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Council Takes Up Continued Hearing About Certain Event Venues and Related Parking at Former Ambassador Campus

Published on Monday, February 24, 2020 | 4:45 pm

Pasadena’s City Council will hold another public hearing Monday, February 24, and possibly decide on the fate of a Conditional Use Permit that has allowed some public events at four designated locations inside the Ambassador College campus in Pasadena, and allowed parking at nearby areas, including Maranatha High School and Elk’s Lodge, to accommodate people going to the events at the campus.

The decision will not affect events held at the Ambassador Auditorium, which continues as a popular venue.

The CUP was originally granted in 2013 when those locations were owned by a single organization that obtained the CUP. These included the Merritt Mansion, Terrace Villa, Italian Garden and Fowler Garden, now under the management of City Ventures.

Currently, according to findings by the City after a series of inspections and public hearings related to the CUP, only Fowler Garden, an outdoor event space, remains under ownership of the applicant – Pasadena Lots 70, LLC – and is being used for event space. The other spaces have been sold, and since then, the conditions under the original CUP have changed, according to the Hearing Officer after a hearing on July 17, 2019, and according to the Board of Zoning Appeal which heard the case on July 26, 2019.

An agenda report prepared by the Department of Planning and Community Development showed the Merritt Mansion at the campus has been sold to a private party. Terrace Villa has also been sold to a separate private party, and building permits have been issued to utilize both structures as single-family residences.

Pasadena Lots 70, LLC, has also incorporated the Italian Garden as part of the recreational open space for an adjacent 39-unit, for sale, multi-family residential project that is now under private ownership and under the control of the homeowners association, the report showed.

Monday’s public hearing could eventually lead to a final revocation of the CUP, as recommended by the Planning and Community Development Department.

“It is staff’s determination that there are reasonable grounds for revocation,” the report said. “Based on the changed circumstances caused by the applicant, the findings contained in the original CUP can no longer be made in a positive manner and public health, safety, and welfare require the revocation. Furthermore, staff has determined that the use allowed by the CUP has become detrimental to public health, safety, and welfare, and the manner of operation is creating a public nuisance.”

The four locations inside the Ambassador College campus have been used for private events, such as weddings and receptions, since the CUP was granted.

The CUP included allowing up to 32 events per year at those locations, and approval for a maximum of 300 guests per day from Sunday to Thursday, and up to 500 guests on Friday and Saturday at the four locations.

Since the other three locations were sold, some of the residents in the area have written the City to complain about event impacts, such as noise, lighting, overcrowding, and impacts related to event set-up and tear-down. These complaints, among other factors, prompted the Zoning Administrator to determine that the circumstances under which the original permit (CUP No. 5535) was granted have been changed to a degree that the conditions in the original CUP “can no longer be made in a positive manner.”

The Zoning Administrator also determined that “the public health, safety, and welfare require the revocation of the CUP.”

Subsequent communication from area residents, including those from homeowners that compose the Ambassador Gardens Community Corporation, have also pointed out “significant nuisance” caused by events happening at Fowler Garden, and have expressed support for the revocation.

Recently, a group of area residents calling themselves The Residents of Ambassador Gardens also wrote Pasadena Now to state they support the revocation.

“The issue at play is about a developer trying to make more money on one side versus residents of the community this company built on the other, wanting to put an end to the amplified noise, traffic, trash, and other problems these events inevitably cause,” the organization wrote.

Monday’s public hearing at the City Council will be around 7 p.m.

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