The Glendale Planning Commission has refused to give its blessing to a compromise that would allow development of the largest housing subdivision in the city's history.
Commissioners on Tuesday recommended by a 2-1 vote that developers of the proposed 588-unit Hensler-MacDonald subdivision stick to their promise to build a full road through San Rafael Hills connecting the subdivision to Chevy Chase Canyon. The vote rejected a plan for a limited-access road.
Developers originally proposed extending Mountain Street east of the Glendale Freeway to the end of the subdivision, providing a loop system of streets within the development. But the city planning staff has strongly recommended that Mountain Street be extended as a fully improved road to Camino San Rafael. Staff members say the new road is needed to provide alternative access to the subdivision because of its size and to relieve traffic congestion in Chevy Chase Canyon.
The subdivision was approved by a 3-2 vote of the City Council in October with the requirement for the full road. The city agreed to pay about a third of the estimated $4.4-million cost of the road.
But a four-fifths vote of the council is needed to approve a zone change for the project. Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg, who with Mayor Jerold F. Milner voted against the subdivision, said she likes the subdivision plan but is vehemently opposed to the full road. She said that such a mountain road "would become a speedway where people could toss out beer cans, Molotov cocktails or whatever else they want."
In an effort to win a swing vote on the council, developers in November proposed a compromise, offering to build a narrower road, for emergency use only. The limited-access road would save the developers--and taxpayers--about half the cost. In interviews, four of the five council members said they were willing to consider the compromise. Only Milner, who said he objects To clustered town houses in the hillsides, said he would not change his vote.
The issue was sent back to the Planning Commission for a recommendation.
An analysis of the proposed compromise by city departments found that a limited-access road "could be more of a liability than an asset." Police Chief David Thompson warned that a closed-off road would still be accessible to bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles and that the secluded area could become "a natural hangout."
Developers had hoped the commission would define details of a compromise, such as the width of the limited-access road. But, in an unusual speech before commissioners, Gerald J. Jamriska, city planning director, urged members not to give in to the demands of developers. He said, "One of the requirements and duties of a public body such as this is to look out for the public interest." He said cities would loose control over development "if we let applicants determine standards," and he cautioned commissioners to be wary of "certain self-motives" of developers.
Warning on Compromise
James Glaser, principal planner, also warned commissioners: "There is a time for compromise and a time not for compromise. You may lose on both sides. And there are some things you just don't compromise."
Commissioners Gerald Briggs and Lloyd Boucher voted in favor of a fully improved road. Commissioner Don Pearson opposed it. Newly appointed Commissioner Gary Tobian abstained, saying he lacks enough information. Commissioner Duane DeCroupet was absent.
A poll of Chevy Chase residents by homeowner groups found that residents are about equally divided on the road issue. Many are opposed to increased traffic in the Emerald Isle neighborhood, but others support an alternative route for the rapidly developing canyon area.
Despite debate over the traffic issue, residents have voiced support of the subdivision as the best of many proposed during the last two decades. The project calls for a mixed development of town houses, duplexes and single-family houses clustered in a valley area, and it would preserve 213 acres of the 316-acre site as open space.
The recommendation will be brought before the City Council on March 25.
Asked if she would reconsider her opposition to the full road in view of the Planning Commission and staff recommendations, Bremberg said, "Absolutely not. I have hung tough on that and I am not about to change."