PASADENA — The Board of Directors has delayed its decision on the controversial Rose Townhomes project in northeast Pasadena for two weeks to give the developer a chance to plan a smaller, more acceptable project.
In a stormy public hearing Tuesday, several board members appeared ready to reject the entire project because of Calmark Development Corp.'s unwillingness to shrink its 200-unit project--one of the largest ever proposed in the city.
But after three hours of debate, the developers agreed to try reducing the project by 14 to 20 units as recommended by the city staff.
Calmark President John Huskey originally argued that eliminating just two to six units would put his project on shaky financial ground.
"The number of units proposed is the minimum that makes the project feasible," he said at the beginning of the hearing.
But Huskey softened his position after he saw the board lean toward rejecting the plan and was told that the city might waive a $360,000 fee to pay for recreational facilities.
"I don't know if it can be done, but I'm optimistic," he said after the meeting.
The attempt to compromise with Calmark provoked an angry response from the 130 residents who had attended the meeting in hopes of persuading the board to kill the project.
"This delay is not acceptable," said Roland Zapata, one of the leaders of the neighborhood group opposing the project. "This should have been resolved."
Zapata and others were angered that the unusually large show of force at the hearing did not kill the project or reduce it to the same building density as the surrounding neighborhood.
The current proposal has an average density of 12 homes per acre. Residents have called for a density of six homes per acre, or a total of 96 units on the 16.4-acre site.
At the hearing, opponents of the project submitted a petition with more than 200 signatures. Last week, an identical petition with 400 signatures was submitted to the city clerk.
"I'm disappointed with the whole process," Zapata said. "All of a sudden, Calmark has been able to buy time."
The new hearing on the project, located just north of Pasadena High School off Washington Boulevard, is scheduled for Sept. 27 at 4 p.m. Director William Paparian, whose district includes the project area, recommended the unusual Sunday hearing to make it easier for residents to attend.
Zapata said opponents also intend to pack that hearing to keep pressure on the board.
But if the developers manage to reduce the project by 14 to 20 units, the residents may be in for another disappointing encounter with City Hall.
Most of the seven board members have already indicated that they will accept such a reduction if several design problems are solved, such as narrow street widths and small yards.
Only Paparian has refused to accept the 14- to 20-unit reduction, but even he conceded that reducing the project further is politically unlikely.
The Rose Townhomes project is on the eastern fringe of a residential neighborhood on school district property. The site, which will be sold to Calmark for $9.3 million if the project goes through, is one of the largest tracts of vacant land in the city.
To lessen the project's impact on the community, Calmark has proposed building 20 single-family homes facing the existing neighborhood. Those lots would be developed at the same density as existing homes.
But inside the development would be 180 higher-density, attached single-family homes.
The homes would range in price from $149,000 to $205,000. The company estimates that the project would add 500 residents to the area.
The proposal has won the support of several board members, including Director Kathryn Nack, who say it would provide badly needed housing for the city and money for the school district.
School Board President Noel Hatch said the board plans to use the money for an endowment fund that could provide $13 million over 20 years.
The district has already budgeted $400,000 for next year on the expectation that the project will be approved and Calmark will buy the land.
The project's detractors say it is poorly designed and would be too crowded.