A proposal for a 50-home development in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains was denied by the Glendale City Council this week because of concerns about limited access to the property and potential danger from fires, floods and earthquakes.
Council members voted unanimously to turn down the proposed Glendale Markridge Estates development. The single-family homes would have been built at the northern boundary of Glendale on a 38-acre site north of Markridge Road and East of Cook's Canyon.
Council members said they feared the single entrance road proposed for the development could become blocked in the event of fire, flood or earthquake.
"I believe there is a great, great, great potential for people to be trapped in that area," Councilman John F. Day said during a three-hour public hearing Tuesday evening. "I'm unwilling to take upon my shoulders the risk they will experience."
The property was the site of the Hillcrest Sanitarium from the 1930s to the 1950s. The vacated sanitarium buildings were demolished in 1967, and today slabs of concrete and rusted steel reinforcement rods are scattered across much of the site.
Marlene Roth, a project consultant, said a Glendale ordinance setting a maximum 15% grade for city streets would prevent developers Dick Maxwell and Robert Feinberg from building a second road through the steep hills surrounding the site.
An alternative road would require a span bridge across Cook's Canyon and would increase the cost of each home by about $40,000, Roth said. None of the council members favored that option.
High Risk Cited
A Planning Commission report, which recommended denial of the project, warned, "There will always be a high risk of fire, flood, mud and debris" at the site.
At the same time, however, the report stated, "Storm drain and debris control systems would substantially reduce flood and erosion hazards."
Removal of native brush on the site and requiring non-combustible roofs on the homes "would all serve to improve fire protection to the area," the report said.
Chris Gray, a battalion chief with the Glendale Fire Department, told council members that a 500,000-gallon water tank proposed by the developers would meet the needs of firefighters and would make more water available for fighting blazes in the surrounding neighborhood as well.
Of the more than 40 neighboring residents who attended the hearing, four spoke against the development and four in favor.
"This is just another example of the paving over of Southern California," resident Lois Leek told council members. Leek said the traffic generated by the development "is going to be terrible to live with."
Ginger Dotson suggested that the city consider purchasing the property and developing it as a park.
'Valuable to the City'
"That would be adequate use of land that would be valuable to the city," she said.
Others opposing the plan said they are concerned about possible earthquake hazards posed by the Sierra Madre fault line that cuts across the property.
But Roth said none of the homes would be built on the fault. Water and gas lines leading to the homes would be equipped with automatic shut-off valves and each home would be reinforced according to state standards, Roth said.
"These homes would be safer than those across the street in the event of an earthquake," she said.
Roth also pointed out that more than 50% of the property would be maintained as open space despite city zoning laws that would have permitted nearly 150 homes on the site.
Resident Dean Darr told council members that he favored the development and would like to move into a home there.
"As far as hazards, I don't understand the concern of the neighbors," Darr said. "The hazards would be to the people buying the land. . . . If there is a hazard, that's a choice they have to make for themselves. It should not be for someone five blocks down the street to make it for them."
Saying he also supported the development, resident David A. Morelli added, "I feel that a lot of the neighbors' concern is adding on to an existing neighborhood."
Before voting to deny the proposal, Councilmen Larry Zarian and Jerold F. Milner said they hoped the developers would submit a revised plan for the site.
"As we know, there is a tremendous shortage of homes," Zarian said. "And I would like to see this type of development because it enhances the community."
After the hearing, developers Maxwell and Feinberg said they will discuss options with Roth before deciding whether to submit a revised proposal.