La Cañada Flintridge residents filled the Council Chambers again this week to question officials about a state mandate that requires the city to zone areas for low-to-moderate income housing.

Two weeks ago, concerned residents showed up at the Planning Commission meeting to push city officials to remove or change areas officials selected that would allow for various housing needs. City staff then made a few changes to the proposed new housing zones.

On Tuesday night, members of the commission voted to recommend the zone changes to the City Council. The City Council is expected to discuss the issue in January.

In response to a public hearing on Nov. 26, the city staff proposed to remove a section of property on Ocean View Boulevard from the list of areas being considered for a mixed-use building. Staff also proposed creating an overlay zone for homeless shelters that would exclude properties near schools and other sensitive places.

The city is not required to build affordable housing or homeless shelters. Yet it must pick zones where developers would be allowed to build such housing options. City staff and members of the Planning Commission have repeatedly said that they do not believe a developer would choose to build a homeless shelter or low-income housing facility in the affluent city.

But residents are worried about the possibility of a developer coming in and building affordable housing or a homeless shelter.

“Think, maybe, and probably are very scary words for this community,” Carolyn Baron told the commission.

Commissioner Rick Gunter said that California law requires every city to allow a homeless shelter in at least one zone, and the La Cañada is not allowed to discriminate or prevent the development of a shelter in any way.

“We are not permitted to say no,” he said.

The state law also prevents the city from setting minimum distance standards for a homeless shelter. But the city hopes that the creation of an overlay zone will address some concerns about the possibility of a shelter being built close to a school.

The city staff has recommended that the city allow for homeless shelters on a commercial area along Foothill Boulevard and not in residential areas.

Mixed-use buildings, which are seen in nearby cities like Pasadena, usually comprise of a business on the ground floor and apartments on the floors above.

The city staff recommends that La Cañada limit the height of mixed-use buildings in the city to three stories and promote pedestrian-friendly design.

The city must approve the updated housing element, along with the zone changes, by February.

The city must allow for 343 units to be built over the next eight years. Residents complained that the number was too high for a small city. City staff said they previously attempted to appeal the number of units allocated to the city, but lost. They did not meet requirements to appeal again this year.


Follow Tiffany Kelly on Google+ and on Twitter: @LATiffanyKelly.


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