A $2-million plan to develop a western segment of Foothill Boulevard advanced Monday, when City Council members approved a conceptual design to help secure a Metro grant to build medians, pedestrian walkways and bike paths by the YMCA.
The Foothill Boulevard Link Bikeway and Pedestrian Greenbelt Project would extend from just west of La Cañada’s Leata Lane to Hillard Avenue, the point of the Glendale (2) Freeway onramp. Foothill Boulevard’s north side would feature a Class II bike lane and greenbelt, while its south side, by the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, would have a bike path, meandering walkway and recreational green space.
To accommodate Y traffic, a four-way intersection would be installed at Palm Drive. The linear park, which allows for a total of 66 street side parking spaces on the south side of Foothill, calls for the elimination of parking spaces on Foothill’s north side to accommodate a Class II bike lane and a greenbelt.
Several YMCA of the Foothills board members spoke against aspects of the project in a public hearing held at Monday’s city council meeting. Chief among their concerns was the negative impact of developing what is now being used as de facto annex parking by Y members.
“The report doesn’t capture the dramatic effect this project will have on one of our key community assets and the citizens it supports day in and day out,” said YMCA board member Reid Samuelson “I worry about reducing its effectiveness even a little.”
But council members, who voted 4-0 to approve the plans (Councilman Jon Curtis recused himself due to his wife’s part-time YMCA employment), argued the project fulfills a commitment city officials made to western La Cañada residents years ago and reflects ambitions clearly delineated in the city’s 1991 Foothill Boulevard Master Plan.
“The vision of the city is not only to have greenery, but to have a linear park, and I think this project accomplishes that,” said Councilwoman Terry Walker, a former Y board member. “I love the Y dearly, but they need to start addressing their own parking problems.”
Opponents of the plan referred to the project as a foregone conclusion. But council members and city staff maintain that public input was sought during presentations of various iterations of the plan at no fewer than 10 meetings. In addition to the city council, the proposals went before the Design and Public Works and Traffic commissions, as well as the YMCA.
In 2011, the city submitted preliminary designs to be considered for Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Call for Projects program, which allows municipalities with regionally significant projects to compete for discretionary capital transportation funds.
La Cañada was awarded a grant in the amount of $1,365,505, with the stipulation that it contribute an additional 33%, or $672,562, in matching funds to help pay for completion of the project, according to city documents. If everything goes according to plan, construction could begin by January 2019.
On Monday, the council was asked to approve conceptual designs for the project, allowing for the drafting of a letter of agreement with Metro and a subsequent environmental review of the potential impacts of the project.
Former Councilwoman Laura Olhasso returned to chambers to defend the project and to provide some historical context.
She said when she was first elected in 2003, several residents living on La Cañada’s west end expressed a desire to beautify their community and helped contribute to what eventually became the Link project.
“We promised them 12 years ago we would do this. The problem is there wasn’t ever any money,” Olhasso said. “(Now) after 12 years, we can finally make good on our promise.”
Olhasso, herself a former Y board member, said it wasn’t right for the YMCA to rely on public street parking to avoid the cost of constructing an on-site parking structure, which past estimates have put at $7 million, especially while continuing to increase its membership.
In his remarks, Mike Davitt, who served with Walker on a city subcommittee dedicated to the project, dispelled the idea that the project was being pushed through simply for the sake of the Metro grant money.
“(That’s) not what is occurring here,” he said. “What is occurring here is the goal of what we’ve been trying to accomplish. No one here is trying to hurt the Y. We’re trying to help the city and minimize the negative impacts to the Y.”
Sara Cardine, email@example.com