After rejecting two earlier proposals, the Glendale City Council has enthusiastically welcomed a plan to build upscale town houses and apartments at the site of the vacant Field Elementary School.
The council on Tuesday informally approved initial plans by the Howard/Platz Group of Glendale to build 264 units on the 4.8-acre school site, considered the premier parcel of developable real estate in the city.
The council action moved the Glendale Unified School District a step closer to earning substantial revenues from the school property at 1039 N. Central Ave., vacant because of declining enrollment since 1981 and considered the district's most important unused financial asset.
If the project is approved by the city, the school district would earn $610,000 a year from a 65-year lease on the property. The district has been attempting since 1982 to market the property, which it considered especially valuable because of its large size and its location in what is regarded as one of the city's most desirable neighborhoods. The city, however, has placed stringent standards on its development.
Funds Not Earmarked
Three district officials, including Supt. Robert Sanchis, attended the Tuesday meeting to hear the council's reaction. They said potential funds from the property have not been earmarked because development proposals have failed twice before. "We're waiting for the money in hand," said F. Wayland Parsons, deputy superintendent of administration.
The Howard/Platz proposal calls for a series of two-story town houses along the streets bordering the project, with a four-story apartment complex in the interior. Developer Mike Howard said the plan would "create the illusion of mini-neighborhoods along the street scene" while hiding the taller apartment structures behind town houses.
Councilman John F. Day praised the proposal as a "very handsome project." He said that, even though the apartment buildings would exceed the area's three-story height limit, "that doesn't bother me a bit. We're plowing new ground with this concept."
OK Needed by Dec. 25
While the proposal will not be officially voted on by the City Council until after it is reviewed by city planners, Howard said he wanted to hear the council's reaction before proceeding through the lengthy planning process. According to the lease agreement, developers must obtain city approval of the project by Dec. 25 or pay the school district a penalty of $152,000 for a 90-day extension.
The development would require three zoning variances, including an exemption to the height limit. The others are an exemption to the development's required distance from the property line, and one involving the location of stairway walls. Planning Director Gerald Jamriska said Tuesday that he objects to the height of the proposed buildings and suggested that the developer be required to meet all city standards.
Jamriska in the past has been criticized by builders and council members for seeking what many consider to be overly restrictive controls on development. His comments on Tuesday drew reprimands from several council members, including Day. "I don't think you should be in the designing business. That's their business," Day told Jamriska, referring to developers.
The City Council in July informally rejected an earlier proposal by Howard/Platz to build a four-story, 254-unit apartment development and neighborhood shopping center on the site. Council members objected to both the high profile of the proposed apartments and to inclusion of a commercial project in the residential neighborhood.
But the four council members at the study session Tuesday said they like the new proposal, which includes no shops. Councilman Larry Zarian called the proposal "the best that we can do with that parcel."
A proposal by another developer failed last year when the council refused to issue tax-exempt revenue bonds to finance development of a 240-unit apartment complex, including efficiency apartments smaller than the city's required minimum size.