On April Fool's Day, 1986, Eagle Rock activist Kathleen Aberman climbed atop a treasured old Colorado Boulevard commercial building and tried to ward off a demolition crew. She was hauled off to jail, the brick storefront was destroyed and a mini-mall was erected in its place.
Since then, community leaders have pursued a less dramatic, more time-consuming approach to shaping development on Eagle Rock's main commercial street. In cooperation with city planners, they've put together a set of strict new building rules called the Colorado Boulevard Specific Plan.
The plan, which is nearing a critical final review by the Los Angeles City Planning Commission, would impose height limits and new parking and landscaping requirements. It would also encourage the preservation of historic buildings and protect adjoining residential areas. Along most of the strip, it would outlaw mini-malls.
For Aberman, the plan is a culmination of the community outcry that gathered force after she spent a day behind bars.
"What we learned is, that's not the way to do it," she said. "You have to work through the system."
To provide a stronger voice on development issues, Aberman helped organize The Eagle Rock Assn., which is represented on the advisory committee that worked on the Colorado Boulevard Specific Plan.
When the new development rules are adopted by the City Council, possibly in mid-1991, Aberman said: "We will breathe a sigh of relief that we don't have to worry whenever we see that something is for sale and wonder what's going to be built there."
But one major hurdle remains.
The advisory committee has urged the city to create a design review board whose membership would consist of Eagle Rock residents and business leaders. The group would make sure Colorado Boulevard building proposals are consistent with design guidelines for the area.
Early this year, city planning commissioners approved all other elements of the building guide. But the commissioners said they would not establish a design review board for the area unless the community comes up with a well-defined building style to impose on developers.
Robert Duenas, a Los Angeles city planner, said his department has proposed design review guidelines that would encourage Colorado Boulevard developers to use a brick building style, prominent during the early 1900s. Other building materials may be permitted in some cases, he said.
This design review proposal will be discussed by the Colorado Boulevard advisory committee at a public meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. today at Eagle Rock City Hall. The Los Angeles Planning Commission will reconsider establishing the design review board Dec. 6.
Under the proposed architectural guidelines, developers would be urged to include design elements that were common on old Eagle Rock buildings, such as exterior bands or ledges that distinguish between each story.
Jeanmarie Hance-Murphy, a planning aide to Councilman Richard Alatorre, who represents Eagle Rock, said city planners initially wanted to limit the design review board's authority to a few blocks where the brick architectural style is clearly evident. But she said Alatorre believes the review board should have jurisdiction over a larger central section of Colorado Boulevard within Eagle Rock, and Duenas said his department now supports that change.
The overall development guidelines would affect the commercial area between Eagledale Avenue on the west and Eagle Vista Drive on the east.
This stretch is home to an array of businesses, including mini-malls, carwashes, offices, inexpensive motels and restaurants, car-repair shops and neighborhood retail stores. The boulevard has a mix of older and modern buildings, some well-maintained and others in need of repair.
Supporters say the Colorado Boulevard plan will assure orderly construction of attractive new businesses if the development boom that has occurred in neighboring Glendale and Pasadena spreads to Eagle Rock.
Under the proposed plan, new buildings at the eastern and western ends of the strip could be no taller than four stories, or 55 feet. In the central section, between Windermere and Floristan avenues, the limit would be two stories, or 30 feet.
Strict new sign rules would be imposed, prohibiting gaudy outdoor displays. Along most of the boulevard, certain types of businesses could no longer be built, including auto-repair shops, storage yards, drive-through fast-food restaurants, mini-malls and rescue missions.
The central shopping area would be oriented to pedestrians, with landscaping in front and parking at the rear of the businesses.
"The character of old Eagle Rock was being destroyed by having parking lots facing the streets, instead of the quaint commercial frontages on the boulevard," said Jeff Samudio, an architect who represents The Eagle Rock Assn. on the advisory panel. "We're trying to encourage developments that would be compatible with the older buildings that have already been identified as historic structures."
Samudio and other members of the advisory committee urged the city to allow angled street parking, wide sidewalks, benches and street medians, similar to Glendale's Brand Boulevard. But city traffic officials vetoed that idea, saying angled parking would interfere with the traffic flow on Colorado Boulevard.
The Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce initially was concerned that rigid new building rules might discourage new development. But chamber President Kaye Beckham, who also serves on the Colorado Boulevard committee, said the organization does not oppose the final plan.
Still, she warned that the primary impact of the new guidelines would be only on new development and will not immediately rid the street of unsightly or undesirable businesses.
"We are trying to work with this. But it's not going to happen overnight," said Beckham, who owns a home health-care business. "It's going to take a lot of time."