The Glendale City Council on Tuesday approved the last major components of a sweeping growth-control program aimed at shaping development in the city well into the next century.
When the new building rules take effect Dec. 6, Glendale's moratorium on construction of apartments and condominiums, enacted in September, 1988, will be lifted, city officials said.
"This is a really big moment," Councilman Carl Raggio said. "It's the culmination of two years effort. It's a good day to celebrate."
Councilman Jerold Milner, who has spearheaded the growth-control project, said the revision of building guidelines actually began in 1983 and resulted in one downzoning program adopted in 1986. But city officials said that plan proved insufficient to halt a population boom that has contributed to traffic congestion, crowded schools and other problems.
If the council had begun taking steps in 1983 to limit building, Glendale might have eventually become a city with 170,000 housing units, Milner said. Under the new rules, it should not have more than 85,000 residences, he said. The city now has 70,000 housing units.
"The end result, I think, is going to be a much better quality of life for everyone who lives in the city of Glendale," Milner said.
During recent hearings, the council heard harsh protests from property owners who charged that the city was decreasing the value of their land. The council also heard complaints from impatient property owners who were making large mortgage payments on property they wanted to develop while waiting for the moratorium to end.
"The people who really had to suffer were the property owners," Councilman Richard Jutras said. "Those are the people who have my sympathy. I think in the long run the value will come back and the city will be a better place."
Before voting Tuesday on the new zoning rules, the council removed a "density bonus" that gave developers permission to build additional units when they assembled adjacent lots to build a single large project. Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg, who opposes the bonus, asked that it be taken out so she could join a unanimous vote for the remaining growth-control provisions. The bonus plan by itself is expected to come back to the council next week.
Among the key components of Glendale's growth-control program are:
* A downzoning plan that generally reduces by more than 50% the number of apartments or condominiums that can be built on each lot.
* A design ordinance, enacted last year, that requires multifamily projects to have more parking spaces, more landscaping, and wider setbacks in front and at the sides of buildings. For projects with three units or more, the parking must be subterranean.
* A building cap, approved last month, that slows the pace of growth by limiting the number of residential building permits. Each year, no more than 700 permits will be issued for residences that will be sold or rented at prevailing market rates; another 700 will be reserved for affordable housing units.
In recent months, council members modified the downzoning plan in 25 neighborhoods with unusual development patterns. They granted owners of older apartment buildings the right to rebuild the same number of units if they follow current design and parking rules.
Under the laws in effect before the moratorium, developers citywide could have built up to 27,000 apartments or condominiums, said Jim Glaser, a Glendale city planner. The new rules, however, should yield only about 11,000 new units, allowing the city's population to grow by as much as 30,000 to 40,000 people, he said. The population of Glendale is estimated at between 170,000 and 200,000.
After the building freeze is lifted, developers will not be able to construct projects immediately, Glaser said. Instead, developers will have to compete for permits. Projects will be evaluated and ranked by the city staff before the council allocates the first permits in April.
The staff is still working on this review process.
"The biggest concern is how the building cap is going to be implemented," said Marco Brambilla, an architect who is chairman of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce's housing and urban development committee. "We'd like to avoid duplication and the additional time element. The fact that a project will have to go through a new hurdle, that is viewed as a negative" by the chamber. "I think this is getting a little over-complicated."
Brambilla does not expect a flood of developers to submit project plans as soon as the moratorium is lifted. He said many builders and investors "have been scared away from Glendale because of over-restrictive regulations and because Glendale has changed the rules in the middle of the game."
Developer Haik Vartanian said property owners will be cautious about submitting new projects until they determine how the city's new growth controls will affect their land. "They have to figure out whether it's economically feasible to build fewer units," he said.
An overall slowdown in real estate is also expected to affect multifamily housing construction even after the moratorium ends.
"We're not going to see a major influx of requests for new apartment projects," said Hamo Rostamian, a real estate broker and developer who also serves on the chamber committee. "There may be some new condominium projects coming at the beginning of the year, but nothing like in 1987 or 1986."
He said Glendale's apartment vacancy rate is only 4%, and the lack of new units could make rents rise. Nevertheless, Rostamian said he will be happy to see the building freeze end.
"The moratorium is a sign of a troubled community," he said. "Hopefully, with the moratorium lifted, we'll put those concerns at ease and work on other issues in the community."