Possible Avon Site Development, as Yet Not Defined, Draws Nearly Unanimous Opposition at Community Meeting

No plans have been submitted for anything yet, says City planning director

Published : Thursday, December 1, 2016 | 6:09 AM

Left: City Planning Director David Reyes describes the City's General Plan. / Right: More than 200 residents of District 4 attended a meeting on the development of the former Avon Distribution headquarters on East Foothill Boulevard Wednesday evening.

The possibility of building a new development which could include Home Depot at the former Avon distribution site on East Foothill Boulevard drew an overwhelmingly hostile response from the nearly 200 citizens gathered at the Pasadena City College Community Education Center Wednesday evening.

The meeting was arranged by Vice Mayor Gene Masuda, who said it would be the first of many meetings to occur as concrete development plans emerge.

The nearly 14-acre site, which opened in 1947 and closed in 2013, is one of the biggest development sites in the city, said city Planning Director David Reyes, who emphasized that there are “no current plans for anything at the site, and no applications for anything have been submitted.”

Reyes did allow that he met with representatives of Home Depot, a development team, and land use attorney Richard McDonald last week.

Outlining the the current 2015 20-year general plan, Reyes said that currently Pasadena is gearing development more towards transit-oriented districts, and is developing less than in previous years.

In addition, said Reyes, the city has created a new zoning designation — known as R&D Flex Space and Parks — for high tech businesses. The new designation, as the name implies, is aimed at attracting high-tech businesses to the area. Reyes admitted, however, that the City won’t be able to attract 14 acres of high tech tenants, “But we hope to get at least some,” he said.

The Avon site

The Avon site, because of its size and location, would earn a 1.25 Floor Area Ratio rate, which means that with its size of 590,000 square feet, a total of 750,000 square feet of development would be allowed, in any number of commercial, retail, or residential configurations.

In order to qualify for the FAR rate, the R&D Flex Space in the development must be greater than the commercial component, said Reyes, which would make a R&D space compatible with Home Depot’s size needs difficult.

The R&D designation allows for a number of uses by a wide range of industrial uses such as light manufacturing, research and development, creative office and incubator industries, and limited ancillary commercial and office uses, Reyes added.

Reyes noted that Big Box retail is not allowed in East Pasadena Sub area D2. But, he noted that the Avon site is D1, and would allow a development the size of a Home Depot store.

Any development application, said Reyes, would require a CEQA and EIR compliance which would require at lease two public scoping public meetings), a Design Review with a minimum of three public meetings, a Planning Commission decision with a minimum of two public meetings, and a minimum of three public City Council meetings.

Attorney Richard McDonald confirmed to the meeting that Home Depot is “one piece” of the buyers, who are currently in due dilligence, and who are researching various development options.

McDonald also emphasized that the development team is, along with talking to Home Depot, also talking to Caltech, as well as Innovate Pasadena, with hopes of creating new and qualifying R&D spaces, “from 2000 to 20,000 square feet,” he said.

“We are trying to figure out the best use of the space for R&D spaces,” said McDonald.

The development team, the members of which McDonald declined to disclose, citing attorney-client privilege, has also retained local architect Stefanos Polyzoides who is attempting to create scenarios which would work within the Big Pos retail and the smaller high-tech spaces.

“We have looked at big retailers and smaller retailers, mixed use and residential as well,” said McDonald. “We’re not done looking at various scenarios, including restaurants and lower scale retail developments.”

A show-of-hands survey at the meeting showed nearly unanimous opposition to a Home Depot store at the site.

Vice Mayor Masuda said he would withhold judgment on any development at the site until formal plans have been submitted.

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