Roof of the Alta Dena Express

The bright roof of the Alta Dena Express is the sort of color change that would be subect to Design Commission review if the ordinance passes. (Photo by Dan Siegal)

The La Cañada Flintridge Planning Commission Tuesday endorsed a possible zoning ordinance change that could require businesses to submit to Design Commission review when making changes to their existing building colors or installing outdoor furniture.

City planner Chris Gjolme explained the potential change as the “second stage of a three-stage process” initiated by the Design Commission to expand its scope of purview. Gjolme said the intent was to allow the Design Commission to review various design changes that currently go unregulated because they do not require a building permit.

Commissioners mentioned the Alta Dena Express drive-through dairy on Foothill Boulevard, the roof of which recently was repainted bright yellow, as an example of the sort of jarring color change that should be subjected to review.

Gjolme said that suggested ordinance change is an attempt to find, “A way to control extreme color changes to buildings along the [Foothill] Boulevard, but at the same time not to overcomplicate or burden things.”

Outdoor furniture visible from public right-of-ways would also be subject to review under the proposed change. Gjolme said that the intent is not to restrict a mom-and-pop business from putting out a few chairs, but to give the Design Commission the ability to review the appearance of outdoor furniture being installed by businesses like the Chipotle Mexican Grill on Foothill Boulevard.

There was confusion in the commission about the exact language and intent of the zone change, however, as the board debated the possible creation of a standardized palette of pre-approved colors that would streamline the approval process for new businesses. This idea was supported by Pat Anderson, president of the local Chamber of Commerce.

“I think it’s great. I think it shows that City Hall is making a great effort to be more user-friendly,” said Anderson. “In terms of the selection of colors, this has been a real source of irritation in the past, and I think the steps that they’re taking now will virtually eliminate that level of frustration.

Commissioner Michael Cahill was worried that this would restrict business’ freedom, and that it would not be worth the amount of time and money businesses would have to spend to submit to a Design Commission review before changing their building color.

“I think it’s too much government on too small of a thing,” said Cahill.

Gjolme said the matter will be back before the Planning Commission for further review before being brought before the City Council for a vote in October or November.

“I’m not too sure that the language [the Planning Commission] decided on is really what we want to see. It’s still sort of a work in progress,” said Gjolme.