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Council Successfully Conducts First Reading of Ordinance After Issues With Staff Map

Published on Thursday, April 29, 2021 | 11:12 am

The City Council conducted the first reading of an ordinance that will allow an amendment to the zoning code that would increase the maximum building height on one parcel, but not before issues arose over a map of the area. 

The ordinance would allow a 75,000 square-foot office building to be built on South Fair Oaks Avenue.

Councilmember Felicia Williams voted against the ordinance because the staff report did not contain a map of the area that would be impacted by the amendment.

“The amended zoning code section did not include a map,” said Williams. “We don’t know what parcels we are amending. I think we need to know what we are amending.”

The council briefly discussed bringing the item back before staff located the map and placed it on screen, but councilmembers quickly pointed out that the boxed area indicated the zoning area to be amended included a fast food restaurant that is not part of the project.  

“I don’t think that box is the right area,” said Vice Mayor Andy Wilson. 

“The amended area would allow a height bonus for parcels that abut Fair Oaks Avenue south of Pico Street but do not abut a residential use, the maximum height shall not exceed 56 feet,” the amendment reads. 

Wilson, obviously frustrated, called for the map to be removed as the council prepared to vote.

“Can we take the misleading map down please, so we can see the rest of the council,” Wilson said. 

Wilson approved the first reading of the ordinance, but called for an accurate map to be provided during the second reading.  

Former Planning Director Richard Bruckner is working as an adviser on the project. 

Critics say the amendment undermines the public process.

“I wonder how the Fair Oaks Specific Plan update, and all the other specific plan updates, have any legitimacy going forward from a public participation perspective,” wrote Nina Chomsky. “Why participate as a member of the public in these updates, including spending significant time to attend and express public comments and views, when a developer can ‘intervene’ and convince the City to change a Specific Plan for its particular project and its particular site in the middle of the update process?” 

The March 8 staff report did not list the project address. 

“I have spoken to several residents that did not realize the project would be heard on March 8 because the address was not listed,” wrote Meagan Foker on behalf of Livable Pasadena. 

Only 20 people attended an open house on the project, according to one letter.

“I know it’s hard to get more participation from the public, but we have to figure that out,” said Mayor Victor Gordo. “I know it’s not something we control entirely but one of the issues raised was the lack of participation.”

Gordo called on the council to get the word out about updates to the Fair Oaks Avenue Plan.

The project was approved in January with a unanimous vote by the city Planning Commission.

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