Dozens of confused and angry developers converged on Glendale City Hall on Wednesday after the City Council unexpectedly imposed a five-month moratorium on new moderate- and high-density residential development throughout the city.
City planning, building and zoning workers said their offices were inundated with inquiries over an emergency ordinance blocking some new apartment and condominium construction. "It's a zoo here," one City Hall employee said.
The ordinance was unanimously enacted late Tuesday by the City Council to thwart any attempt by developers to rush proposed new projects through the permit process before the city imposes stricter rules on density, landscaping and parking requirements.
City Manager David H. Ramsay said the moratorium was necessary to prevent a flood of rushed proposals similar to the record number of applications filed several years ago when the city undertook a two-year study that culminated in rezoning large portions of the city and lowered the permitted densities of new construction.
"Hopefully, we have learned our lesson," Ramsay said.
Projects Put on Hold
On the average, the city receives about two applications a day for multiple-unit development. But 23 requests for permits were filed in just two days after public notice of the proposed council action was posted Friday, according to Ramsay. "This is only an indication of what we are up against," he added.
The ordinance puts on hold all projects that had not been fully approved by the city as of Tuesday, including new applications filed in the last few days.
Glendale Planning Director John McKenna said he has "no way of knowing" how many projects are affected by the moratorium, which he described as a partial moratorium because it does not prohibit all new construction.
About 10% of the city is zoned for moderate-, medium- and high-density development, according to city officials.
Construction in the city's lowest density, multiple-unit zone is not affected--provided it does not exceed two stories in height--nor is construction of single-family homes.
All additions and improvements to existing buildings are still permitted, as are projects that have already been approved, McKenna said.
However, the action blocks any development that has not completely cleared the city's approval process.
For instance, a project may have passed all required zoning, building and engineering checks, but if architectural plans are rejected by the city's design review panel, then the development will be stalled and subject to the proposed new rules, McKenna said.
Developers have the right to appeal a denial to the City Council.
Special Study Session
The partial moratorium was imposed a week after the council conducted a special study session to look into concerns about recent developments in moderate- and high-density residential construction.
Residents and officials complained that developers are building larger-sized units in apartment buildings and condominium developments than was typical in the past. While the number of units still comply with zoning requirements, the larger space in the units accommodates more people, which in turn causes parking problems.
Officials said they are also concerned that requirements for setbacks from streets and property lines, landscaping and recreational space are inadequate for the larger projects being built.
City officials expect to develop new guidelines before the moratorium expires in February.
In other action, the council Tuesday unanimously approved a moratorium limiting development in a quiet hillside neighborhood to single-family dwellings.
The freeze, which will be in effect until mid-November, delays a developer's plans for a large apartment complex on Highline Road.