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City Commission Study Session Zeroes In On Potential New Standards for Future Large Residential, Mixed-Use Projects

Published on Friday, January 27, 2023 | 6:35 am

The Planning and Community Development Department conducted a study session with the Planning Commission on Wednesday to discuss objective design standards for high-density multifamily development and receive feedback from the Commission and the public. 

“The city is considering some additional objective standards which would apply to new residential and mixed-use projects that are greater than 48 dwelling units per acre and most of these are located in our specific plan areas,” City Senior Planner Martin Potter told members of the Planning Commission during its last meeting.  

Potter explained objective standards use “shall” and “must” as opposed to “should” and “may.” 

Currently, the City applies objective design standards to residential projects in Multi-family Residential zoning districts in the form of the City of Gardens development standards, the standards for Mixed- Use projects and the Urban Housing development standards.

The City of Gardens, Mixed-Use, and Urban Housing standards “including massing, frontage, fac?ade, and open space requirements intended to encourage multi- family building forms that serve as contextually sensitive transitions between low-density single- family structures and higher-density residential and commercial development,” according to the Planning and Community Development Department’s report.

“The objective standards are far from helpful,” said Commissioner Rick Cole. “We have lots and lots of guidelines and  standards and special rules and overlay zones and principles – I’m going to advocate tonight that we scrap all of that and that we start over again.” 

“If there’s good in it, we should save it but to put on top of everything else that is embedded throughout the Zoning Code, I think is a nightmare,” he added. 

“My concern with the start over approach is that we are boxed in here by a series of state laws, 65 state laws. I’m sure there will be more,” Commissioner David Coher said for his part.

Pasadena resident Nina Chomsky expressed her concerns about adding objective design standards which would apply to new residential and mixed use projects that are greater than 48 dwelling units per acre.

“I’ve advocated for rethinking the relationship of the Design Commission to the entitlement process. It’s out of order and it gets messed up and with these objective design standards, it’s going to be even more messed up in the future where everything is fixed by the time it gets to the Design Commission.” 

“I’m worried about the topics. I think we should simplify. We should start with design principles that we can think about and come up with objective standards and it’s going to take a lot of drafting and thinking and creativity but we can do it and that includes context and character,” added Chomsky.

Planning and Community Development Acting Director Jennifer Paige said the feedback given by the commission and the public will inform the preparation of draft standards to be presented to the Planning Commission for consideration at a future date. 

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