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City Council Proposes New Yearlong Development Ban : Ordinance Designed to Take Place of Invalid Moratorium

October 05, 1989|SANTIAGO O'DONNELL | Times Staff Writer

After the state Court of Appeal invalidated Glendale's year-old moratorium on apartment and condominium construction, the Glendale City Council on Tuesday introduced legislation to impose a new moratorium effective until Nov. 9, 1990.

"This time, we are going to do it right," said Councilman Larry Zarian, who introduced the proposed moratorium ordinance.

The moratorium would allow the council more time to continue searching for mechanisms to control the city's population growth.

The council also signaled through introduction of a second ordinance Tuesday its willingness to allow about 30 building projects now frozen by the present construction ban to proceed under zoning standards that were in place before it was imposed.

Although the moratorium was ruled invalid, the city does not have to issue building permits until its 15-day deadline to appeal the decision expires.

Postponed Vote

The council also postponed for another week a vote on the so-called Design Ordinance, which would terminate the present moratorium. The council wants to make its adoption concurrent with the two ordinances introduced Tuesday--the new moratorium and release of the projects frozen by the ban.

The new moratorium would become effective 30 days after adoption. To avoid a period in which developers could apply for building permits, the council asked planning staff members to prepare for consideration next week a resolution that would allow the city to withhold building permits until the new moratorium goes into effect. That resolution would take effect when it is adopted.

The Court of Appeal ruled Sept. 28 that Glendale had imposed its moratorium illegally because the council had not allowed five days to elapse between its introduction and adoption.

The court ruled that the council had the right to impose a moratorium on building construction, but chastised the city for enacting the moratorium as an emergency ordinance without a five-day waiting period to allow public input.

The proposed moratorium, like the invalid one, is intended to temporarily prevent a flood of applications for building permits while the city studies a zoning ordinance to limit the city's population to about 200,000, as recommended in the General Plan.

Council members said they need up to another year to draw up permanent limits because the zoning changes they are seeking will require land-use surveys, environmental impact reports, General Plan amendments and extensive public hearings.

In recent weeks, the council had been unable to agree on temporary zoning restrictions to replace the moratorium.

Three council members wanted to reduce by half the number of units allowed per lot, but the other two council members opposed that option, claiming that it was too drastic. The proposed moratorium is a compromise between the two positions.

Until last week's court ruling invalidated the present moratorium, council members had been reluctant to adopt a new one because city attorneys had expressed doubts that a new building freeze could withstand a legal challenge.

On Aug. 24, Planning Director John McKenna told the city manager in a memorandum that the city "could enact a new moratorium," but he added that the option is not defensible, said Scott H. Howard, senior assistant city attorney.

McKenna said Tuesday that his report was written before the court decision and thus "doesn't have a bearing on the current situation."

'Very Difficult'

Howard said last week that the city planner had misunderstood him. "I said it would be very difficult--not impossible--to defend a new moratorium in court without a solid reason to impose one," he said.

City Atty. Frank R. Manzano said the city's inability to accomplish its goals during the tenure of the present moratorium makes the new freeze susceptible to a legal challenge. "It's the time element," he said. "The courts might ask, 'Why weren't you doing this six months ago?' "

The spokesman for a group of developers that successfully challenged the moratorium said his group would not attempt to halt the proposed building ban.

"The city has the legal right to adopt the new moratorium," said Haik Vartanian of the Moratorium Litigation Committee.

"At this point, it's their decision," he said. "But they've gone through an entire year with an illegal moratorium and caused a great deal of suffering to the projects in the pipeline."

Vartanian said he was considering filing suit against the city for damages and lost profits caused by the present moratorium.

Council members were divided as to whether the city should appeal the Court of Appeal ruling.

"I think it's time to put this case behind us and move on," Zarian said. Councilman Dick Jutras agreed.

Court Ruling

But Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg said the city should appeal because although she agreed that the developers were entitled to proceed with their projects, the court ruling interfered with the city's right to self-government.

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