By Katta Hules
This week the city council approved new changes to the General Plan and Zoning Code. Jason Kruckeberg Assistant City Manager/ Development Services Director called it, “the end of a very long and detailed process.”
The process started in 2014 with the goal to “to comprehensively update it and modernize it to bring it up to current development standards,” according to Kruckeberg. Certain sections were decided on separately, including the single-family development standards, which were updated in April, while short-term rentals and vacant home registry will be considered later.
The code was reorganized and now addresses emerging issues such as shopping carts being used outside of retail areas and aims to “make sure the high quality of development that you expect in this community is clearly articulated,” said Laura Stetson a consultant from MIG, an outside development firm. “We discovered a lot of inconsistencies and confusing language and so that is all been knit back together in something that should work much, much better.”
The code changes focus on some key issues. Firstly, helping Downtown “build on the success of the now-functioning Gold Line,” said Stetson. This included allowing more mixed-use buildings and creating more flexible parking and loading regulations.
Secondly, clarity for the average reader was improved using tables and graphics. Thirdly, electronic signage was limited to gas station price boards and reader boards for institutions such as churches and the chamber of commerce.
Additionally, the Santa Anita Westfield mall was zoned separately, letting it bring in non-sales tax generating businesses such as doctor’s offices and tutoring centers. The number of these businesses allowed is capped at twenty percent. “What we’re seeing across the country with shopping centers is an effort to try to create a place where you can do everything,” explained Kruckeberg.
Elon Feldman, a representative from the company thanked the council and staff, saying this will “greatly help Westfield adapt to the ever-changing retail market.”
The final issue was brought up by a group of residents from Foothill Boulevard who was upset because their four-house residential area, which is set back behind, and only accessible through, a commercial development was zoned as commercial. Resident Vince Law spoke for the group, saying “Because our houses [are] being changed to commercial zoning, we cannot get the same mortgage loan as other residential home owners and we cannot get the same insurance rate[s].”
Kruckeberg called it a “unique situation,” saying “the General Plan designated these four residential lots for commercial development because they read as one commercial property however, the zoning was residential for them, so to bring them into compliance six years ago, when the General Plan was adopted, they were designated for commercial zoning.” He asserted the new changes were only to the type of commercial zoning.
The residents said they were not told this when they bought their homes. The council suggested they put in a claim to change the zoning separately.
The code changes were approved unanimously. The council meets again Nov. 1 at 7 p.m.