on the top floor and a restaurant at ground level.

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The site would consist of a 5,365-square-foot basement that would offer 17 office parking spaces accessible from Young Drive, while another 18 spaces for retail and restaurant parking will be accessible from Foothill Boulevard — one more space than what city standards require.

Commissioners also approved 3-0 (Commissioner Jeff McConnell was absent) variances for excess floor space caused by the subterranean parking lot and allowed for eight tandem parking spaces and a reduction of all parking stall sizes from 9 feet by 20 feet to 8.5 feet by 18 feet.

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Jain recused himself from voting on the dais, exiting Lanterman Auditorium for much of the discussion, but spoke as a private resident and applicant in a public hearing. He explained outdoor seating and atrium-like courtyard spaces at the center of the building would create an open, airy plan.

“We have made it a project where you have a lovely place to sit and eat,” he said. “The project is open throughout, from one end to the other. In the end, it came out very nice.”

A rendering of Commissioner Arun Jain's proposal, as viewed from Young Drive looking east.
A rendering of Commissioner Arun Jain's proposal, as viewed from Young Drive looking east. (Photo by Sara Cardine)

Young Drive resident Helen Olivares said she supports Jain’s proposal but has concerns about construction vehicles hauling out dirt to dig the basement. Commission Chair Rick Gunter said trucks would likely use Foothill, but recommended Olivares confirm hauling routes with the city’s public works department.

Neighbor Sun Thomas said she is concerned about added traffic on Young Drive once the project is completed.

“I’m very supportive of the project, but my concern is for my kids,” she told commissioners.

Jain assured Thomas and neighbors that parking restrictions on the Montrose street would remain in place, and promised to update them on haul routes once plans were in place.

Doing business as La Cañada Enterprise LLC, Jain purchased the parcels in August 2014. At that time, the properties contained an abandoned sushi restaurant and a small stand occupied by Mediterranean-themed Zina’s Healthy Corner.

Landlord and tenant engaged in a legal argument over use of the site (Jain claimed Zina’s owner Sonia Race incurred multiple code violations to create an unauthorized outdoor eating area), and the business vacated the stand by 2015, despite having a lease that was to expire this year.

Since then, both buildings have remain relatively untouched. Gunter complimented Jain for coming forth with a plan that will end the vacancy and make good use of the oddly configured and heavily graded lot.

“Nobody likes a vacant site — it’s not good for the neighborhood and it’s not good for the community,” he said. “The building is a very thoughtful use of the property, consistent with what we’re trying to achieve with our city guidelines.”

The approved permit gives Jain two years to break ground. The landowner said after the meeting he hopes to start building sometime this year, once funds are secured. He estimated construction could take about one year to complete.

Also last Thursday, commissioners:

Amended a minor conditional use permit for Pedal Spin Studio, leasing space at 1111 Foothill Blvd., to change its morning operating hours, from 4:45 to 9 a.m. to 5:30 to 10:45 a.m., and allow for multiple classes as long as class participation remains capped at 20 students.

Approved a second-floor review to allow for construction of a new 7,600-square-foot residence and attached garage at 4400 Woodleigh Lane and demolition of the existing residence.

Approved a hillside development permit allowing for construction of a 1,298-square-foot, second-floor addition to an existing single-story residence at 5145 Redwillow Lane.

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