MONROVIA — Further development on 171 acres in the foothills will be limited to 31 homes under a plan approved last week by the City Council.
The unanimous vote, culminating months of neighborhood meetings to quell fears about density and drainage problems, moves the city closer to completing a master plan for its hillsides.
The plan passed Tuesday is the third of four plans the council is adopting as guidelines for development of the hillsides. They cover four areas designated for study in 1982, encompassing 962 largely undeveloped acres.
The Norumbega plan adopted Tuesday deals with an area generally bounded by Norumbega Drive on the south, extending north of Mountain Avenue to the Bradbury city boundary.
The other three areas stretch north of Hillcrest Boulevard from the Arcadia city boundary east to Briarcliff Road.
Of the two plans approved earlier, the first covers the 95-acre Gold Hills parcel, extending north of Myrtle Avenue to Briarcliff Road. That plan preserves 35 acres as open space and divides the remaining 60 acres into 54 single-family lots.
The 356-acre Cloverleaf Canyon plan, approved in 1984, includes land north of Highland Place to Myrtle. That plan designates about 173 acres for development, leaves about 168 acres as open space and allows 21 single-family lots.
The Planning Commission has yet to begin surveying the 340-acre Madison area stretching west from Cloverleaf Canyon to Arcadia.
Lot-Size Policy Unchanged
The Norumbega plan does not change the policy of requiring that lot sizes in any foothill development average an acre. But because it will preserve 60 acres as open space, 69 fewer homes can be built than would have been allowed under previous criteria.
The plan specifies which land can be developed, and requires that a developer build a basin to collect vegetation swept down by rain and a $250,000 underground storm pipe from the basin to Sawpit Wash.
While residents applauded the city for addressing their concerns, some still regret the coming changes in the hillsides. The plan allows one canyon to be partially filled and some ridges to be demolished.
Gary Potter of Norumbega Drive lives near the lip of the unnamed canyon where the main building activity is expected. He moved there seeking tranquility and is apprehensive about the prospect of new homes around his 3-acre lot.
"We'd have deer, coyotes, come on our back yard or front lawn. When you're used to working in your yard all weekend and never seeing another soul, you come to appreciate that. Now it's going to be overrun, just like a regular neighborhood," Potter said.
Monrovia began studying the Norumbega area in 1983 "when we realized we would begin to get pressure for development," said City Manager James Starbird. He said Fred Bowden, a developer who owns 56 acres in the area that can be developed, has expressed an interest in building.
Said Bowden Development Inc.'s general manager, Bruce Adams: "We're pleased the specific plan was approved so we can move forward with our development plans."
Seventy-four single-family homes are scattered over 71 acres in the lower portion of the 171-acre Norumbega area. The remaining 100 acres, on steeper elevations, are undeveloped, according to a Community Development Department report.
The plan establishes a primary development area to be created by a new road extending north from Norumbega Drive east of Bradoaks Avenue and ending in a cul-de-sac.
Twenty-one homes may be built along the 2,000-foot road, which would follow an existing canyon bottom, then climb to a ridge. The heavily wooded canyon bottom would be filled to a depth of 20 feet, while the ridge would be cut by 25 feet.
The plan also provides for six housing units to be built west of the canyon and four east of it.
Rather than have piecemeal construction, the city wants a single developer to build all the homes, Starbird said.
A draft of the Norumbega plan was completed in 1984 but shelved until last year. The plan was approved by the Planning Commission in May but not sent immediately to the council because of residents' persisting concerns, especially about drainage.
The required basin would be built in the upper end of the canyon where the major development of 21 units is expected. It would catch debris swept down by the rain from 22 acres above.
A natural drainage ditch now carries water runoff from the canyon across Norumbega Drive and along the Bradbury side of the Monrovia-Bradbury border to Sawpit Wash.
Alice Clarno, who lives on Norumbega Drive, remembers a flood that inundated the lower half of her property and carried off part of the road in 1969. "It was just a raging torrent of a river," she said. "We couldn't even get out of our driveway."
The version of the plan approved in May would have required a pipe only down to Norumbega Drive. Hydrologists hired by the city reported that natural drainage can handle a storm big enough to occur only once in 50 years, creating runoff of at least 230 cubic feet of water per second. But in response to residents' concerns, the council decided to extend the pipe an additional 1,900 feet to Sawpit Wash.
The requirement for the drain pipe was welcomed by residents whose property borders the wash and who face flooding every 10 to 15 years, Starbird said.