At an imminent but as yet unscheduled “special meeting,” the South Pasadena Planning Commission will be asked for the third time this year to give its blessing to a major new mixed-use development downtown.
The 1.6-acre Seven Patios project would be built on a mostly rectangular lot south of El Centro St. and abutting the west side of Gold Line. The 79,500 square-foot complex includes one section with 57 residential units; another with three, two-story “family cottages”; a two-level underground garage with 177 parking spaces; and 6,100 square feet of retail space—half dedicated to a single restaurant.
The three-story building will not exceed South Pasadena’s 45-foot height limit.
Project developer Burke Farrar of Odyssey Development Services told the South Pasadenan News it also won’t include any affordable housing units. That means he won’t seek a “density bonus” to enable him to build more and smaller, probably rental units. Unlike Pasadena and elsewhere, he said, the market in South Pasadena is for families seeking larger units who wish to own. Moreover, adding more units would compound the traffic issues that have been the major concern of neighbors.
Odyssey must balance the demands of neighbors with those of the city council or others who may push for more affordable units. “The property will be developed,” he said. “The question is who will do it.”
The project features seven patios distributed throughout the complex. Farrar selected Pasadena’s Moule & Polyzoides as the architect for the project because it designed the Mission-Meridian Village project one block north.
The cottages would look like traditional Craftsman style bungalows. The eastern half of the long frontage along El Centro would be given a commercial look while the western portion would be Mediterranean. “We made a conscious decision to make it internally one development,” Farrar said, “but to make it like it is two separate things because if not, it would appear too massive and bulky” amongst neighboring structures. A variety of roof forms will also reduce volume.
Construction would require demolition of the 40-year-old, three-story office building currently leased by WNC Insurance at 899 El Centro St, along with a neighboring parking lot. It will also require removal of 20 trees representing 11 different tree species, most of which met the arborist’s highest rating for health and/or structure and include five that are over 10 inches thick. Odyssey is proposing to provide 95 “replacement” trees.
The plan also calls for consolidation of the three parcels on which the project would be built, all of which were purchased in 2018 from CCCC Growth Fund LLC for $13.5 million by DC El Centro Holdings LLC, whose organizers, according to public records, include Steven E. Fishman and James Li, who have also been attached to some of Farrar’s other projects.
Farrar, who has been a developer for over two decades, is working on behalf of three investors with whom he has developed several other mixed-use projects in Pasadena and Arcadia, including one currently under construction at El Molino and Walnut Blvd. He would not identify them but said they are longtime residents who live in San Marino, Pasadena, and Arcadia, including two USC graduates. The investors have attended some of the community meetings Odyssey has been holding with prospective Seven Patios neighbors.
Farrar said the main issue neighbors have raised is traffic. As a result, he designed the project to allow vehicle access into the project only along El Centro. Also, some people feel it is appropriate to park along Orange Grove Place and trespass over the existing office building’s parking lot to get to the Gold Line. The project will shut down that option, or at least require anyone still parking there to make a much longer trek to get to the station.
On June 24, the city issued a draft initial study and mitigated negative determination (MND) that said while project construction could create excessive noise and disturb significant tribal cultural resources, mitigation measures were identified to reduce these impacts to “less than significant” levels.
The city got 11 comments on the MND, including one from resident Delaine Shane, who turned her 37 years of environmental review experience on it and filed comments outlining in detail over three dozen specific concerns. Summarizing, she said the MND’s analyses of air toxins, potentially contaminated soils due to industrial and residential uses, hazardous waste practices, housing affordability, traffic, public utilities, and public services “are narrowly examined” and use the city’s General Plan “to opt out of any responsibility on the part of the developer to fully mitigate the project’s share of impacts to the community. It also appears that meaningful consultation with responsible agencies, such as L.A. Metro, were either not conducted or the consultant team failed to disclose the specifics to the public.”
If all goes smoothly with the Planning Commission, Farrar said, the project could get its entitlement documents before the end of summer and submit building permit drawings six months after that. That review will take six-to-nine months, meaning the project the project won’t start construction until summer of 2021 at the earliest.
Farrar acknowledged there is a possibility that Seven Patios will be under construction at the same time as the Planning Commission’s two other approved mixed-use developments downtown, Mission Bell and 625 Fair Oaks. “It’s an issue, but not one we can’t overcome.” It won’t shut the city down, he said. But lane closures will disrupt traffic.
The project will also require a conditional use permit, a design review permit, a tree removal permit, and a tentative tract map. It was originally set to go before the Planning Commission Aug. 11, and then again last week. Farrar said it was deferred again after public comment came in on the MND, prompting the city to send it back for further review by GPA Consulting, the city’s environmental review contractor.