By Brandon HENSLEY
Plans for two new construction projects on Foothill Boulevard are ongoing, and even some dissenting community opinions are not going to stop it.
Group Arch, an L.A.-based architecture company, showed plans for a new retail/office complex at the CV Town Council meeting June 17. The design, which will be located on the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Sunset Avenue, calls for a 15,520-square-foot center that will include retail stores and small restaurants with 82 parking spaces.
Reactions were mixed, depending on who was asked.
“It seemed that most people were rather dubious about the design. The size … I think a lot of people were worried about the size of it,” said Stuart Byles, an architectural designer who was at the meeting.
Byles and former councilwoman Sharon Raghavachary were part of a group for several years that was responsible for coming up with what is now the Community Standards Design for Foothill Boulevard, which was adopted by L.A. County last year. This project is exempt from the CSD, which was put in place last October to set building standards for colors, signage, landscaping and capturing the overall La Crescenta style.
“It looked like a design that could be plunked down anywhere,” Byles said, who noted the main entrance would be off Sunset Avenue, not on Foothill Boulevard.
Raghavachary listed a few things that she was displeased with, specifically a wall over 20 feet high that would be adjacent to a home.
“We didn’t want the buildings to overshadow those small homes,” she said. “And this one’s going to do that, and I wish they could find some way to mitigate it but they’re not going to I think other than [with] trees or vines.”
Another concern was landscaping. The parking lot does not call for trees in it, and the CSD would require them. “Because we’ve worked so hard to have these standards, I think there was a big desire on the part of everyone there to move this design closer to the standards,” she said.
Raghavachary did say that the building design itself was not a huge issue with her, and Byles said it wasn’t exactly an eyesore.
Peter Park, one of the architects on the plan, was also at the meeting. “They were very supportive,” he said of the residents reaction. “Their only concern was the signage. They wanted us to follow their guidelines.”
Byles suggested they at least incorporate CV’s native rocks into the design, something that the area’s architecture is known for, including the new La Crescenta Library.
“I said, ‘You know, you’re going to have so much stone when you start excavating for your two-story underground parking, you’re going to have so much stone you will not know what to do with it.”
Park said that suggestion has a good chance of happening. However, making any drastic changes now would be costly. The county’s Regional Planning Department has approved all of the plans. It looks like it is only a formality now.
“At this point we’ll coordinate with them as much not with the architectural details but with some of the color details. We can follow that,” Park said.
Raghavachary gave the designers credit for coming to the meeting, since they were not obligated to do so.“They at least seemed open to listening … they didn’t have to come and listen to what the community wanted, so that’s a positive. At least they want to fit in,” she said.
The main concern now is how the building will fit in with the feel of the community.
“People realized that developers were coming in and nobody was making any comments as to what they should do so they built whatever they felt was best for them, and they built buildings that were not even reflective of what it is to be here in La Crescenta.,” Byles said. “So that was the galvanizing force [of the CSD].”
“If everyone in the community likes the design and likes the building, you’ll go there more often,” Raghavachary said.
Another project that apparently slipped past the CSD is another complex that has been approved by LA County on the south side of Foothill Boulevard between Raymond Avenue and Rosemont Avenue.
The building will be three stories tall, with retail on the first floor and non-medical offices above, with an underground parking lot.
The plans were approved in April of last year, before the CSD was finalized, and unlike the complex on Sunset Avenue, the CV Town Council was not notified of it beforehand.
“This is extremely disappointing on the part of the county,” said Mike Lawler, president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley
Lawler has fears the CSD might not be able to do what it was created to do. “We’ve got developers talking now less to us than before when we had nothing,” he said.
A Crescenta Valley landmark might also be in trouble. The fig tree in front of Executive Realty could die as a result of this project. Lawler said excavation for the parking lot will take out a third of the tree’s roots, and overhanging branches will have to be removed.
“It’s an important landmark on the boulevard and it speaks to the origins of the community,” he said of the over-100-year-old tree. ““It would be a real slap in the face of the community to kill it.”