Don’t blink – you might miss another new development on Foothill

By Brandon HENSLEY

The vacant lot that used to be home to the plumbing store Plumb Crazy in the 2600 block on the south side of Foothill Boulevard will soon be home to a three-story office and retail building. Just don’t ask local residents for any more information, because this project seems to be one of the more ambiguous in recent memory.

As reported last week, L.A. County’s Regional Planning Department has approved designs for the complex, which includes an underground parking structure, but the approval had gone unnoticed by many in La Crescenta, including the Crescenta Valley Town Council and its Land Use Committee, which watches over new developments and projects, and can alert residents of new developments.

Last October, an ordinance of L.A. County, the Community Standards Design of Foothill Boulevard, was put in place to oversee projects that fit in with the overall feel of La Crescenta. But the plans were approved in April of last year, so it was exempt from the Standards Design, and County did not notify the Town Council.

Because of this, the Planning Department “does not require a meeting with the Town Council,” said Cheryl Davis, CVTC president. “They went straight to Planning and approved the plans.”

The developments are similar to the news of another complex that was approved by L.A. County for a complex in the 2400 block of Foothill Boulevard at the corner of Sunset Avenue headed by the company Group Arch. Those plans were also exempt from the Standards Design, although the company did hold a meeting with the Town Council last month to notify them of the plans.

Excavation for the parking lot will most likely result in the death of the Moreton Bay Fig Tree, which stands in front of Executive Reality. One third of the roots will be pulled from the tree, which is over 100 years old. Aside from that, Davis and others, including Mike Lawler, president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley, said they are trying to find out more information by the day.

Might this be damaging to the reputation of CV’s ability to stop unwanted projects? “I’m not sure how it looks, because when it’s to code there’s not really anything the Town Council can do other than facilitate a conversation with the residents, but if the owner and developer don’t want to have that and aren’t required to have that conversation or the community meeting, there’s not really anything that can be done,” said Davis.

The planner assigned to the project, Richard Claghorn, answered CV Weekly through email. Claghorn said he can notify the architect, Varoozh Saroian, of the concerns of the community, but any changes would be voluntary.

“Although I don’t know what specific aspects of this project some people in the community have objected to, I am sympathetic with their desire to make Foothill Boulevard a more attractive environment,” wrote Claghorn.

Claghorn also wrote that while he doesn’t think the building is aesthetically unappealing, he reiterated “this proposal complied with the Zoning Code requirements in effect at the time of the approval … I’ll ask [Saroian] to contact the town council to find out what specific concerns the community has and consider implementing at least some of the recommendations if possible. I don’t foresee any problems with the Land Use Committee of La Crescenta.”

A meeting would be preferable to Davis. “It seems like they’re being weary of not having a community meeting … the residents obviously would love to speak to the owner and the architect and the developer, but if the plans are done, they’re not required to do so.”