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Zoning Emerges as Top Issue in City Council Election

March 28, 1985|MARTHA WILLMAN and LARRY GORDON | Times Staff Writers

The proposed sweeping change in Glendale's zoning laws has emerged as the most important campaign issue in Tuesday's municipal election, separating candidates who appear to agree on most other major topics.

At the last Glendale City Council meeting before the April 2 election, Councilman John Day, one of two incumbents running for reelection, was consistently outvoted, 4 to 1, in his attempts to stop a citywide rezoning plan.

His stance provoked unusually harsh reactions from his council colleagues, including Ginger Bremberg, the other incumbent among six candidates competing for three council seats.

Day voted seven times on Tuesday against motions that involved rezoning. Zoning changes require four votes on the five-person council; Day said he would continue his efforts if reelected.

Mayor Carroll Parcher, who supports rezoning, is retiring from the council, opening the way for at least one newcomer and a possible swing vote.

Carl W. Raggio, president of the Board of Education and the person most other candidates consider to be in the lead to fill the third open seat, said he feels the council is moving too quickly to change zoning laws.

The other candidates--college professor Mark A. Doyle, teacher William Mulvihill and graphic artist Larry Lousen--also indicated that they might disagree with the council majority on rezoning.

A lack of other major issues in the campaign, coupled with election day occurring during the spring school semester break, may produce a turnout even lower than the 19% two years ago, some candidates say. Incumbents generally have a greater chance for reelection with a low turnout.

Day said the citywide process of bringing zoning into compliance with the 1977 general plan intrudes excessively into residents' lives and should be dealt with only on an area-by-area basis when special issues arise.

"My position all along on this entire matter has been that this council is doing tremendous harm to the citizens of Glendale," Day said.

Day conceded that he seconded the motion last year to begin the rezoning study, but said that he "was led down the primrose path" by the municipal planning staff and did not realize the legal consequences.

Other council members on Tuesday broke the usual congenial atmosphere at their meetings to criticize Day for what they said was his attempt to make political hay out of the disputed rezoning.

"We were not elected to make headlines. We were elected to make hard decisions for the City of Glendale," Bremberg said. "I'm afraid some candidate has politicized this, not to the benefit of the community we love."

She stressed that zoning proposals can be changed during the study period to accommodate citizens' desires. "You are making a mistake if you think we are taking the document as the Gospel According to Saint Jamriska," she said, referring humorously to city Planning Director Gerald J. Jamriska. "It's not."

Said Parcher: "It is highly unfortunate but perhaps inevitable that the issue has become politicized."

Current zoning laws would allow the city's population of nearly 150,000 to double. But the land-use part of the general plan would limit the population to 200,000 by the year 2010, so city planners have recommended that large areas of the city be downzoned.

No Immediate Changes

The Planning Commission and City Council are studying, in phases, proposed changes. Although the council has indicated its intent to adopt a number of proposed zone changes, nothing will be final until it moves on the enormous citywide zoning ordinance and map, which may not happen for several months.

Previously, Day had focused on a City Charter provision that requires a unanimous council vote on a zone change when 20% of the affected property owners object to the proposed change. Several of the proposals had provoked considerable protest from neighborhood residents.

Recently, Day asked City Atty. Frank Manzano whether the 20% rule applied to a particular area or the entire city. Manzano ruled last week that owners of 20% of all the property in Glendale, measured by street frontage, must file protests for unanimity to be required. City officials said it appears that the criteria has not been met.

It is uncertain how zoning will be affected by Parcher's retirement. But one thing is certain--there will be at least one council newcomer.

Slowing Changes

Raggio, 56, an aerospace engineering manager who supports zoning changes, said the city may need to slow the process. He said some areas of the city, such as the Verdugo Woodlands in the northeast section, should be downzoned to lower the permitted density of development.

He also said the city should study ways to compensate developers whose property values are lowered by downzoning.

Raggio said he also is concerned about parking problems and traffic congestion in the downtown redevelopment area--an issue he said "has to be taken care of almost immediately."

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