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Fighting City Hall Early : Neighbors Criticize La Canada's Plans for Lanterman House

August 06, 1987|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

An architect hired by La Canada Flintridge to study the feasibility of renovating the historic Lanterman house as a city hall and museum endorsed the proposal enthusiastically at this week's City Council meeting and said it would cost about $1 million.

Using the Lanterman house as a city hall and cultural center is "a natural way of bringing people into the facility," said James Spencer of the Pasadena firm Spencer & Arroyan.

On Monday, Spencer presented the results of his six-month study along with a slide show detailing renovation plans.

Termed 'Inappropriate'

His conclusions were quickly denounced by a handful of residents who live near the 1.3-acre Lanterman house and gardens, situated in the 4400 block of Encinas Drive. Those homeowners said that a city hall would bring traffic dangers, noise and general disruption to their residential streets.

"I think it's inappropriate for the neighborhood. I have a real problem with it," said Lucien Le Blanc, who lives down the street.

Spencer recommends converting rooms on the first and upper floors of the Lanterman home into offices for the city's 10 employees. He also recommends building a 30-car parking lot at the rear of the house and installing an elevator.

The architect also envisions a historical museum inside the house that would display extensive memorabilia left by the Lantermans, one of La Canada's founding families. The museum would include antique furniture, a Mexican government land-grant document from 1843 and a rare 1929 Wurlitzer organ with two consoles.

Avoid Large Crowds

A room downstairs holds up to 50 people and could host occasional cultural and musical events, Spencer said. But he recommended that the city continue to hold City Council and other civic meetings at Descanso Gardens to avoid drawing large crowds into the residential neighborhood.

At Monday's meeting, members of the La Canada Flintridge Historical Society and the Los Angeles Theater Organ Society spoke in favor of Spencer's plan. But others warned that they would fight it.

"You're asking for trouble. . . . There's a whole gang of people who live around here who . . . are going to be opposing you," homeowner Gordon Sanders said.

Several speakers also disputed the results of a city study predicting that traffic will increase only 26% if the Lanterman home is restored as a city hall. They said that additional cars will make nearby intersections dangerous and suggested that city officials install lights to control the speed and flow of traffic.

The debate first began when former owner Lloyd Lanterman willed his family's 73-year-old California Craftsman-style home to La Canada Flintridge.

Stipulation in Will

Lanterman, who died early this year at age 89, stipulated in his will that the city use the home for civic or community purposes. If the city is unable to come up with such a plan, it may risk losing the property altogether, officials say.

Council members say the Lanterman home would provide a city hall with the space and elegance they have long wanted and are optimistic that a solution can be reached. La Canada Flintridge doesn't have a permanent city hall but rents two offices on Foothill Boulevard for about $60,000 a month. City officials say the money saved on rent could be used to finance at least part of the restoration.

The Planning Commission expects to hold a public meeting within two months to allow residents to voice concerns and ask questions about the issue. The city also plans to undertake an environmental impact report before the year's end to address traffic, landscaping and renovation concerns.

Finally, the city plans to apply before the Planning Commission for a conditional-use permit to allow a civic use on the residentially zoned land. That would also require a public hearing and give residents a voice in the house's fate.

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