Council to Vote Tonight on Modified Version of Controversial South Los Robles Avenue Project

Published : Monday, January 13, 2020 | 6:07 AM

A project that was not approved by the Pasadena City Council in July is back, with modifications, for reconsideration Monday, January 13, 2020. Image courtesy City of Pasadena.

In an email to Pasadena Now, a lawyer representing a developer whose modified project will be heard by the Pasadena City Council on Monday said he’s prepared to follow through on a lawsuit if the Council does not approve the project at 253 South Los Robles Ave.

This is the second time the Council has considered the project.

In July Councilmembers failed to reach a consensus after two tie votes, effectively blocking the building from moving forward.

Now the project is back with changes.

“We have done our best to address the City Council’s concerns and hope they agree,” said attorney Richard McDonald. “If not then we have no choice but to proceed with our lawsuit for the reasons stated previously.”

Chief among those reasons is McDonald’s contention that the project complies with state law and “state law is a mandate.”

At issue is an affordable housing concession permit to facilitate the construction of a new 91,217 square-foot, five to six-story, 90-unit, multifamily residential building (including eight “very low income” units) with parking in a three-level subterranean parking garage.

According to a City staff report recommending the concessions, if approved the permit would allow developers to exceed the floor area ratio and increase it from 2.25 to 2.57 and exceed the maximum height of 60 feet to 75 feet.

The project includes demolition of an existing 43,544 square-foot office building on site.

“The project has undergone modifications in response to issues raised during the Call for Review public hearing on July 22,” the staff report reads. “The modifications include reductions in height, density and floor area ratio.”

In July, an attorney for Zhuang & Zhong, LLC, threatened to sue the city after the Council refused to approve the project following hours of debate, in part over the affordable housing concession.

Under state law, developers are granted bonuses if developers adds more than the required number of local income housing units. Developers were asking for 21 extra units and two extra units for eight additional units.

“You have to give us concessions,” said attorney Richard McDonald. “You have no choice, you can quibble about height, you can quibble about FAR (Floor Area Ratio). You’d have to have substantial evidence to deny them.”

The Madison Heights Neighborhood Association argued that the project would bring excessive traffic and noise to the neighborhood and would exert a negative “cumulative impact” on the area. The development would be the third recent one in the area.

In November the project found new life when the Council voted 5-2 to review the project.

The city is currently in the midst of an affordable housing crisis.

“The applicant has made significant and meaningful adjustments to the plans associated with the project in response to the concerns raised by the Council and community, including adjustments to the overall height and massing,” the staff report reads. “The revised project is more respectful of the transition between the residential zoning district to the south and the Central District to the north and responds well to its surrounding context in terms of height. Through the required Design Review process, the massing of the building will continue to be refined to achieve the goals of the relevant design guidelines.”

The hearing is the ninth item on tonight’s Council agenda. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at Pasadena City Hall, 100 N. Garfield Avenue.

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