by Timothy Rutt
The Altadena Town Council rejected a conditional use permit for an Indian restaurant and banquet hall Tuesday night, following a lengthy hearing that included 44 people speaking against it, according to one tally.
The council followed the Land Use Committee’s recommendation and turned down the permit, saying that owner Nirmal Kumar was conducting a bait-and-switch, agreeing to abide by certain conditions while also changing the intended use of the property. The building is currently under construction at the corner of Altadena Drive and Washington Boulevard.
The council voted unanimously to send a letter to the Regional Planning Commission, recommending denying the permit. After being heard before the commission, the CUP request goes to the board of supervisors.
According to councilmember Amy Cienfuegos, who is also on the Land Use Committee, Kumar agreed to the original conditions of the permit when it was just for a restaurant with some retail space - no live music, no alcohol after 11 PM. Cienfuegos said that he later requested to change the CUP because the property was getting rid of the retail space and adding a banquet hall.
“In the beginning, he did not say anything about wanting to change to put a banquet hall in there,” Cienfuegos said. “Even when we were putting conditions [in], he never brought up a banquet hall.
“I do not believe he has the best interests at heart for the community,” Cienfuegos said.
Councilman Brent Musson said that the original plans, when it was just a restaurant with retail space, included a kitchen and bathrooms that were larger than standard for a restaurant, but suited for a banquet hall. “We didn’t know he would come back with a banquet hall plan.”
Kumar’s original CUP request was in 2012, according to Ken Roberts, who was on the land use committee at the time. He modified the request in 2013 to include sale of alcohol and live entertainment connected to a banquet hall, and the committee recommended denying the revised permit in July.
Almost 60 people spoke on the issue during the meeting, according to a tally kept by Councilmember Sylvia Vega: 44 against, and 14 for. (The council actually ran out of speaker request cards during the meeting). Many of those speaking against it were neighbors who feared loud music, late hours, and problems related to alcohol use in the neighborhood. Many expressed concern that the sheriff would be constantly called to handle problems at the site.
Kumar responded angrily that the project was “unlikely to succeed because the councilwoman from the area opposes it,” and claimed “prejudice” was behind the opposition.
UPDATE 8/24: Council chair Diane Marcussen wrote us:
It appears as if some Altadenans think that the ATC vote on Tuesday will hurt Dr. Kumar's ability to open the restaurant. It will not.
It's important to note that the CUP which the Regional Planning Commission approved early last year, which allows liquor to be served in the restaurant, remains in place. The fact that the ATC will recommend denial of the current CUP will not affect the previous approval of the original CUP.