Citing concerns about fires, earthquakes, floods and limited access to the property, Glendale planning commissioners voted 3 to 1 this week against a 50-unit housing development proposed in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.
"I feel a development can be done up there that's more sensible and sensitive to the environment," said Commissioner Lloyd Boucher.
The vote followed a three-hour public hearing Monday in which nearby residents spoke for and against Glendale Markridge Estates, a single-family home development proposed on a 38-acre site at Glendale's northern boundary.
Situated east of Cooks Canyon and north of Markridge Road, the hillside property was the site of Hillcrest Sanitarium from the 1930s through the 1950s. The vacated structures on the site were demolished in 1967. Today, slabs of graffiti-daubed concrete and twisted steel reinforcement rods litter much of the property. "The worst we can do is improve it," developer Dick Maxwell said recently.
Limited Access Cited
Before the vote, Boucher and Commissioners Gerald W. Briggs and Duane DeCroupet gave limited access to the property as their major reason for voting against the project.
Only one street would lead into the site from Markridge Road, which leads to Lowell Avenue. The commissioners and some residents at the meeting said they fear that homeowners could be trapped in the development if the roadway leading to the site were damaged or blocked in an earthquake, flood or fire.
The three commissioners said they would have been more likely to support the proposal if a secondary route had been included.
But Marlene Roth, consultant for the project, said a Glendale ordinance permitting a maximum 15% grade for streets would prevent the developers from building a second access road from any of the steep hills next to the site.
The only other alternative is construction of a 300-foot span across Cooks Canyon, joining the proposed development with a nearby neighborhood that is not affected by the proposal. But, Roth said, in case of an earthquake the bridge would probably be damaged and "would not serve any benefit." None of the commissioners expressed support for that option.
Residents opposing the plan said they are worried about earthquake hazards posed by the Sierra Madre fault that cuts across the property.
But Roth said none of the homes would be built on the fault line, each would be reinforced to state standards, and automatic shut-off valves would be attached to all gas, electrical and water mains.
The homes, she said, would be safer than those nearby, some of which sit on top of the fault.
"I don't know what more they can do," said Commissioner Gary Tobian, who voted for the development. ". . . We are living in Southern California and there are faults all over Southern California. We do live in this area, and we do assume risks. As long as they adhere to state codes, I don't know what more we can ask."
Opposing residents also said they fear homeowners would be subjected to severe fire hazards since the property abuts the brush-covered mountains.
"The Fire Department never says in here not to develop the site," Roth said after the meeting, referring to the environmental impact report on the project.
Fire Department Report
An Aug. 4, 1986, memo from the Glendale Fire Department that is included in the EIR stated that ". . . cumulative effects of projects in this area will not affect our ability to deliver a full line of emergency services."
Bob Taylor, an 18-year resident of the area, spoke in favor of the project.
"If it's not this particular developer, then who will it be?" he asked.
"Will it be somebody interested in putting in a town-house project? . . . I think this is a well-thought-out project."
Glendale zoning laws would allow up to 130 homes on the site, Roth said. She also said that 53.1% of the site would remain as open space. The Glendale ordinance requires only 20% open space.
"I think the developers have gone a long, long way toward building an above-average project," Briggs said. "But, as long as it doesn't have a secondary access, I will not approve it."
The issue goes to the Glendale City Council, which will hold a public hearing Dec. 1.
The fifth commissioner, Don M. Pearson, was absent.