PASADENA — The controversial Rose Townhomes project won the approval of the Planning Commission last week, but not before the commission imposed several conditions that could cost the developer additional time and money.
In a unanimous vote, the commission decided that the 184-unit project, which has been strongly opposed by nearby residents, meets the land-use guidelines laid out by the Board of Directors and the city's long-range development plan.
But the commission also agreed with the project's opponents that it will pose problems for the neighborhood and the city if it is built at its current size and density.
To offset the problems, the commission decided to add three major conditions to the 32 that had been previously imposed.
The earlier conditions governed such things as landscaping requirements and restrictions on the hours when construction could take place. The conditions imposed Wednesday night include a requirement that the developer, Calmark Development Corp., either pay a $264,000 fee to improve nearby parks or increase the amount of open space in the project; pay a share of the cost of street improvements to nearby Woodlyn Road, and post an unspecified bond to ensure that all the city's conditions are met.
The commission's decision was greeted by cheers from residents who have opposed what they call a "rabbit hutch" housing complex.
"I feel pretty good," said Roland Zapata, one of the leaders of the neighborhood group fighting the project. "They have really taken the time to listen to the residents. It is the first time someone has listened to us."
But others expressed frustration that the commission did not go far enough in imposing conditions on the developer.
"The best alternative would have been for them to reject the whole deal," said Amos Hoagland, another leader of the fight against the Rose Townhomes. "I don't think these conditions amount to a hill of beans."
But Hoagland added that he was pleased that the commission laid down additional conditions.
Calmark Vice President H. Scott Howell was clearly frustrated by the imposition of more conditions on a project that has been revised several times.
The Planning Commission in July approved a 202-unit plan for Rose Townhomes similar to the current proposal.
Last month, the Board of Directors gave preliminary approval to the project and to a zoning change required before the project could go forward. The board reached a compromise with the developer, reducing the project's size to 184 units and, in exchange, agreeing to waive the $264,000 park and recreation fee.
The Board voted 5 to 2 in favor of the project, with Directors Rick Cole and William Paparian in opposition. The project was sent back to the Planning Commission.
"They're flip-flopping," Howell complained.
He said he was not sure how the new conditions would affect the project, but he added: "It's still a good project for us and the city."
The project now goes back for a final vote by the Board of Directors, which can overrule the Planning Commission's decision.
Director Kathryn Nack, a strong supporter of the project, said she backed the plan originally approved by the board and was against any changes.
"The commission has the right to put in what it wants, and the board has the right to take it out," she said. "I think the developer has been done in. He was given clear instructions from the board on what density was agreed to and what conditions were taken out."
But Paparian, who opposes the project, said it would be wrong for the board to overrule the Planning Commission, which serves as the city's advisory body on land-use policy.
"We have delegated the responsibility of reviewing the project to the Planning Commission," he said. "Why did we send it back to them if we're not going to listen to them now? It means the system is a mere charade."
The project would be one of the largest housing developments in the city.
The town homes would be built on a 16.4-acre site on Washington Boulevard, just north of Pasadena High School, which is owned by the Pasadena Unified School District
The development would include 20 detached single-family homes and 164 attached duplex homes, ranging in price from $160,000 to $215,000.
According to Calmark, the design of the two- to four-bedroom homes would be reminiscent of the Craftsman-style homes common in Pasadena.
Opponents contend that there would be too many homes on too little land.
The Calmark plan would have 11 homes per acre, compared to a maximum of six homes per acre in the surrounding neighborhood in east Pasadena.
Opponents say the high housing density would create traffic and noise problems that would destroy the quiet residential quality of their neighborhood.
If the project wins final approval from the Board of Directors, opponents have vowed to fight it in a citywide referendum.
But proponents say the project would provide badly needed housing for the city and boost revenues for the school district, which stands to gain $9.3 million from selling the land.
School board President Noel Hatch said the district plans to use the money to set up an endowment fund that would provide about $800,000 a year to pay for school supplies, teachers or maintenance.
He said some of the money from the sale has already been budgeted for next year to retain several programs threatened by budget cuts, including the music program.