After months of protest and debate, the Glendale City Council has overwhelmingly moved to kill zoning proposals that would have made it easier for car dealers in southern Glendale to expand into adjacent residential neighborhoods.
The council voted 4 to 1 on Tuesday to keep multiunit residential zoning on side streets within the 13-block area bounded by Brand Boulevard, Central Avenue, Colorado Street and Los Feliz Boulevard. Mayor Jerold F. Milner cast the dissenting vote, saying that the business expansion should be accommodated to prevent deterioration of the area.
The vote capped a battle between the many car dealers on South Brand Boulevard, who are the city's most important sources of sales taxes after the Galleria mall, and nearby residents who complained about noise, pollution and traffic generated by the businesses.
"We're very, very happy with the council," said Eleanor Miller, chairwoman of the South Glendale Homeowners Assn., which was formed to fight the proposed zoning changes. The group packed council chambers each time the proposal was discussed. Miller said her organization would try to remain a cohesive unit to block any individual zoning variances requested by car dealers if those changes would damage the neighborhood.
Auto dealerships line Brand and parts of Central within the 13-block area, but residents were concerned that the businesses would be extended onto side streets.
Miller, who lives on Acacia Street across from the repair shop for Star Lincoln Mercury, said she recognizes the financial contribution car dealers make to Glendale. But she urged them to "clean up their act" and to consider building multilevel garages on their properties instead of trying to buy nearby homes and demolishing them to put in parking lots.
The controversy began in the fall when city planners, as part of the continuing effort to make Glendale's zoning conform with the more restrictive general plan, proposed a CAR--or Commercial, Auto-Related--zone for the area. That would have allowed auto dealers to expand inside the 13-block area without having to apply for a variance, which they complained is unnecessarily time-consuming and expensive.
That set off an uproar by residents and some other businesses, which said auto dealers were being given special treatment. In February, the Planning Commission recommended that the CAR zone be dropped but that remaining residential zoning in the area be changed to C-3 commercial, which would allow non-auto uses as well.
In March, just before the April 2 municipal election, the council moved to postpone any decision on the politically explosive issue and asked the planning staff to provide more information on alternatives for the neighborhood. Last week, planners sent the council a report that backed away from the CAR or commercial zones, but recommended allowing commercial expansion on a lot-by-lot basis through the conditional-use permit process.
At Tuesday's meeting, Planning Director Gerald J. Jamriska explained that any request for a conditional-use permit would be subject to a public hearing and notification of neighbors and "has more checks and balances than a blanket rezoning."
On the other hand, he said, the legal grounds for granting such a permit are much easier than for a zoning variance. If neighbors protest changes and the matter goes to the council, he said, a variance requires a unanimous vote but a conditional-use permit requires approval of only three of the five council members.
However, after listening to a number of residents denounce any concessions to the car dealers, four council members voted to retain existing zoning and to change the general plan for the area from commercial to residential. They announced, however, that their vote should not be interpreted as a slap in the face to the auto industry and that they would be happy to consider variance requests from the dealers.
"Just as there may be some bad dealers, there may be some not-so-good neighbors," Councilman Larry Zarian said. He said he might reconsider the area's zoning if businesses expanded. "Sometime down the line, we may have to bite the bullet," he said.
Councilman John Day, who made his opposition to any rezoning the main issue in his successful reelection in April, said: "We are not driving car dealers out of town. Status quo remains."
Mayor Milner, however, called the vote shortsighted and said he favored the conditional-use permit concept. He said that it was unlikely developers would build apartment buildings in the area and that, without commercial development, the area would deteriorate.
The council will have a chance to reaffirm or change its vote when it decides on a citywide rezoning ordinance later this year. A switch from Tuesday's action is considered unlikely.
Jarrett Anderson, attorney for the local dealers association, said of the vote: I think this is a total step backward. The real losers are the property owners, not the car dealers, because property values will now remain low." His clients, he said, thought that the CAR zone was too restrictive and supported general commercial zoning.
Aulen Schlatter, executive vice president of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, which supported general commercial zoning for the neighborhood, said he was disappointed by the council action.
In several instances this year the council has backed away from rezoning proposals after neighborhood protests. For example, in March it voted to keep the Grand Central neighborhood a residential area although the 1977 general plan suggested it be changed into an industrial zone.