Despite objections of residents and a state assemblyman, La Canada Flintridge officials refused Monday to drop their consideration of a controversial proposal to use the historic Lanterman home for city offices.
City officials have attempted in the past week to defuse the debate, which heated up after the city received a state grant to restore the home as a museum.
Mayor J. Bixby Smith said Monday that the city is putting the plan "on the back burner."
At a community meeting last Thursday to discuss an environmental impact report on six proposals for the home, Director of Community Development Bill Campbell refused to formally discuss the city hall plan.
Officials considered using the Lanterman home for city offices as a way of combining their need for new offices with their commitment to care for the home, which became the property of La Canada Flintridge when former city patriarch Lloyd Lanterman died in January.
Proposals for the house include restoring it as a museum; converting it into a combined museum and community center, a museum-organ recital hall or a combined museum and city hall; recycling it into single-family residential lots, and leaving the building the way it is.
Campbell discouraged any discussion of the city hall proposal at the meeting, saying the city was already aware of residents' objections.
Many of the more than 50 residents attending said they came primarily because of concerns that city offices would introduce traffic, noise and disruption into a residential neighborhood and because they were confused when the city hall plan was eliminated from discussion.
"Are you saying the city has given up on the idea of having city hall there?" asked Darrell Forgey, who lives across the street from the Lanterman home at 4400 Encinas Drive. "Are you saying it isn't a viable alternative?"
Campbell said that, although the city had not abandoned the plan, he thought the City Council was putting more weight on less controversial alternatives.
In an attempt to clear up the confusion, Smith said Monday that the plan is still alive but that more information has to be gathered on competing plans.
"We've told the EIR consultants to pull back on the combined-use plan and bring us up to the same level of knowledge on the impact of the other alternatives," Smith said. "It was right to say it was on the back burner in the context of Thursday's meeting, but at this time we have not prioritized any of them."
At Monday's council meeting, Smith said the city will resume discussion on the subject when the environmental report is completed in the next six to eight weeks.
Since January, when the city first discussed plans to use the Lanterman home for offices, residents have voiced loud opposition. Those plans met a new obstacle last week when Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) objected to the dual-use plan.
Funding for Museum
Nolan had inserted a $500,000 allocation to restore the 73-year old California Craftsman-style house as a museum into a bill signed by Gov. George Deukmejian last month. The assemblyman later said he was dismayed to learn that the city is considering moving its offices into the home instead of preserving it solely as a museum.
At Monday's meeting, Smith said the city would not use state funds to install city offices in the home.
"If, for example, it were to go into combined use, it's like you have two separate accounts, $500,000 to restore the house and our money to put city offices in," he said. "It's like you have two pots."
The city needs new space for its administrative staff, now crowded into two rental offices in a Foothill Boulevard commercial building. Officials are considering alternatives to moving into the Lanterman home, including renting space in a larger building, building a city hall and keeping present offices.
The state grant to restore the home as a museum, officials say, gives the city more flexibility to pursue the other proposals for the property's use.