SAN MARINO — The City Council has adopted an urgency ordinance that stops all new commercial development in the city for 45 days while officials ponder the effect of mini-malls that might increase traffic and parking problems.
The action last week halts, at least temporarily, plans for the city's first mini-mall, proposed for the corner of Huntington Drive and Winston Avenue, across the street from San Marino High School. It would replace a gasoline station.
Assistant City Manager John Nowack said a permanent ordinance is being prepared that would require a conditional-use permit for any change of use or major additions to existing commercial sites, or for any new businesses.
The urgency ordinance will not affect commercial construction already under way in the city or any projects that already have been granted building permits.
The permanent ordinance would give the city control over the development of small shopping centers that typically are built at busy intersections and house several small businesses and restaurants. The malls comply with San Marino's existing zoning codes, but City Manager Brice Stephenson said they have the potential to disturb the city's quiet residential character.
A public hearing on the proposed permanent ordinance will be held July 23 at a meeting of the San Marino Planning Commission.
"I think the city's concern is what type of uses there will be in commercial areas, and the impact on parking," Nowack said. "There also is some concern about all those students crossing the street."
San Marino is zoned only for single-family residences and commercial use, limiting commercial activity to three small areas, two along Huntington Drive and one on Mission Street at the city's western border. The city is studying parking problems along Mission Street and in the Huntington Drive area near Del Mar Avenue.
City's Top Priority
City officials said they realize that stringent regulation of commercial development could impose financial problems on a city that already suffers from budget constraints. But they said that keeping traffic to a minimum and maintaining San Marino's quiet residential character is a top priority.
"That's the way the city has chosen to operate," Stephenson said.
San Marino voters have approved two special taxes, one for police and fire protection and one for paramedics, in order to maintain services that would have been cut without the additional money. The bedroom community, which has no industry, has suffered financially because Proposition 13 passed in 1978 sharply reduced the amount of revenue it gets from property taxes and it has little other source of revenue.
Most other cities in the San Gabriel Valley have welcomed mini-malls, which bring many small businesses together and have increased the cities' revenue from sales tax. However, other cities have studied ways to control the parking problems and traffic hazards they present.