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One-Family Homes Fall to Boom in Apartments

April 25, 1985|LARRY GORDON | Times Staff Writer

Raymond and Vera Wells' time-worn three-bedroom house on North Jackson Street in central Glendale has caught the eye of real estate agents with clients hungry for property zoned for multiple units but now occupied by single-family houses.

"They have tried and tried to get us to sell our house. They practically demand it," said Vera Wells, 76. "But where are we going to move? What good is it to sell if we couldn't afford to live anyplace else?"

Vera Wells only has to look out her window to see that many other neighbors in the same dilemma have decided otherwise. Across the street, workmen are putting the finishing touches on a small apartment house. Next door, the same developer is digging the foundation for an eight-unit building and behind the Wellses' backyard are two recently occupied apartment buildings. Single-family homes once stood on all those lots.

"It's real sickening to think about it," Wells said of the changes in the neighborhood where she has lived for 33 years.

Pressure to Sell

With economic conditions much improved for the construction industry and builders wanting to beat the deadlines of imminent--and more restrictive--rezoning in Glendale, the pressure to sell has increased in recent months on owners of one-family houses in apartment zones.

"I have more developers than I know what to do with looking for property in Glendale," said Bea Jue, a senior saleswoman at the Coldwell Banker realty firm. "There is a real surge of them wanting to come in and build on R-4 land," which permits the highest residential density.

For the first three months of 1985, building permits have been issued for 612 apartment units in Glendale, a 423% jump from the same period last year, city records indicate.

With many of those units in buildings of not more than about 10 apartments, there has been a big backlog of city plan checks and building inspections. As a result, the council last month allocated $76,000 to pay overtime and to hire outside consultants.

'A Real Zoo'

"It's been a real zoo. I've been working 55 hours a week," said Alexander Pyper, the city's building superintendent, who supervises the permit process.

The increase in rental construction is also reflected in other parts of California, where lower interest rates and increased demand for rentals have caused multifamily housing construction to outpace single-family home building for the first time since 1973.

In addition, with the condominium market thought to be saturated, investment in rental housing is attractive again.

Glendale has its own factors adding to the trend, say officials, builders and real estate agents. First, office buildings along upper Brand Boulevard are beginning to be filled. New employees there are deciding that they would like to live close to their jobs but cannot afford to buy houses or condominiums.

Second, Glendale's reputation as a relatively safe community with good schools is attracting many new immigrants, especially Central Americans and Armenians. In addition, builders like the fact that Glendale's conservative City Council is unlikely to enact a rent control ordinance, even though the vacancy rate is less than 1%.

But most important, perhaps, builders are afraid of the much-discussed proposals to make zoning consistent with the city's more restrictive general plan. Developers want to pour concrete before any new rules are approved, which is expected within a few months.

Builders 'in a Panic'

"Once they heard about the rezoning, builders ran for their lives and secured permits. They were really in a panic," said Mark Grigorian, a structural engineer who is doing consulting work on about 25 apartment projects in town and is building his own 18-unit complex on East Harvard Street near Adams Street.

Joe Mandoky, president of the Glendale Board of Realtors, said: "A lot of people are concerned about the consistency plan. So the people who want to develop their property are developing it now. But, of course, they also don't build unless they expect to make money. And there is a real demand for rental housing."

Mandoky said there is some concern among builders that too many apartments will be built in the Glendale market this year. But he said he expects any glut to be temporary as increasing numbers of office workers move into the city.

Lower Densities Planned

In large areas of Glendale south of the Ventura Freeway, city planners are proposing that the allowable building densities be dropped so that 1,750 or 1,250 square feet of land, depending on the neighborhood, would be required for each apartment, compared to 750 square feet required now.

For example, Grigorian said his project would have to drop to 12 units from 18 if the proposed zoning changes were on the books. He said that would have made his project less feasible.

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