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Los Robles Avenue Development Back Before Council

Developer has promised to sue if project not approved

Published on Monday, February 10, 2020 | 4:10 am
A view of the project planned by developer Zhuang & Zhong, LLC for 253 S. Los Robles Ave., as originally envisioned. The plan's specifics have changed in subsequent plans. Image courtesy City of Pasadena

On Monday, the Pasadena City Council will once again consider an affordable housing concession permit that could facilitate the construction of a new 91,217 square-foot, five to six-story, 90-unit, multifamily residential building (including eight “very low income” units), with associated parking in a three-level subterranean parking garage, at 253 South Los Robles Ave.

According to a staff report recommending the concessions, the permit would allow developers to exceed the city’s allowable floor area ratio and increase it from 2.25 to 2.57 and exceed the maximum height of 60 feet to 75 feet.

The project includes demolition of an existing 43,544 square-foot office building on site.

The latest updated plans for the project came before the City Council last month but were not heard because several councilmembers were absent. It was rejected in July after several hours of discussion.

In a Jan. 11, email to Pasadena Now, a lawyer representing the developer, Zhuang & Zhong, LLC, said he’s prepared to follow through on a lawsuit if the Council does not approve the project.

“We have done our best to address the City Council’s concerns and hope they agree,” said Attorney Richard McDonald. “If not then we have no choice but to proceed with our lawsuit for the reasons stated previously.”

Chief among the reasons is McDonald’s contention that the project complies with state law and “state law is a mandate.”

Under state law, developers are granted bonuses if developers add more than the required number of local income housing units. Developers were asking for 21 extra units and two extra units for eight additional units.

“You have to give us concessions,” said attorney Richard McDonald in July, addressing city officials. “You have no choice, you can quibble about height, you can quibble about FAR (Floor Area Ratio). You’d have to have substantial evidence to deny them.”

The Madison Heights Neighborhood Association has argued that the project would bring excessive traffic and noise to the neighborhood and would exert a negative “cumulative impact” on the area. The development would be the third recent one in the area.

But according to the city’s staff report, the project will not cause a “significant impact.”

“The project has undergone modifications in response to issues raised during the Call for Review public hearing on July 22,” the staff report reads. “The modifications include reductions in height, density and floor area ratio.”

In November the project found new life when the Council voted 5-2 to review the project.

The city is currently in the midst of an affordable housing crisis.

“The applicant has made significant and meaningful adjustments to the plans associated with the project in response to the concerns raised by the Council and community, including adjustments to the overall height and massing,” the staff report reads. “The revised project is more respectful of the transition between the residential zoning district to the south and the Central District to the north and responds well to its surrounding context in terms of height. Through the required Design Review process, the massing of the building will continue to be refined to achieve the goals of the relevant design guidelines.”

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