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La Crescenta townhouse project sent back for a redesign

Residents and council members alike call the project too large and too dense.

October 25, 2013|By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com

A proposed 30-unit, three-story townhouse development in La Crescenta is going back to the drawing board.

The design for the development by the Olson Company, of Seal Beach, was rejected by the City Council members this week, who voted to send the project back for redesign during a hearing of an appeal of the Design Review Board's initial approval of the project.

The project was too large and too dense for the area, several council members said.

The project remains alive, but city staff is working to compile findings to officially overturn the initial approval. The project is expected to come back to the council next month.

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The development is proposed for an empty lot between Pennsylvania and Encinal avenues that has sat vacant since a proposed 23-unit project fell through in 2002.

The current project was submitted to the city in February.

In May, it received planning variances that were appealed by a neighbor in June. That appeal was withdrawn in July. After winning approval from the Design Review Board on Aug. 8, the project was hit with another appeal on Aug. 23.

During that time, the project attracted several opponents from the surrounding area who say they are worried that the project's density and design will negatively impact traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Susan Bolan, one of several speakers asking the council to uphold the appeal, said that the North Glendale Community Plan development guidelines were meant to ensure that buildings with fewer stories and less density were constructed in the area.

“We all know we can build this project per the zoning and height requirements and variances, but should we?” she said. “Please send this project back and ask that the number of units be reduced, or scrap it altogether.”

The appeal also claims that the project's variances were granted improperly and that noise and traffic impacts were not studied adequately.

City officials say that their traffic analysis and environmental study of the project were sufficient.

Eric Everhart, project manager with the Olson Company, said Tuesday that the withdrawal of the initial appeal — filed by a couple living directly to the west of the site — was a sign that the company had accommodated neighbors' complaints.

“We were very excited that the western neighbor was pleased,” he said. “This neighbor being the most impacted neighbor, it really does speak volumes.”

That didn't satisfy council member Laura Friedman, who said that she opposed the project even though the developer followed the rules because it just didn't fit the community.

“The problem is the massing and the scale. It's just too big,” she said. “I don't think it's what the greater community up there wants.”

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Follow Daniel Siegal on Google+ and on Twitter: @Daniel_Siegal.

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