A request by Glendale Federal Savings to be allowed to operate a heliport atop its corporate headquarters is pitting neighbor against neighbor in a nearby condominium building.
Residents of Monterey Island, an 88-unit high-rise on the north side of the Ventura Freeway, were furious when they learned in June about the proposed heliport. Helicopters would fly within 50 feet of some balconies, creating noise and safety problems, they said.
In the summer they voted unanimously to appeal a decision by the Glendale city zoning administrator granting GlenFed Inc. a conditional-use permit to operate up to eight flights daily from the roof of its 13-story building at 700 N. Brand Blvd. The building is only 300 feet from the 15-story condominium building at 222 Monterey Road.
But at a hearing before the city Board of Zoning Adjustments last week, an attorney who said he represents half of the homeowners asked that the appeal be dropped. The lawyer, James C. Fedalen of North Hollywood, said a group of homeowners had privately reached an agreement with GlenFed Chairman Raymond D. Edwards and no longer oppose the heliport.
The announcement angered other homeowners, who said they will still fight the flights.
"There's been a complete turnaround," said Don Waley, treasurer of Monterey Island Homeowners Assn. and an opponent of the heliport. "We feel betrayed."
Charges and countercharges have been exchanged in letters slipped under homeowners' doors.
"There are a lot of strained relations there," Waley said.
"It's just terrible," said Anne Burningham, who hired the attorney representing pro-heliport homeowners and now supports GlenFed's proposal. "Everybody is mad at everybody."
Opponents charge that allowing GlenFed to operate a heliport could start an unwelcome trend. Security Pacific Bank has a permit to fly helicopters to its headquarters on the south side of the Ventura Freeway, at 601 N. Brand Blvd., and opponents argue that one heliport is enough for downtown Glendale.
Richard Bressler, GlenFed's administrative vice president of corporate facilities, said helicopters are sometimes needed to transport documents or people. He called the Glendale building "the hub of our operations."
The zoning board last week approved the permit for GlenFed. Opponents said they will appeal to the Glendale City Council.
The rift among residents arose a month ago, when Edwards met with some of his most outspoken opponents and promised that when possible the choppers would use a western route, away from the condominium building. He agreed to stop flying at 7 p.m., an hour earlier than the original request, the homeowners' attorney said.
Edwards was not available for comment, but Bressler said the thrift is concerned that it "not disturb the neighbors and other residents."
That compromise satisfied Clement Joe, a 10th-floor resident who threatened to sue GlenFed over the heliport and organized a committee that gathered 300 signatures on petitions.
Potential Legal Costs
Last month, in a letter that warned of potential legal costs of $200,000, he urged his neighbors to accept Edwards' proposal.
A vote of building residents was inconclusive. The president of the building's homeowners association sent ballots to the 87 occupied condos. Of 49 ballots returned, 42 supported GlenFed's proposal, according to attorney Fedalen.
But Howard Cuneo, one of five homeowner board members, said 38 property owners did not vote and he charged that many residents were intimidated by the threat of legal expenses.
"A lot of people were scared to death of the legal fees it would take to fight this in court," Cuneo said. "Ray Edwards is a powerful man in the City of Glendale."
Cuneo and others have called for a general meeting of all owners at the condominium complex to discuss the dispute.