ALHAMBRA — The city's ultimate population, set at 120,000 in a general plan adopted nine years ago, has been cut to 93,000 in a new plan drafted for the City Council. The plan would cluster high-density housing in the downtown area and reduce density elsewhere.
The plan, which represents the City Council's consensus after nine months of work with the consulting firm of Cotton/Beland Associates of Pasadena, has been sent to the Planning Commission for hearings. After the commission acts, the plan will come back to the council for final approval.
The city's population is now 68,000. In 1982, after the replacement of single-family homes by condominiums and apartments accelerated, rousing opposition, the council adopted a policy setting 80,000 as its population objective and made it more difficult to develop property for multiple-family housing. Then, last year, the council hired a consultant to bring the general plan into line with the reduced population goal.
Mayor Talmage V. Burke said that when the council and its consultants began looking at future land use in the city, it became clear that growth would carry the city beyond 80,000 residents. Councilman Michael Blanco said there is disagreement on the council over the population objective and 93,000 emerged as a compromise figure.
The proposed general plan envisions a slight decrease in single-family housing and a doubling of condominiums and apartments.
Burke said the entire council is committed to preserving neighborhoods of single-family homes in Alhambra, and the growth is going to be in multiple-family housing. The problem facing the city, he said, is how to regulate that growth.
Burke said the city's experiment of controlling multiple-family housing through creation of Residential Planned Development (RPD) zoning has failed and the proposed general plan recommends a return to more traditional zoning designations.
RPD zoning replaced the designations of R-2 for low density, R-3 for medium density and R-4 for high-density multiple-family housing in 1982. Under R-2, R-3 and R-4 zoning, the mayor said, developers knew the criteria they had to meet in order to build, but when RPD zoning was instituted, the criteria were blurred and all multiple-family proposals became subject to extensive hearings that invited neighborhood opposition. The result, he said, was that many development proposals were rejected.
The revised general plan calls for a return to separate designations for low-density, medium-density and high-density housing.
David Carmany, assistant city manager, said the number of units allowed in the high-density zone would be reduced from 43 per acre under the current general plan to 30. It is this change, he said, that is chiefly responsible for cutting the city's ultimate population from 120,000 in the 1976 plan to 93,000 in the new proposal.
But the plan recommends creation of a very high-density zone to continue to allow as many as 43 units per acre in part of the downtown area, which stretches from Atlantic Boulevard to Almansor Avenue between Woodward and Commonwealth avenues.
Two Classes of Singles
Burke said the intent of the very high-density zone is to encourage the construction of housing to meet the needs of "two classes of single people--seniors and the yuppies."
Burke, who owns a large number of rental units in Alhambra, said he hears all the time from people who have lived in Alhambra for years, have raised their families and are selling their homes and now want to move into apartments, but can't find any available.
Small apartments in the downtown area would meet their needs, Burke said, and also might attract so-called yuppies, the young, upwardly mobile professional people who prefer to rent apartments or buy condominiums rather than move into single-family homes.
By encouraging high-density housing downtown, the city could not only alleviate a housing shortage, but also revitalize its commercial center, Burke said.
"I remember when people used to throng downtown at night," Burke said. "Couples would walk hand in hand." But at night these days, said the mayor, downtown is "a desolate area."
Burke said high-density housing would accelerate a downtown revival that redevelopment has initiated. Construction of a major theater complex is under way, he said, and new stores are being built.