Invoking a 53-year-old law for the first time, the Glendale City Council has blocked construction of a controversial 104-unit apartment development on a three-acre hillside site in Verdugo Canyon.
In a unanimous vote, the council Tuesday ordered building permits withheld for a proposed apartment complex at 1905-07 Alpha Road. Developers had planned to obtain permits within the next few weeks, even though the city will soon change the zoning to prohibit high-density development of the site.
Area residents vigorously fought the proposed development, complaining that high density zoning is not compatible with their hillside neighborhood of narrow, winding roads.
Ellie Baker, a 20-year resident, gasped in relief at the council vote and exclaimed, "I'm extremely happy. I could cry."
Developer Marc Kogan called the council's action "shocking." He said he was unaware that the city planned to take action affecting his property. His consultant, Marlene Roth of Pasadena, said she was "really surprised that we were not notified."
The current zoning on the property and adjoining parcels permits development of apartments. But the city expects to lower the zoning to single-family development when a new citywide zoning plan is adopted by the City Council later this year.
Residents accused the developer of trying to start the project quickly before zoning is changed, but Kogan denied that. Several large apartment and condominium complexes were built in the area more than 10 years ago, including a 101-unit building next to Kogan's property.
In blocking development, the council imposed a provision in the city's 1922 municipal code that permits a building moratorium on any property that is to be lowered in density, or downzoned. Building permits for the apartment development would have been routinely issued by the city if the council had not acted.
The City Council in 1982 rejected as unsuitable a plan by another developer to build a 52-unit condominium project at the same site.
Since condominiums are considered to be subdivisions, City Council approval is required. But no such approval is necessary for construction of an apartment building as long as it meets zoning requirements.
When residents learned of the proposed development in November, they urged the city to block it. The complaints prompted the Glendale Environmental Planning Board--consisting of three city staff members--to order an environmental impact study on the project because proposed grading would exceed limitations.
The developer appealed to the City Council, which also ordered the study--at a cost of $29,000 to the developer and a six-month delay in the project.
More than 80 members of the Verdugo Woodlands Homeowners Assn. urged the council earlier this year to impose a moratorium on all new construction under provisions of the 1922 law until new zoning laws are adopted. But the city denied the request in the wake of strong protests from developers.
In a letter to the council this week, Public Works Director George A. Miller warned that the environmental study on Kogan's development had been completed and a public hearing had been set for next Thursday. Miller said the developer could seek building permits before the city acted on its rezoning study, which had dragged on for almost two years.
Without discussion, the council ordered building permits on Kogan's project withheld.
Kogan said he plans to take legal action against the city.