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Change to Nonconforming Uses Could Make It Easier For City to Deal With Some Nuisance Businesses

Published on Thursday, October 15, 2020 | 4:53 pm
 

A change to the city’s nonconforming use provision could give Pasadena officials more control over some problematic businesses.

Many of the facilities are “grandfathered,” meaning they opened years before current rules were in place regulating them.

When discussing the possible change on Wednesday, city Planning Director David Reyes did not single out one type of business as the reason for the change, but provided several examples.

“We’re not looking to shut them down, but some other agency may shut them down, or if they stopped on their own accord and they want to re-establish in 12 months, it may not be desirable for them to reopen,” Reyes said.

Under the city’s current provisions, some noncomforming businesses can close for up to 12 months and maintain their nonconforming status if they reopen, even if the businesses have been sold.

The change would shorten the time period that noncomforming businesses could keep their status if they shut down.

State officials suspended Golden Cross Health Care’s license in June after an outbreak of the coronavirus left more than 100 people at the facility sick, including 72 residents and 32 staff members. The outbreak led to eight deaths.

In June, more than 60 patients were evacuated from Golden Cross on orders from the state Attorney General’s Office due to various concerns about coronavirus protocols.

There is an proliferation of nursing homes on Fair Oaks Avenue. According to the city’s General Plan no new nursing homes can be established in the area because the zoning code prohibits them.

In July, Pasadena City Manager Steve Mermell confirmed to City News Service that city officials did not know about the hearing to reinstate the facility until a lobbyist hired by the nursing home asked them to write a letter of support to help them keep their license.

The city was “very proactive in addressing the problems at the facility and a lot of resources were dedicated because of our city’s concerns … that led to our having to intervene,” Mrmell said. “This facility failed to provide most basic functions in caring for these patients, including sufficient nutrition or water; safety, not only from COVID but also basic medical needs.”

Bars and drive-thru restaurants could also be impacted by the change if it is approved by the City Council in the future.

The city has passed ordinances to deal with nonconforming nusiance businesses before.

In 2004, the city reeled in nonconforming liquor stores that opened years before local businesses were required to obtain a conditional use permit, allowing them to operate only under state rules.

The city’s 2004 “deemed-approved ordinance” allowed the city to place local conditions of operation on many of the nuisance stores on Orange Grove Boulevard that were negatively impacting the quality of life for residents of those areas.

In one example, operating conditions were imposed on Super Liquor after a two-year investigation by the state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC), resulting in a 15-day suspension of the store’s business license. The agency determined that the owners needed to seek a conditional license and honor existing conditions imposed by the ABC.

Some of those conditions included hiring a security guard, picking up litter around the store, and labeling alcoholic beverages and bags with the store’s name. Under these conditions, the store can only sell alcohol between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The city imposed its own operating conditions — which mirrored those laid down by the ABC. As a result, nearby stores voluntarily stopped selling some brands of alcohol.

The issues regarding the liquor store became public in 2002, when a family living nearby and photographed a prostitute having sex with a customer in their backyard while drinking malt liquor purchased from the store.

Their complaints forced the city to pass the deemed approved ordinance, which requires local liquor stores that began operating before city permits were issued to follow a set of city-imposed standards.

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