The San Marino City Council decided in a 3-2 vote to reaffirm the underlying residential zoning of six Huntington Drive businesses at 375, 415, 475, 825, 835 and 2233 Huntington Drive.
Despite the vote, no formal action was taken to correct the inconsistency between the land use map—identifying these properties as commercial—and zoning records for each of the six properties.
“We have documentation in the form of use variance documentation for each property identified, identifying each of the properties as residential zoning,” said Planning and Building Director Aldo Cervantes.
“We did not find any evidence or documentation to suggest that there was a zone change,” he explained.
A staff report on the matter also cited testimony from a former planning commissioner involved in the 2003 land use map update who said that the land use map was intended to designate the current uses of the properties and not the intended future uses.
This evidence had motivated Cervantes to consistently recommend an amendment to the land use map, which would change the land use designation of the six Huntington Drive properties from commercial to residential.
After more than a year of planning commission and city council hearings on the matter, Cervantes decided that at the council’s Sept. 14 meeting it would be best to leave it to the city council to decide on the best course of action.
The council chose not to adopt the general amendment or the necessary negative declaration, which showed that no environmental impact would result from a designation change.
The council did not approve a commercial overlay zone either, which was requested by the six property owners.
Kristina Kropp, an attorney representing the six property owners, urged the council to adopt the commercial overlay zone.
She held that it “would eliminate the possibility of high density residential or whatever other use [the council members] deem to be undesirable in these areas.”
“The commercial overlay zone would also preserve the value and investment of my clients’ properties,” she added, noting her clients’ concerns that these properties will lose market value.
Vice Mayor Richard Sun and Council Member Richard Ward—who cast the two dissenting votes—also supported the overlay zone.
“If, at the time, they were designated as commercial, then to me they are commercial. [The General Plan land use map] is a legal document and usually the zoning map should follow that,” Sun said, pointing to a 1993 zoning map that identified five of the six subject properties as commercial.
Sun suggested two restrictions for a new overlay zone.
First, in the case of a new development, that the minimum allowable lot size for one unit on these properties be increased from 5,000 square feet to 9,000 square feet, matching the density of neighboring residential lots.
Second, he suggested that the overlay be restricted for office space only.
Council Member Steve Talt voted to maintain the properties’ residential zoning.
“We have those restrictions right now, which are the variances,” said Talt, referring to the decades-old commercial use variances that restrict each property to a limited number of specific commercial uses.
“The variances allow [the property owners] to use [their properties] commercially, but they’re very restricted,” Talt noted, pointing to a 2004 zoning map that identifies only two of the six subject properties as commercial.
Talt also said that the stated goals of the city’s General Plan clarify the plan’s land use map.
“I think that the four corners of our general plan make it clear that these properties were always intended to be residential given the first goal that we have in our general plan is that we are to retain our residential neighborhoods,” he said.
Mayor Allan Yung and Council Member Steven Huang agreed with Talt.
“If it was commercial, why did they need variances? Therefore, they are residential properties,” said Mayor Yung.
“If there’s no problem, don’t fix it,” said Council Member Huang.
“We don’t know when we’re going to have another developer that wants to come to town and wants to make money off of San Marino, so I think we should keep it residential,” said Huang, alluding to the 2014 proposal to build a 9-unit condominium at 415 Huntington Drive.
Now that the city council has made its decision, it will be up to the individual property owners to decide on whether they want to apply for a zone change or pursue another course of action.
The city council will formally endorse its decision to reaffirm the residential zoning of the six properties with a resolution at the council’s October meeting.
Citywide Watering Schedule
At its Sept. 14 meeting the city council directed staff to draft a modification to San Marino’s watering schedule.
The council will hear the first reading of the modified ordinance at its October meeting.
If approved, the modification would allow residents to water their lawns three days a week instead of the currently prescribed two days. Odd number addresses would be allowed to water on Sunday, while even number addresses would be allowed to water on Saturday.
Despite the current city set two-day-a-week restriction, the city decided to temporarily allow residents to water three days a week after the state announced in July that it would permit water providers greater flexibility.
The council now has to decide if it will continue that policy.