A draft plan for a controversial shopping center that the Sport Chalet sporting-goods firm is proposing in La Canada Flintridge was unveiled Monday--an important step in a continuing battle over commercial development that eventually may be decided at the ballot box.
Under the plan, a 50,000-square-foot Sport Chalet store would anchor a 9.5-acre shopping development at Foothill Boulevard and Angeles Crest Highway. The center would include four other retail shops, a restaurant, bank, Sport Chalet corporate offices, professional offices and a 500-car parking lot.
According to an artist's rendering, the two-story shopping center would have tiled roofs, wide archways, tall colonnades, a glass-domed atrium and a covered walkway leading from an expansive parking lot dotted with trees and shrubbery.
First Specific Plan
The informal presentation of the plan to the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Foothill Boulevard by Sam Allen, chief executive officer of Sport Chalet, was the first specific plan since the firm first attempted to replace its aging stores with a modern shopping center two years ago.
The Sport Chalet faces a tough battle in gaining approval for the shopping center. Opposition to the company's plans has led to a proposed Residential Preservation Ordinance that will appear on the ballot in the April municipal election.
The Foothill Boulevard advisory committee, charged with studying upgrading of the city's main artery and only commercial strip, was appointed in March as an outgrowth of the Sport Chalet controversy.
Allen, a member of the advisory committee and a La Canada Flintridge resident, stressed that the draft plan is not ready to be submitted to the city for approval and asked for community opinions in preparing a final draft.
Not 'Set in Concrete'
"None of it is set in concrete," he said. "There are a lot of things that haven't been engineered yet. It's just a beginning point to welcome input."
"The Village," as the shopping complex is dubbed in the draft plan, elicited compliments and criticisms from committee members.
"It's very pleasant to look at, but there's a lot of work to be done," committee member Audrey Hedges Tesenholtz said of the Spanish mission-style design.
But, judging from the comments of some audience members, the shopping center will never be acceptable to residents intent on maintaining the largely residential character of La Canada Flintridge.
"There are 4,000 people that have signed an initiative that will bring this issue to a vote of the people," resident Jerome Weinberg said.
If passed, the measure would require voter approval for zoning changes in residential areas for projects larger than two acres. The planned shopping center would be in an area designated for mixed commercial and residential use.
The Sport Chalet, a fixture on Foothill Boulevard that draws customers from around the Los Angeles area, has run into stiff resistance from nearby residents who fear that the proposed shopping center would increase traffic and crime in their neighborhoods.
Community activists are also opposed to the shopping center because it would require demolition of 22 homes just east of Angeles Crest Highway and north of Foothill Boulevard. The homes are owned and rented out by Sport Chalet owner Norbert Olberz.
The land is also occupied by three restaurants, a bank and several stores. Allen said those businesses would get first priority in renting space in the new center.
Olberz had requested a zoning change two years ago that would have converted the 9.5-acre site from mixed residential and commercial use to commercial planned development. Because of community opposition, Olberz was forced to withdraw that request last year and agreed to work with residents to develop an acceptable plan.
Operations Spread Out
The Sport Chalet's operations are spread out on both sides of the 900 block of Foothill Boulevard in five buildings that house Sportland sporting goods store, Sport Chalet ski shop, Sportrentals, Sportours tour-booking agency and a classroom where underwater diving instruction is given. A sixth building, one of the homes that Olberz owns on Marvin Street, is used as a warehouse.
Committee members were particularly concerned about the fate of the building that houses Sportland, on the south side of the boulevard, just across the street from where the shopping center would be built.
"It's got to be a package solution or it's no solution at all," committee member Larry Preble said of the plan affecting both sides of the boulevard.
Allen, however, had no answers to the committee's inquiries about the old store, except to say that it is designated for "low-intensity" use.