Against the advise of its attorney, the Glendale City Council has agreed that no further environmental study is needed of what may become the largest housing development in the city's history.
The council decision means that a compromise plan for the proposed 588-unit Hensler-Macdonald subdivision in the San Rafael Hills could receive final approval within two months. The compromise involves building an emergency access road from the subdivision to the Chevy Chase Canyon area instead of an open street.
Glendale City Atty. Frank Manzano warned the council Tuesday that state law requires the environmental impact of any change in a subdivision proposal to be studied, a process that could take another six to eight months. He said that, without further study, the legality of the project could be challenged in the courts.
Manzano pointed out that homeowner groups blocked another subdivision proposed for the same site because a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled in 1979 that the city should not have accepted another compromise on road construction without further studies.
'Cast on Bruised Leg'
However, David Grant, an attorney representing the current developers, argued that enough study, 15 months' worth, has been expended on the project. He said any further study "is like putting a cast on a bruised leg. Sure, it's safe, but it's not necessary."
While there was no vote taken on the issue, council members agreed that limiting access to the roadway to emergency vehicles is not a change substantial enough to require further study. They said they would rather risk the chance that the project might be challenged in court than delay the developer further.
The proposal was sent back to the city Planning Commission for a public hearing in January and is expected to be brought before the council again in February.
Developers Richard R. Hensler of Sun Valley and the S. T. MacDonald family of Montrose asked the council to expedite approval of the project or reject it altogether. Consultant Marlene Roth of Pasadena, representing the developers, said, "We do not see any reason to prolong the discussions and hearings" on the subdivision.
The compromise on the roadway was proposed by developers in an effort to win one more City Council vote needed for a zone change. The subdivision of single-family homes, duplexes and town houses was approved by the council Oct. 1 by a vote of 3 to 2. But a necessary zone change requires the approval of four council members.
Mayor Jerold Milner remains unrelentingly opposed to the project because, he said, it calls for too much clustered housing. But Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg, who also voted against the subdivision, said she would support a zone change for the project if access to the mountain roadway is limited. A majority of residents polled by homeowner groups said they are opposed to opening a new road, which they fear would bring crime and speeding cars to their secluded canyon neighborhoods.
Willing to Compromise
Councilman Larry Zarian, who has been most vocal in pushing for an open road, said he is willing to compromise on one that is at least suitable for emergency use.
The proposed roadway would extend Mountain Street 1.5 miles east of the Glendale Freeway near Glendale Community College to Camino San Rafael.
In other action Tuesday, the council overrode objections of residents in unanimously approving a zone change to permit a 264-unit complex of town houses and apartments on the Field School site, vacant since 1981 because of underenrollment. The Glendale Unified School District has agreed to lease the site to developers for 65 years at an annual income of $610,000.
Traffic, Crime Complaints
Neighbors complained that the development, proposed by the Howard-Platz Group of Glendale, will increase traffic and parking problems in the area, which, they said, already is congested. Opponents also claimed that the number of children in the neighborhood is increasing and that the school may be needed.
However, Vic Pallos, a school district spokesman, said projections indicate that districtwide enrollment will increase by only 100 to 200 the next several years. He said the elementary school-age population in the Field School neighborhood is decreasing. Pallos said that earning income for instruction, equipment and supplies by leasing the school site "is more advantageous for the district."
The 4.8-acre school site is considered the premier parcel of developable real estate in the city.