The Glendale City Council this week urged developers, homeowners and city planners to strike an agreement on the final details for building the city's largest housing development in the San Rafael Hills.
Council members postponed action for two weeks on a request by developers to knock down a prominent ridge in the 316-acre Rancho San Rafael project after protests by homeowner groups and the unanimous opposition of the city Planning Commission.
The council, instead, urged that the warring factions come together with an alternative plan that would preserve the ridge while allowing the builder to construct the 588 dwelling units approved for the project last year.
More Single-Family Homes
The development has had a partial change of ownership since council approval was granted, and the new developers want to build more single-family homes while reducing the number of proposed duplexes and town homes. The approved plan called for 136 single-family homes and 452 duplexes and town homes. The latest plan proposes 257 single-family homes in a 555-unit development.
The builders, Homes by Polygon of Costa Mesa and the S. T. MacDonald family of Montrose, surprised city officials and homeowners two weeks ago when they proposed to slice up to 100 feet from the ridge to construct more single-family houses. Marlene Roth, a consultant for the developers, said the ridge is needed to meet 51 conditions the city imposed on the approved development, such as increased lot sizes and wider roadways.
The original plan would have left the ridge untouched except for a 40-to 60-foot cut for a roadway extending from Mountain Street at the Glendale Freeway east of Glendale Community College to the Emerald Isle area in Chevy Chase Canyon.
Opponents objected that homes built on the ridge would be clearly visible to nearby neighborhoods and destroy the rugged terrain of the hillsides.
The builders revised their plans this week, proposing that part of the ridge be retained to hide the profile of homes. But homeowners and the planning commission still objected, saying that any cuts into the ridge would mar the views and expose the development to other neighborhoods in the canyon.
Representatives of both the Chevy Chase Homeowners Assn. and the Chevy Chase Estates Assn. said their organizations, which represent all of the homeowners in the canyon, are unanimously opposed to cutting the ridge. Harold Levy, an author who has lived in the canyon 28 years and been active in neighborhood organizations, said the builders' plans would "desecrate a marvelous wilderness area and destroy our last vestige of natural land."
The planning commission on Monday recommended by a 5-0 vote that the City Council require a new environmental impact study on the proposal to cut the ridge line. But council members on Tuesday said they were reluctant to postpone the project for the study, which could take more than six months and cost developers more than $1 million. They urged, instead, that a compromise be reached.
Councilman Carl Raggio proposed the two-week delay in deciding whether to require more environmental studies or to approve the project. However, he said, "I don't want this to go on and on and on because it's too costly." Councilman Larry Zarian added, "It's time we make a decision."
A variety of controversial development plans have been proposed in the San Rafael Hills for more than 25 years. The current proposal would preserve more than half of the property as dedicated open space. Councilman Jerold Milner said the plan "may well be the very best that we can get."
Public hearings on the project were continued until June 29 before the city planning commission and June 30 before the City Council.