Can San Fernando become the next Pasadena? The city is making strides in its efforts to lure more pedestrian traffic with mixed-use developments built on city parking lots. The redevelopment agency is now negotiating final deals with two groups of developers to convert four parking lots into retail and residential property. The developments are similar in concept to destinations like Paseo Colorado in Pasadena, which houses restaurants like the Yard House underneath pricey condominiums. At the end of last year, the San Fernando City Council approved the Corridors Specific Plan, which will guide the reshaping of the city over the next 20 years. A two-mile stretch of the city was rezoned to allow for mixed-use development and a $1.3 million streetscaping project. “We had too much commercial zoning that was leading to the underutilization of certain portions of the commercial corridor,” said Paul Deibel, Community Development Director for San Fernando. “That, in combination with the existing demand for multi-family residential development . . . led to the strategy of revitalizing under-utilized areas within the commercial corridor and strengthening the core with a pedestrian-friendly shopping district.” A call for proposals from the city earlier this year produced applications from CMI Management Inc. in conjunction with another area developer and a separate application from Burbank-based Gangi Development. CMI and its partner are in discussions with the city to redevelop three parking lots, while Gangi is in talks to begin a project at a fourth parking lot. Deibel said the city is hopeful that it can conclude development agreements for the properties in the coming months, with development deals on two properties ironed out by the end of the year. Councilwoman Maribel De La Torre, who has been a driving force in the city’s reshaping over the last few years, said that the developments would fill the city’s need for housing and attract people who aren’t looking for single family residences. “Primarily our housing is made up of single family residences, we don’t really have condos, town home, lofts,” said De La Torre. “We find a lot of people are looking for those things, young professionals, single moms.” The development style, with one floor of retail and two or more stories of residences has been used in areas such as Pasadena’s Paseo Colorado. San Fernando would allow restaurants with alcohol permits, which were previously not allowed in the targeted corridors. Frank Gangi, president of Gangi Development, said the company is planning a $25 million development that would include 6,000 square feet of retail space with 99 condominium units on upper stories. Gangi said it will take approximately 18 months to complete the project, and he expects the company to work its way through the city entitlement process in about nine months. “The city is anxious for a quality development in their town, they want to maintain a certain type of architectural style, basically a Spanish mission style,” said Gangi. Developers would be required to retain the parking spaces currently provided by the city lots and provide additional spaces as the developments will require, Deibel said. The projects would likely include some underground parking. Gangi is best-known for its Media Village mixed-use development in the City of Burbank’s City Centre Redevelopment Project Area. That project includes 144 units of senior housing as well as retail and restaurant locations, it also includes a parking structure. Gangi said the company is currently building a similar project in South Pasadena with another developer. “When it’s used correctly (mixed-use development) is a very smart approach,” said Gangi. “It helps to eliminate blight, put focus on the downtown area and eliminate sprawl by providing much-needed housing.” Gangi said that mixed-use development will be a good fit for San Fernando because there is a large portion of young professionals who work outside the city but still want to live where they’ve grown up. De La Torre agreed, saying that although the median income in San Fernando is almost $24,000 less than areas like Pasadena, the new condos will find plenty of buyers. “Even though the median income is lower, it’s also related to the age of the community, which is about 28 years old,” she said. “What you’re finding is that the purchasing power of young people is pretty amazing.” She also noted that the median housing price in San Fernando is going into orbit, just like the rest of the Valley, and homes are finding plenty of buyers. San Fernando has spent the last several years trying to rehabilitate its image from a lower-income corner of the Valley to a vibrant community with an active downtown. The last few years have seen the creation of a new Mediterranean style commercial complex and its first Starbucks coffee shop. De La Torre led the fight to obtain state and county grants to build a regional aquatic center, and De La Torre said the city is on its way to becoming the Northeast Valley’s “downtown.” Earlier this year Congressman Howard Berman secured $2.54 million for the city to purchase a compressed natural gas trolley that will potentially provide transportation to the re-imagined downtown. It is De La Torre’s hope that it will be the beginning of a system connecting the entire Northeast Valley.
San Fernando Pinning Hopes on Mixed Use