Responding to a grass-roots effort to stop apartment construction in two Glendale neighborhoods, the Planning Commission unanimously voted Monday for the most significant zoning changes since the city adopted its zoning consistency plan in 1986.
More than 80 homeowners petitioned the commission for changes in the zoning ordinance in the two neighborhoods, one in west Glendale between Glenoaks Boulevard and San Fernando Road, and the other in south Glendale in the vicinity of Highline Road.
Residents of both neighborhoods filled the commission's meeting room to capacity during the 5-hour evening meeting.
"It's a completely integrated neighborhood that will be destroyed if more apartments come in," said Carol Aguilar, a resident of Rosedale Avenue in west Glendale. "The developers do not develop, they destroy."
The commission voted to change the zoning in both neighborhoods from multidwelling residential to single-family residential.
Opponents to Rezoning
Developers and a minority of homeowners in the neighborhoods opposed the move, arguing that the rezoning would violate their property rights and prevent them from building additional structures on their property.
Albert Razzano, a developer who said he owns 5 acres in the vicinity of Highline Road, told the commission the proposed zoning change would lower the value of his property. "When I buy a Mercedes, I don't want it turned into a Chevrolet," he said.
But the commissioners sided with the neighborhood groups. Commissioner Gary Tobian said that steep and narrow streets in the neighborhood around Highline Road make future apartment construction impossible, and Commissioner Lloyd Boucher said the west Glendale neighborhood has a distinct single-family character that should be preserved.
Some commissioners expressed their concern, however, that in approving the zoning amendments they might encourage other neighborhoods to petition for similar changes.
"Are we now saying that if you get enough neighbors to come down and talk to the commission, then you'll get an R-1 zone?" asked Commissioner Don Pearson. "I'm concerned about zoning by referendum. I don't think it's necessarily good planning."
City planner Kathy Marcus said residents of both neighborhoods began arriving at the Planning Division's offices in July and August, in what soon became an unprecedented petition drive.
"In all the years I've worked here and processed zoning cases . . . this is the first time neighbors have gotten together like this, feeling the same way," Marcus said. "They made maps, wrote letters and petitions. They wanted to know how they should phrase things and asked for advice."
A zoning change in the 3-block, west Glendale neighborhood was requested in petitions signed by 63 homeowners in September. The planning staff reviewed the proposal and recommended that the commission approve the zoning change, Marcus said.
Residents said they began the rezoning effort because they fear apartment construction will eventually lead to the destruction of the neighborhood's modest single-family homes, most of which were built in the 1920s and '30s.
"This is some of the last nice, affordable housing in Glendale," said Suzanne Wallach of Rosedale Avenue. "We should preserve it." Marcus said another group of 10 Rosedale Avenue residents presented a counter-petition opposing the proposed zoning change. "I personally grew up in this neighborhood hoping that one day we would build an additional house in the back," Ray Hovespian of Rosedale Avenue told the commission.
Zoning in the area, made up of 89 residential lots on Newby Street and Rosedale and Willard avenues, was changed once before, from a mixture of single-family and multifamily residential to medium-density residential, when the city developed its consistency plan in 1986.
According to the Planning Division, two apartment buildings have been built in the area since 1986 and another project is under construction. The commission Monday denied a request made by Marlene Roth, a planning consultant, to grant an exception to developers David Nalbandian, Caro Adinians and George Derghazarian, whose efforts to construct an apartment building on Rosedale Avenue have been repeatedly blocked by neighborhood opposition.
Residents of the west Glendale neighborhood were joined at the commission meeting by members of the Verdugo-Highline Homeowners' Assn., who are seeking a zoning change for their area. Highline Road was the subject of a controversy earlier this year when another developer represented by Marlene Roth proposed construction of a 14-unit apartment building on the street.
The developer abandoned the project in the face of strong opposition from local residents and a ruling by the Glendale Environmental and Planning Board in July that required the developer to undertake a costly environmental impact study.
Al Berry, president of the Verdugo-Highline Homeowners Assn., said the move to rezone the neighborhood is a direct outgrowth of the effort to block the apartment project. "That's how it all started," he said. "We decided we'd better band together."
Roth said her client does not oppose the rezoning and has submitted a proposal to the city to divide the lot into four parcels for single-family homes.