Glendale is planning to swap 6 acres of rugged open space in the Verdugo Mountains to a local developer for his private estate in exchange for cash and a small piece of "useless land," city officials said Wednesday.
Developer Sal Gangi has asked the city to exchange the large city-owned parcel at the top of an exclusive Oakmont View Drive development for a lot of less than one-third of an acre that Gangi has been unable to develop at the westbound Glendale Boulevard on-ramp to the Ventura Freeway.
Gangi has agreed to pay the city $190,500 for the exchange, City Manager James Rez said.
The city expects to turn the small freeway lot at 870 Monterey Road into a mini-park, Rez said.
"The swap will be mutually beneficial" to both the city and the developer, Rez said. He said the mountain property, which the city purchased years ago as open-space parkland, "is a problem piece of land for us from a maintenance viewpoint, drainage and all sorts of things."
He described the parcel sought by Gangi as "a tag of property that has no earthly good to the city. We have no use for it."
Rez said a deed restriction will prohibit subdivision of the parcel.
"Most of it is totally unusable, with a sheer drop-off," Rez said.
City officials said Gangi asked for the mountain parcel after he was twice denied city permission to develop his freeway lot.
Gangi told officials that he plans to build his private estate on the large hillside parcel, immediately north of a posh mountain development above the Oakmont Country Club.
Vacant view lots in the adjoining subdivision, which average about 50 feet by 100 feet in size, reportedly sell for $200,000 to $300,000, according to city officials.
The subdivision, which features large custom one- to 3-story homes, was first developed more than 10 years ago by Gangi and his partner, John Gregg, both longtime builders, officials said.
A large, Tudor-style home at the peak of Oakmont View Drive reportedly is being built as the personal residence of Gregg.
Gangi's personal estate, which one city official who asked to remain anonymous said "will out-Gregg Gregg," is to be built nearby.
Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg, who said the land switch has been discussed "for some time," predicted that the Gangi estate "will be gloriously big and elegant."
Gangi, who is vacationing in Hawaii, could not be reached for comment.
Rez said both parcels were appraised by an independent firm in January, which set the value of the freeway lot at $105,000. The mountain parcel was appraised at $295,500 and Gangi has agreed to pay the difference to the city in cash, Rez said.
Gangi purchased the L-shaped Monterey Road lot as surplus freeway land for about $6,000 more than 10 years ago, city officials said. He was later denied permission to build an office development on the site after nearby residents protested.
Gangi also failed to obtain city approval in 1986 to relocate the E.D. Goode House, one of Glendale's few remaining Victorian landmarks, to the freeway lot, again because of residents' opposition.
Gangi had planned to move the house from its original site at 119 N. Cedar St. and convert it into an office building.
The freeway lot "has been hanging fire for a long time," said Rez, who described the lot abutting a residential neighborhood and the freeway as "useless land." Rez said, "We thought we ought to talk about a switch."
He said the city plans "to landscape it and make it into a little green space."
In order to switch ownership of the parcels and permit Gangi to build his estate, the city will have to amend the Land Use Element of the General Plan and rezone the mountain property from its current designation for "recreation/open space" to "very low density residential/open space," said John McKenna, city planning director.
McKenna said his office was "informally requested" to expedite the general plan change by Rez, who will retire Friday after 30 years with the city.
Without discussion, the Glendale City Council on Tuesday routinely approved hearings on the land swap.
The hearings are scheduled to be held June 13 before the Planning Commission and June 28 before the council.