Foothill Boulevard, the main commercial thoroughfare in La Canada Flintridge, could be revitalized, with wide pedestrian walkways, lush landscaping and woodsy architecture, a design firm told the Planning Commission this week.
The city hired the Arroyo Group of Pasadena last year to study improving the boulevard's sleepy business district. City officials have long complained that many commercial buildings along the wide boulevard are unattractive, driving the city's affluent residents to shop elsewhere.
The group's designers presented detailed plans Tuesday that envision turning the 1 1/2-mile strip between La Canada Boulevard and Georgian Road into a spruced-up "village center."
An artist's rendering of the proposal showed existing retail shops transformed by a rustic, lushly landscaped setting. Improvements would include walkways covered with cobblestone-like paving, banners and potted plants lining the street, and fountains and shady trellises to create a relaxed ambiance for shoppers.
The consultants also suggested building recessed courtyards and installing wooden benches and sculpture, and asked the city to consider planting trees in the traffic islands that now divide Foothill Boulevard.
City officials said they do not yet know how the revitalization project would be paid for but hope to use money from the Proposition A gas tax or the city capital improvement program. The Arroyo Group study called for a joint program between La Canada Flintridge and its merchants to coordinate maintenance, promotion and security of the proposed Town Square.
Although the design would require formal approval from the Planning Commission and the City Council before implementation, commission members greeted the initial report with enthusiasm.
"I'm impressed. We're anxious to see more from these people," Commissioner Robert H. Craven said.
Several commissioners said the report neglected to address the burying of utility wires underground, which they called a priority. Also left unanswered was whether the city should build a landscaped center divider along Foothill and redesign the boulevard as a two-lane road, or whether it should maintain the existing four lanes and continue to allow street parking, which some commission members thought would be unattractive.
The Planning Commission expects to meet repeatedly with the Arroyo Group in coming months to refine the proposal and incorporate suggestions from commissioners and the public.
To alleviate at least some of the expected parking problems, the report recommended building two parking structures to accommodate about 200 cars each between Beulah Drive and Gould Avenue. It also suggested that church parking lots be used to accommodate shoppers during the week.
The City Council commissioned the $75,000 study last September in the wake of community debate over the development of Foothill Boulevard. That debate was prompted when the Sports Chalet, one of the city's major retailers, asked the city for permission to build a small shopping center at Foothill Boulevard and Angeles Crest Highway.
Although Sports Chalet later withdrew its proposal, fear of overdevelopment led a group of homeowners to draft Proposition A, a controversial ballot initiative that would have given residents the right to decide on permitting all commercial and residential developments of more than two acres. Proposition A was soundly defeated in last month's municipal election.