The possibility of building a new development that could include Home Depot at the former Avon distribution site on East Foothill Boulevard drew an overwhelmingly hostile response from the nearly 200 citizens gathered at the Pasadena City College Community Education Center Wednesday night .
The meeting was hosted by Vice Mayor Gene Masuda, who said it would be the first of many meetings to take place as concrete development plans emerge.
The nearly 14-acre site, which opened in 1947 and closed in 2013, is one of the largest development sites in the city, said planning director David Reyes, who pointed out that ‘there were “no current plans for anything on the site, and no requests for anything were submitted.
Reyes admitted meeting with representatives from Home Depot, a development team and land use attorney Richard McDonald last week.
Outlining the current 2015 20-year master plan, Reyes said Pasadena currently is shifting development more toward transit-oriented neighborhoods and developing less than in previous years.
Additionally, Reyes said, the city created a new zoning designation — known as R&D Flex Space and Parks — for high-tech companies. The new designation, as the name suggests, aims to attract high-tech companies to the area. Reyes admitted, however, that the city won’t be able to attract 14 acres of high-tech tenants, “But we’re hoping to get at least some,” he said.
The Avon site, due to its size and location, would earn a floor area ratio of 1.25, which means that with its size of 590,000 square feet, a total of 750,000 square feet of development would be permitted, in any number of commercial, retail, or residential configurations.
To qualify for the FAR rate, the flexible R&D space in development must be greater than the commercial component, Reyes said, which would make it difficult to have an R&D space consistent with Home Depot’s size needs.
The R&D designation allows for a number of uses by a wide range of industrial uses such as light manufacturing, research and development, desktop and incubator creative industries, and limited ancillary commercial and office uses, Reyes added.
Reyes noted that big-box retail is not permitted in the East Pasadena D2 subzone. But, he noted that the Avon site is D1, and would allow for a development the size of a Home Depot store.
Any development application, Reyes said, would require CEQA and EIR compliance which would require at least two public scoping meetings), design review with a minimum of three public meetings, Planning Commission decision with a minimum of two public meetings, and a minimum of three public meetings of the municipal council.
Attorney Richard McDonald confirmed at the meeting that Home Depot is “part” of the buyers, who are currently doing their due diligence and looking at various development options.
McDonald also pointed out that the development team, in addition to talking to Home Depot, is also talking to Caltech, as well as Innovate Pasadena, in hopes of creating new qualified R&D spaces, “from 2000 to 20,000 square feet,” he said.
“We’re trying to find the best use of space for R&D spaces,” McDonald said.
The development team, whose members McDonald’s refused to disclose, citing solicitor-client privilege, also retained local architect Stefanos Polyzoides who is trying to create scenarios that would work in Big Retail. Pos and small high-tech spaces.
“We looked at large retailers and small retailers, mixed-use and residential as well,” McDonald said. “We are not done looking at various scenarios, including restaurants and small-scale retail developments.”
A show of hands at the meeting showed almost unanimous opposition to a Home Depot store on the site.
Vice Mayor Masuda said he would withhold judgment on any development at the site until official plans have been submitted.