(Mod: Interesting and upbeat Pasadena Star News editorial. You may link here.)
Citizens in San Gabriel Valley cities are busy, same as everywhere. They may be concerned about changes in their communities, but they don’t have the time to puzzle out solutions to every little thing.
That’s why they elect fellow citizen to their city councils. The neighbors who so serve also have to get the kids to school, head off to work and then get dinner on the table in the evening, but they volunteer to address constituent concerns and to plow through reams of paperwork before each council meeting.
In Arcadia, an affluent, successful community with a good mix of small businesses, the major attractions of Santa Anita Park, a massive shopping mall and the county Arboretum along with beautiful residential neighborhoods, the City Council majority in recent years had not been doing a good job addressing citizen concerns about the plague of mansionization.
There’s nothing wrong with the all-American sport of adding on to your home. But unlike every other neighboring city, the Arcadia council had done a dismal job of addressing widespread concern about preventing building too-big houses on too-small lots. The city was in danger of losing what had been so appealing about its residential neighborhoods by clinging to a building code that is in conflict with its own general plan. Absurdly, a much-needed zoning code study was halted before it could be completed on the wacky pretense that a neighborhood group was suing the city over its failure to address mansionization.
Finally, last spring, a divided City Council adopted amendments to city building codes regarding height, setbacks, parking and hillside standards in addition to a few new regulations on basements and home size, which includes adopting a sliding-scale floor-area ratio.
And now, under the leadership of new Councilwoman April Verlato, a lawyer who formerly led the charge against bad, concrete-happy projects as an ordinary citizen, questionable development exemptions for size approved at the staff and Planning Commission are being called up to the council level and subjected to real scrutiny. Exemptions were supposed to be applied when an unusual lot shape prevented any additions. Instead, ordinary lots saw homes being built out to the sidewalk.
That has happily changed. Who says government is always up to no good?