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Saving Arcadia Sues City Over Controversial Two Story Home Proposal

 

This is not the first time mansionization has been challenged by a lawsuit, early last year the group Save the Arcadia Highlands sued over two proposed projects. - Photo by Terry Miller

This is not the first time mansionization has been challenged by a lawsuit, early last year the group Save the Arcadia Highlands sued over two proposed projects. – Photo by Terry Miller

 

By Katta Hules

Saving Arcadia, the anti-mansionization group, is suing the City of Arcadia. The suit, which is over the controversial proposed two-story house at 1101 S. Fifth Ave., alleges the project is in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the city’s General Plan.

“Our main concern … about the environmental impact of this project is that the city wants to ignore the cumulative impact that all this over-development is having throughout the city,” says Saving Arcadia President David Arvizu.

“This particular technique of suing the landowner and the city has worked before,” says Council Member Roger Chandler.

Early last year, Save the Arcadia Highlands, a smaller anti-mansionization coalition that would later give rise to Saving Arcadia, sued over proposed projects at 1600 Highland Oaks Drive and 29 E. Orange Grove Ave.

According to Mayor Tom Beck, the original Highland Oaks house was well maintained and “a great example of midcentury modern” by a noted local architect, while the Orange Grove property was “in a state of advanced decay” and had no historical significance.

The suit “packaged those two cases … into one lawsuit” and was settled by mediation.

In the current lawsuit, Saving Arcadia was approached by residents of South Fifth Avenue when they were informed about the project.

 

Neighborhoods of predominantly single-story homes have recently been threatened by mansionization efforts. – Photo by Terry Miller

Neighborhoods of predominantly single-story homes have recently been threatened by mansionization efforts. – Photo by Terry Miller

 

“The residents of South Fifth Avenue went through all the proper steps prior to deciding to file a lawsuit,” says Arvizu.

The residents appealed the planning commission’s approval, but were denied. They contacted the developer directly and “asked if he would consider a smaller, more compatible design that fit better into the neighborhood – he refused,” says Arvizu. After appealing to the city council and being denied, the residents “decided that their only recourse was to file a lawsuit.”

The project itself is a two-story, 3,588-square-foot single-family residence set to be built in an area that is largely single-story ranch-style homes. “This proposed new home sits in a relatively untouched area of south Arcadia and creates an unusual circumstance, in that it is not compatible with over 98 percent of the existing houses on the street,” says Arvizu.

“We can’t outlaw two stories [homes],” points out Beck, going on to say the proposed size, though “at the outer limits of reasonable for compatibility with the adjoining homes in the neighborhood,” would not be the biggest house on the street (one property is over 6,000 square feet) and “wouldn’t be the first two story home by a long shot.”

Will this case slow development in Arcadia?

“It’s going to have some chilling effect on a developer if they believe that any approval’s going to have a lawsuit filed,” says Beck, noting the recent rush on property seems to be waning. “There’s at least, from my observation, more homes on the market, staying on the market, especially high end ones … Development may be cooling for the reasons of supply and demand, independent of whether this is a deterrent or not.”

Council Member April Verlato disagrees. “We have more applications in Arcadia than any of our neighboring cities. So I don’t think that there’s a slow down, nor do I think that this lawsuit will create a slowdown. There are houses that are being proposed … every week that are getting approved. … This is not going to stop anything.”

 

Council Member Verlato, although not affiliated with Saving Arcadia or its lawsuit, supports the group’s decision. - Photo by Terry Miller

Council Member Verlato, although not affiliated with Saving Arcadia or its lawsuit, supports the group’s decision. – Photo by Terry Miller

 

Verlato, though not part of Saving Arcadia or the suit, supports it. “It’s representative of how a lot of people are feeling.”

Whether this issue will get to court depends on the developer, WC Investment LLC. The developer could not be reached at the time of publication, but Beck says, “they’ve indicated they want to fight this case.” He hopes it will get to court. “We need a lawsuit to proceed to a judge and get a ruling that the CEQA does or does not apply so that we don’t keep having the threat of lawsuits every time the city council approves a … new home.”

“We have to defend … our right to zone and approve or disapprove construction. It’s a basic right of every municipality,” says Chandler, adding, “This is the worst attack on city authority I’ve witnessed” since joining the council in 1986.

Arvizu says the residents of South Fifth Avenue “are not interested in a cash settlement, what they want is to preserve the charm and quality of life that they enjoy in their neighborhood,” adding they are “willing to take this all the way to court if the city and builder do not reconsider the scale of the proposed house.”

September 27, 2016

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5 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Saving Arcadia Sues City Over Controversial Two Story Home Proposal”

  1. Chang says:

    Roger Chandler is the worst attack on city government since 1986. He needs to be retired, like an old cow or horse. Give him some hay and water, clean up his manure and let him grow old and stay angry, but away from the public

  2. James Whitehall says:

    I listened to the last city council meeting and learned that a group of two dozen neighbors on Fifth Ave are opposed to the project. They want to see a new home built but one that is a bit smaller so it fits in better.

    They appealed to the builder, the owner, the planning commission and the city council, but their concerns fell on deaf ears. A lawsuit seems to be their only recourse to get a response. It could have been avoided and so I hope they are successful.

    A new large home will provide plenty of profit to the developer, satisfaction to the owner, and peace of mind to the neighbors. It ought to be a win-win situation for all.

    However, this is Arcadia where the ethos is “I got mine, so screw you.”

    That ethos is shouted with an exclamation point in the vitriol and public shaming dished out regularly by councilman Roger Chandler. What is the purpose of publicly berating citizens who exercise their right to speak in opposition on a civil matter?

    Mr. Chandler is a bully who cares only for greed and profits and not his legacy of devastation to Arcadia’s neighborhoods.

  3. Arcadia resident says:

    I recently attended a city council meeting where a few members of the community addressed the council. Sadly, Councilman Chandler belittled their point of view and even called one of them a liar. The accused had no opportunity to defend himself. Perhaps this explains why the residents of Arcadia are so reluctant to participate in their city government.

    There is a sign that says “respect” turned toward the audience in the council chambers. Respect should go both ways. It seems another sign is needed which should be directed to the council.

  4. Informed Arcadia Resident says:

    How come there is no mention that there are over a dozen neighbors on this street that SUPPORTED this project? Arcadia Weekly as always, been on the “anti mansionization” sixe. This one sided report is not truthful journalism at all. How about mentioning that this proposed project on 5th Ave. is well under the new FAR that was set by the City recently?

    Tom Beck lives in a 7,000 sf house and April Verlato lives in a 3,000 sf house and all of the sudden a 3,500 sf house gets proposed on 5th Ave. and it’s considered a mansion. There are always two sides to a story and the other side of the story never gets reported because it’s not sensational enough.

    Saving Arcadia is attacking our basic property right. The homeowner followed the City’s rules and regulations but gets attacked and named the bad person.

    Saving Arcadia = April Verlato. She started Saving Arcadia. Just because she “stepped down” you really think she has no more ties to that group? It’s probably her idea to sue the City. What a joke.

  5. Katta Hules says:

    Thank you all for your comments! It is interesting to see how much discussion this issue generates.

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