Piece of Mind: There is another development in the news

While hundreds of people packed into an auditorium at Crescenta Valley High School Tuesday night to learn about the proposed territory transfer of the “Sagebrush” area out of Glendale Unified and into La Cañada Unified, a much smaller but equally electrifying gathering was taking place at the opposite end of the valley, in the main room at Flintridge Riding Club.

Four members of the La Cañada school board were on hand at the La Crescenta event. The fifth board member, David Sagal, was a vocal participant in the other meeting, called by a local developer who hopes to put a senior (age 55-plus) apartment project in Sagal’s neighborhood.

We had two reporters at the Sagebrush town hall meeting, so I decided to slip into the riding club facility to hear what the developer wanted to share with the folks who live near his proposed project. I had been tipped off Monday about this development by Don Clary, who lives directly across the street from the property where the proposed multistory, 69-unit apartment building would sit. Clary had not received an invitation from the developer, Brett Warner, to attend, but he had learned of the meeting from other neighbors and told me he planned to be there. He suggested in an email to me that perhaps the paper would be interested in sitting in on it too. I’m glad he did.

First up, I must say I was impressed by Warner’s calm and friendly demeanor. He managed to carry on well, despite the icy stares from the roughly 15- to 20-member audience that effectively negated the warm glow of the fireplace that had been stoked for the gathering. Warner maintained a smooth tone accompanied by a smile, even after he concluded his presentation and took questions from the displeased neighbors, all of whom raised their hands — some lifting both hands for emphasis — when one of them asked for a straw vote on who opposed the project. Sagal himself was in great form, shouting out pointed questions that could have made a lesser opponent turn ugly in response, but Warner didn’t bite. He did, however, suggest he might reconsider his plans.

We shall see how it all plays out and will be following it with news stories as they develop, but I thought readers might like to know what we know so far about this proposal. The 3 1/2-acre site is in the 200 block of Berkshire Avenue. It is immediately next door to the Flint Canyon Tennis Club and is the parcel along that stretch of road that is closest to the historic — and narrow — Berkshire Bridge. The land, which includes a flood plain, is zoned R-1. Warner has filed paperwork asking the city to rezone it to allow for the project.

In addition to the 69 apartments, 80% of which Warner said would be one-bedroom units (with the remaining having two bedrooms), there would be about 70 parking spaces and facilities such as a media room and library. Outdoor recreational offerings would include a swimming pool, bocce ball court, putting green, shuffleboard and space for barbecues and outdoor dining. Warner said it is a $20-million project and that he’s spending about $1 million to bring sewers to the property that would hook up to the main line that runs toward Pasadena.

As mentioned, the apartments would be for people 55 and older. Warner stressed the plan is to rent to active adults only; there would be no assisted living or any other medical-related offerings there. No children would be allowed to live there (although they of course would be allowed to visit their grandparents who are tenants), so the address could not be used to enroll students in La Cañada Unified schools.

The rental rates for these 1,100-square-foot units, which I’m sure would have upscale finishes, would be north of $3,000 a month. Warner said it would be written into the lease that if seniors living there needed to make the transition to assisted living or have full-time caretakers, they would have to move out.

Take these tidbits, roll them around in your mind a little bit and assess for yourself whether or not you’d like a development such as this on that parcel. Do you think that the addition of 70 vehicles operated by active adults and their visitors would have too negative an effect on traffic flow in that neighborhood? Should the city approve the zone change from single-family residential to multi-housing in that section of town, especially given the fact it just finished establishing specific areas along Foothill Boulevard for that purpose — all of which were rejected by Warner primarily because of the cost of the land there?

As you may have guessed, I’m not convinced this is the right project for that parcel. I’m leaning toward supporting the neighbors who suggest Warner build a couple of single-family homes on that acreage instead. But I invite all readers to study the project, turn out for any public meetings held on the matter and then demand the city approve a responsible, sensitive development of that land.

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CAROL CORMACI is the managing editor. Email her at carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

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