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Planning Panel OKs Residential Building Limit : Growth: The city could only issue 1,400 building permits a year under the proposal.


The Glendale Planning Commission on Monday approved a residential building cap proposal that would allow fewer affordable housing units than city staff members had recommended.

The proposed ordinance would allow the city to issue no more than 1,400 building permits each year, and city planners had recommended that the majority be earmarked for lower-income households.

But commissioners said they wanted to allow more homes that could be bought or rented at prevailing market rates.

"I think development shouldn't have such high allocations for affordable housing," said Commissioner Don Pearson. He said the initial proposal, which called for 740 units of affordable housing, was Draconian.

In a 4-0 vote, commissioners dropped the number of affordable units from 740 to 600 and raised the number of market-rate units from 660 to 800. Commissioner Ted Osborn was absent from the meeting.

In a related move, also aimed at limiting the city's growth, the commission approved a plan to reduce the number of future apartments and condominiums by changing zoning in several neighborhoods to allow only single-family homes.

The commission's recommendations on the building cap ordinance and the so-called "downzoning program" are among the final steps in a lengthy effort to curtail development in the city. The City Council will consider both measures on Aug. 28. Council members have said they want the ordinances in place before they lift a moratorium on apartment and condominium construction enacted in September, 1988.

Under the modified building cap, the city annually would issue building permits for affordable housing units on a first-come basis to projects in which at least half of the units are guaranteed to be affordable to lower-income households.

Building permits for market-rate units would be issued each quarter after city officials review and rank the proposed projects. Some types of housing, such as hotels, affordable senior citizens projects and condominium conversions, would be exempt.

Approval of the measure came despite objections by Marco Brambilla, chairman of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce's housing and urban development committee. Brambilla argued that the competitive merit system would impose too many restrictions on developers and thus discourage worthy projects.

The commission also approved a proposal to downzone five Glendale neighborhoods into strictly single-family residential areas, thereby banning apartment or condominium construction there.

But commissioners rejected the proposed downzoning in a sixth neighborhood, in the 3600 block of Montrose Avenue, after a dozen residents complained. Instead, they recommended zoning that would allow about three units on each lot.

Montrose Avenue residents told commissioners that their houses long had been surrounded by apartment units and condominiums and that restricting development to single-family houses would limit their property value and ability to expand.

"My intention was to tear down the existing garage and build a three-car garage with an apartment over it for my elderly parents. I can't do that" if the neighborhood is downzoned, said William Langley, a resident on Montrose Avenue. "It's a little late to be thinking of downzoning the property when it already has plenty of multiple-dwelling buildings."

Commissioners also recommended that a seventh neighborhood, in Chevy Chase Canyon east of the Glendale Freeway, be slightly downzoned to allow fewer multifamily units on each lot.

In a related matter, the commission voted 3 to 1 to downzone several school sites to allow construction of only single-family homes if the property is ever sold or leased.

Glendale Unified School District officials recently wrote a letter of objection to city planners. The downzoning, they argued, would have no immediate impact but could reduce the value of the property if the district ever decided to sell or lease school sites.

School officials also warned that downzoning may conflict with a state code requiring schools to have the same zoning as the area around them. The 12 targeted school sites all are surrounded by apartments or condominiums, according to Jim Glaser, the city's principal planner.

Attorneys for the city and the school district are studying the potential legal impact of the zoning measure on the schools, said Jane Whitaker, a Glendale Board of Education member.

Whitaker said the district's objection is paradoxical because downzoning is intended to curb growth--and thus curtail problems such as school crowding. But, she said, restricting what can be developed on school property "really ties the hands of the school district."

"In the immediate, foreseeable future, we're not doing anything with those pieces of property," she said. "But none of us can second-guess what's going to happen 20, 25 years from now."

Commissioners who voted to downzone the school sites said the measure would give the city a chance to review any proposed multifamily development on district-owned property that might come up for sale or lease.

"This will provide the city with an opportunity to take a closer look at what development might go in at that site," said Commissioner Claudia Rizzo Culling. "I wouldn't want to be in a situation where they could build by right something high-density."

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