The La Canada Flintridge City Council has rejected a proposal to hire an urban design consultant to evaluate the planned Sport Chalet shopping complex on Foothill Boulevard.
The decision came Monday night after the project's architectural firm of Feola Deenihan Archuleta presented a slide show on its plans for the site.
Councilmen Ed Phelps, who suggested hiring an urban design firm, and Chris Valente supported the measure. Mayor Edward Krause and Councilwoman Joan Feehan voted against the motion, saying that a consultant was unnecessary and could complicate the planning process.
Councilman O. Warren Hillgren, who was absent from the meeting, sent a letter advising the council to proceed as quickly as possible in its approval of the project without hiring the urban design consultant.
First Plan Voided
This is the second architectural plan for the site. The first proposal, by Van Nuys architect Donald Picken, was rejected in June when La Canada Flintridge residents criticized the quality of the proposed design.
Larry Kerker, a spokesman for Residents for Responsible Development in La Canada Flintridge, charged that Sport Chalet owner Norbert Olberz was trying to move the project through the council by January so that the issue does not become involved in the campaign for citywide elections in April.
Sports Chalet Chief Executive Officer Sam Allen countered: "The deadline is part of an overall corporate strategy for us. . . . We are opening three new stores in the near future."
Allen said the Sports Chalet will consider moving its La Canada Flintridge store if the company does not receive approval from the city Planning Commission by January.
"They decided not to hire an urban planner because they're feeling pressure from Mr. Olberz," Kerker said. "He said that if it's not approved by January, he's pulling out."
Olberz was not available for comment.
Phelps said he decided to contact an urban design firm for the Sport Chalet project because "this is the largest development that's ever going to happen here. I was concerned that there was not enough leadership coming from the top down."
The main dispute at the council meeting was over the architectural style of the complex. Millard Archuleta termed the project a village, but urban design consultant Michael Freedman, who came from San Francisco at Phelps' request, called the center a strip mall.
"They're trying to de-emphasize the apparent visibility and size of the surface parking lot," Freedman said. The center would include 888 parking places, 540 of them underground or in covered parking areas.
"That's sour grapes," Archuleta replied. "What we're solving now is an architectural problem, not a design problem.
"We have to be very careful to include only that input which is applicable," Archuleta said. "We do not want to design by committee."
The proposed $25-million project--which would be on a 11.75-acre site between Foothill Boulevard, Angeles Crest Highway and the Foothill Freeway--would include 55,000 square feet of retail stores on two floors and an 800-seat theater complex, along with the main Sport Chalet project.
In an attempt to counter opposition, the Sport Chalet sent 9,000 cards to registered voters asking their opinion of the project. Allen said that of the 288 responses the company had received by Monday, 208 approved of the project, 41 approved with reservations and 33 did not support it.
"The main reservation is traffic," Allen said. Some residents are also concerned about the movie theaters, he added. "Some people feel that they might attract undesirables."
Allen said one reason the company decided to include the movie complex is because "there's not much for young people to do in our town."
Archuleta estimated that the shopping complex could attract more than 300,000 shoppers annually.