A state appellate court has ruled that Glendale had the right to issue building permits for high-density development in neighborhoods even though more restrictive zoning laws were about to be imposed.
But the court also chastised the city and the state Legislature for permitting such development and suggested that the laws be changed.
The ruling, issued by the Court of Appeal in Los Angeles last week, blocks efforts by the Verdugo Woodlands Homeowners Assn. to halt construction of four-story apartment and condominium buildings in their neighborhood. William F. Hertz of Glendale, attorney for the homeowners, said he will seek a rehearing before the appeal court.
Homeowners sued the city last year after building permits were issued for several four-story developments in areas where new zoning laws, which had not yet been adopted, now permit only three-story buildings.
A general plan adopted by the city in 1977 calls for medium-density development in the neighborhood, but greater density was permitted by old zoning laws. After several years of study, the zoning laws were changed this year to conform to the General Plan.
The homeowners alleged that developers rushed in to build high-density projects before the zone changes took effect. Verdugo Woodlands, which is in the northeast part of the city, consists mostly of single-family residences, with some low-density apartment buildings and duplexes.
A record number of permits for high-density housing projects, including several in Verdugo Woodlands, were issued by the city last year before the new zoning went into effect. Homeowners sued after the Glendale City Council refused to impose a moratorium on new development.
Both a Los Angeles Superior Court judge and the appellate court upheld the city's action. The courts ruled that, although state law requires cities and counties to make their zoning laws consistent with general plans, the Legislature exempted most charter cities, such as Glendale, from the law.
In a published ruling, which means the opinion may serve as a precedent, the three-member appellate panel commented that the city "allowed a group of developers to hasten toward the finish line ahead" of zoning changes.
However, the court ruling noted, "While one may question the legislative wisdom" of exempting charter cities, a judge "could not substitute his will for that of the Legislature."
The ruling suggested that "the Legislature, in light of this situation in one charter city may well wish to re-examine the issue of the exemption for charter cities from zoning regulation."
Hertz said he will ask the court to re-examine its findings. He said the primary issue will be "whether development projects, not zoning ordinances, must be consistent with the City of Glendale's General Plan."