By Mitch Lehman
San Marino Tribune
The San Marino City Council last Wednesday confronted an issue that they have been wrestling with in one form or another for several years: A proposed 7,118 square-foot, mixed-use project at 2024 Mission St. that is 90% dedicated to residential use.
By the end of the meeting, the Council decided to rescind the previous denial of the project by a 3-2 vote, effectively green-lighting approval for the two-story Spanish-style compound to be built.
The years-long battle over the project, which the Planning Commission initially rejected in part because of scope, scale and safety, came to a head recently after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled in favor of San Marino resident Justin Yi, who sued the city over the denial of the proposal.
After legal counsel advised the city against an appeal of the judge’s ruling, the Council’s hands were tied and had to overturn the previous denial due to a legal loophole the defendant found under requirements set by the state’s Housing Accountability Act.
While Mayor Steve Talt called the decision “absolutely wrong,” he added that the judge’s ruling was an interpretation of allowances under the new HAA guidelines, which are a “gross overreach,” and have upended local control of a city’s makeup and growth.
That said, Talt took heart knowing that the city is now safe from future legal maneuvers like the one Yi and his attorney managed.
“While I’m upset about this, we are not going to allow [this kind of building] to become precedent in San Marino,” Talt said, adding that staff struggled initially to understand the fine print of HAA requirements and deadlines, during a time that also was a period of transition in the planning department.
“Now we are educated about these new laws and are foolproofed from anything like this happening again,” he said.
He also emphasized that the project is on the outskirts of San Marino, and in a commercial district instead of a residential area.
The two-story project includes a first-floor 638-square-foot studio unit and a vast 5,934-square-foot abode spanning the first and second floor that wraps around a small storefront taking the remaining 546 square feet. Pasadena-based
architect James Coane designed the building.
This immediately ran in contrast with the city’s strict single-family residential zoning outside of the commercial zones along Mission and Huntington Drive. Indeed, the existing home on this property, 2404 Mission St., grandfathers the city’s current zoning for the lot.
The project is set to replace a one-story, single-family residence and a detached two-car garage.
CITY MANAGER SEARCH, PUBLIC WORKS
Acting City Manager Mario Rueda also reported at Wednesday’s meeting that 34 residents participated in a survey to help determine guidelines for hiring his eventual replacement. He said the City Council has received 41 applicants for the permanent city manager position, with interviews scheduled to take place over the next two weeks.
Rueda also pointed out that the city evaded a great deal of potential damage during the recent rains and windstorms.
“In addition to police and fire being on normal duty, public works have been included in that team,” said Rueda, noting that public works crews have been accompanying police and fire during night hours to assist in removing trees and branches from city streets.
“Every morning I would look at the streets and it was amazing how much debris had been removed,” Rueda said. “Thank you to the public works crew.”
He also reported on the city’s Easter Egg Hunt and Pancake Breakfast.
“We made 3,000 pancakes and cooked 280 pounds of sausage,” said Rueda. “It was a tremendous success.”
“I just saw kids smiling,” said Talt. “It was great.”
The City Council acknowledged National Library Week at the meeting. A celebration of 65 years of library service will be held on April 21 at the Crowell Public Library.
The Council also announced the cancellation of its April 26 meeting. Rueda added that the city will be holding budget meetings on April 21 and 28.
COMMUNITY CENTER ON TIME, UNDER BUDGET
The city of San Marino’s renovation project at the San Marino Community Center is on schedule and under budget, Rueda said, who added construction should be finished by September.
“Rain has slowed us up a little, but we expect [it] to open in September,” said Rueda.
The price tag for the renovation is set at $8,363,766, which will come from the city’s reserves.
The City Council awarded the construction contracts in early August 2022.
Originally dubbed the San Marino Centre, staffers voted at its last meeting to change the facility’s name to the San Marino Community Center.
Staff shared that community feedback has led to confusion, Community Services Director Cathi Johnson said at the meeting.
“Comments we received were ‘I thought it was a women’s club,’” Johnson said. “The remodel allows us an opportunity to rename and rebrand the building to clear up any of this confusion.”
The facility essentially functions as the community’s only multiuse community center dedicated to serving all ages and groups.