‘A Highly Unsustainable Project’ | Residents Demand Stop to Moffat St. Extension in Monterey Hills

Residents who live in the neighborhood that lies on the South Pasadena/ Los Angeles border, vocalize opposition to a proposed new residential development

FILE PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | Micah Haserjian and his wife, Brenda Contreras, spearheaded the public comments regarding the Moffat St. residential project helmed by Planet Home Living

The prospect of extending a stretch of pavement along South Pasadena’s southern border in the Monterey Hills has generated opposition from neighbors concerned about their homes, traffic, wildlife and the loss of trees and green space. During the City Council’s March 4 public comment period, residents also raised questions about the level of communication and responsiveness they’ve gotten from the developer and the city.

A half-dozen neighbors told the Council they want to put a stop to the extension, permits for which are slated for review during the city Planning Commission’s packed March 10 evening agenda.

Michael Marini, CEO of project developer Planet Home Living, told the South Pasadenan News most of the neighbors’ complaints have already been addressed and that granting their demand would “put the city in a bad situation [because] it can’t give an easement and then take it away.”

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Newport Beach-based Planet Home Living is planning to build seven one-million dollar KTGY-designed modernist homes, each two-story, 2,300 square-foot structures on adjacent 5,000 square-foot lots it has acquired over the years in Los Angeles along the steep slope immediately south of the municipal border with South Pasadena. The homes would be served by a 600-foot private westerly extension of E. Moffat St., currently a short cul-de-sac along the southern boundary of town which turns first into Kendall Ave. and then W. Alhambra Rd. as it heads east to the city’s southeast corner. The extension would be built on five parcels held privately by existing homeowners in South Pasadena on the north side of the municipal line.

This is “a highly unsustainable project” Micah Haserjian told the Council. Noting the city “prides itself for planting trees” he said the extension would displace five trees, including a protected Southern California Black Walnut and two mature avocado trees. It would disrupt “a vast amount of wildlife” in the area including coyotes and bobcats that regularly use the existing easement. The extension would be a private street and as such “is not in the public interest,” he said. Moreover, “there is no accountability afterwards [from] either city.”

Haserjian’s wife, Brenda Contreras, said the extension would block access to their recently purchased home in Los Angeles; compromise its 88-year-old foundation; exacerbate ongoing water runoff problems on the slope; and include construction of a retaining wall five feet from their bedroom window. Because the homes would be in LA with only their access road in South Pasadena, the city “is not acknowledging the project as a whole” and improperly granted the applicant an exclusion from state environmental review. She said “there is no communication with the Los Angeles stakeholders.” Residents reached out to South Pasadena officials Nov. 1 and again in January but heard nothing back until the week before when they got notices of the Planning Commission meeting.

Both notices misstate the days when citizens can come to city hall to review the plans, which are not available online.

Two residents on nearby N. Maycrest Ave., including Ken Simoneit, said they oppose the extension because it would open the E. Moffat St. cul-de-sac to thru traffic dangerous to the children who currently ride bikes or skateboards there.

Nancy Ladner said the “row of box-shaped town homes” Planet Home Living is proposing would damage the character of the neighborhoods in both cities. Combined with the negative impacts on trees and open space, “whatever the city has to gain from granting the [extension] is not worth the cost to residents” in either town.

Planet Home Living’s Marini said his firm has previously attempted to contact all but two of the people who spoke at the city council meeting including Haserjian, who he said has repeatedly rebuffed his entreaties by phone and email. He said Haserjian’s real concern is that the extension would require destruction of a portion of the couple’s driveway and deck.

Haserjian acknowledged Marini’s efforts to contact him but said he’s been unwilling to meet Marini until he gets a more complete copy of the developer’s plans.

Marini also said the developer has already agreed to a tree mitigation plan to replace the Black Walnut with 16 new Oak trees pursuant to a formula the city provided. He rejected the notion the E. Moffat St. cul-de-sac, which extends almost to but does not join the north end of Lowell Ave., would be open to thru traffic. The proposal includes placing a barrier so there will be no thru traffic from Los Angeles via Lowell Ave. and the developer has already completed a traffic study under which the city has determined to put in new stop signs.

Marini is willing to talk to anyone with concerns and said Planet Home Living has met and set meetings with individual residents as well as having made presentations at two Los Angeles Neighborhood Council meetings, including one where some of the Wednesday’s complainants were in attendance. He sent new letters to those who spoke Wednesday to further solicit their concerns and has already made changes based on concerns from residents at the south end of La Fremontia, on whose land the easement exists. “We are doing our best.”

The new homes are not subject to any planning, zoning or design review approvals in Los Angeles because the lots are already “entitled,” involving no new mapping or subdivisions, Marinin added. Pending settlement of the Moffat extension issue, the developer has not filed for any Los Angeles building permits.

The developer has already worked extensively with South Pasadena on water, excavation, fire, access and other issues. The city turned down the developer’s 2014 request for city water. Under the current plan, all water and utilities will be served from Los Angeles.

The Planning Commission meeting will review the Planet Home Living’s applications for hillside development and tree removal permits.

The site has an unusual background in that decades ago South Pasadena had a plan to extend E. Moffat St. but never did—probably because it did not want to build a road that served only homes in Los Angeles, Marini suggested. In 1962 it vacated the street and dedicated an easement to reach the lots at issue, which would otherwise have been landlocked.


Ben Tansey
Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle.