Attorney: Developer Won’t Redesign Los Robles Avenue Project, Might Sue City

Says Council should have followed State law, battle likely headed for court, new fight looms with upcoming Madison Avenue project

Published : Wednesday, July 24, 2019 | 4:41 AM

The attorney for developers of a proposed project which the Pasadena City Council failed to approve after hours of debate Monday said his client will not redesign their project at 253 South Los Robles Avenue and instead may sue the City.

“We are looking at a lawsuit,” said Richard McDonald, who represents Zhuang & Zhong, LLC, “but no final decision has been made, as the deadline is a ways away. We wanted to resolve it by having the City Council follow the [State] law, like staff recommended.”

Zhuang & Zhong is eligible for local zoning concessions which would allow for a larger-than-otherwise project in exchange for two additional units of affordable housing under new state law.

The Council’s lengthy hearing and failure to agree on the project highlights growing conflict between the State’s desire to quickly build new housing to address California’s homelessness and lack of housing problems and Pasadena’s desire to maintain the single-family character of its local neighborhoods.

The Madison Heights Neighborhood Association led the battle against the Los Robles Avenue project, arguing that the project would bring excessive traffic and noise to the neighborhood and would exert a negative “cumulative impact” on the area.

McDonald had told the Council Monday that the developers were not seeking the full 35% concession allowed, but only 31%, and that the development was a “break-even project” from which the developers would not fully recoup any losses from providing the affordable housing for 55 years.

In a report prepared for the meeting Pasadena’s Planning Department said that, because the project “had no features which distinguish it from other exempted projects in the City,” approval of the project was recommended.

The report said the project was also in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (SEQA) which regulates such projects, and essentially takes precedence over City law.

Thus the project is likely to be settled in the courts.

The Los Robles Avenue development was the first of two projects appeals to be voted upon by the Council Monday evening, but because of the marathon hearing for the Los Robles Avenue project the second hearing was postponed until August 19.

In the second case, the developer, Mike Balian, has submitted an Affordable Housing Concession Permit application for a mixed-use project at 127 and 141 North Madison Avenue. An existing four-story building and surface parking lot would be demolished and replaced by the development.

The Madison Avenue project sets the stage for another battle.