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Highlighting Downtown Arcadia: New Business Friendly Zoning Code

Map of downtown Arcadia’s Downtown Mixed Use Zone. – Courtesy photo / Karin Yehuda, NAI Capital

By Tim Schwehr, Economic Development Analyst, City of Arcadia

For this week’s Highlighting Downtown Arcadia column, I’ve been invited by the Downtown Arcadia Improvement Association to discuss the City’s new Business-Friendly Zoning Code for the area, and some of the exciting opportunities it has created for the downtown. Adopted in November 2016 as part of a comprehensive citywide zoning update, the Downtown Arcadia Business-Friendly Zoning Code was created with the goal of bringing more mixed-use development to the area and incentivizing adaptive reuse of existing buildings. The new code seeks to accomplish both these goals through a number of important changes, including updates to permit requirements, approved uses, parking, and much more. Of these changes, I think three items in particular are most noteworthy and important for the economic growth and continued revitalization of Downtown Arcadia.

First, to encourage additional mixed-use development around the Arcadia Metro Station, the Downtown Mixed Use (DMU) Zone has been expanded to include properties on Santa Anita Avenue, Second Avenue, and La Porte Street. The larger DMU area offers new opportunity sites for transit-oriented development similar in size and scope to the mixed-use project currently under construction at the corner of First Ave and Wheeler.

Second, to promote a more vibrant nightlife and restaurant scene in Downtown Arcadia, the new code has eliminated the standard Conditional Use Permit requirement for all new restaurants and gastropubs. Within the DMU zone, these uses are now allowed by-right with just a simple business license application. Outside of the DMU zone, restaurants and gastropubs are now approved at staff level through a Minor Use Permit. Both processes are significantly less time consuming than the previous CUP requirement, thus encouraging new restaurants and gastropubs to locate in the area.

Third, a Downtown Parking Overlay has been added to the historic central core of Downtown Arcadia. The overlay eliminates parking as an impediment to adaptive reuse by allowing the ground floor of existing buildings to be converted to more parking intensive uses without having to provide additional parking or apply for a parking waiver. For example, an existing ground floor office unit or warehouse building can now be converted to retail, restaurant, or a gastropub by-right without having to worry about the amount of on-site parking. The logic behind the overlay is to leverage the city’s downtown public parking lots, street parking, Metro station, and the growth of rideshare in lieu of requiring each property to provide their own dedicated parking.  This is similar to how Old Pasadena, Old Town Monrovia, and other historic commercial districts operate, and has been a successful model for revitalizing these areas.

In conclusion, I’m happy to report that since the new Business-Friendly Zoning Code was adopted last November, the city has seen a noticeable increase in interest for both mixed-use development and adaptive reuse in Downtown Arcadia.  Working in combination with the Arcadia Metro Gold Line Station and the work being done by the Downtown Arcadia Improvement Association, the new code will support the ongoing revitalization of the area in the coming years.

(For more information on the Downtown Arcadia zoning or other economic development inquiries, Tim Schwehr can be reached at (626) 574-5409 or or on Downtown Arcadia Improvement Association visit

October 16, 2017

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