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Last-Ditch Petition Stalls Hillside Policy : Development: Controversial issue postponed again when builders file papers that could require unanimous council vote.


GLENDALE — A decision on the most controversial issue facing Glendale--hillside development--was postponed late Tuesday after City Council members said they had grown weary of debate and developers threatened to derail any action.

Council members said they will tackle the issue again at a special meeting next Tuesday, when they hope to finally reach a decision.

The postponement followed a last-ditch effort by local developers who submitted a petition that could require a unanimous decision by the council in order to change city zoning laws.

City Atty. Scott H. Howard said he will determine before the end of this week whether the petition is valid under the City Charter.

Meanwhile, a proposed new hillside development ordinance was introduced Tuesday by Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg for discussion and possible adoption by the council next week.


So far, council members have not publicly expressed opinions on the details of proposed new hillside development rules that have been recommended by city planners and a variety of community leaders. However, all in the past have criticized so-called overbuilding of the hillsides and have urged adoption of new guidelines.

Three council members who will retire in April--Mayor Carl Raggio, Dick Jutras and Bremberg--have vowed to set new guidelines before their terms expire.

The petition by developers on Tuesday protesting proposed changes in hillside development policies angered many local leaders, who accused developers of using dirty tactics to thwart the decision-making process.

"We have had at least 37 meetings and met for hundreds of hours to resolve these issues," said Gerald Briggs, a former Planning Commission member active in the hillside development debate that has dragged on for two decades.

"Now, at the last minute, a few developers are trying to forestall a decision. They show no community responsibility at all," Briggs said. "What they are doing is totally self-serving."

Developers counter that proposed new rules would rob them of all rights to build in the hillsides and render their land useless. Several are threatening to file lawsuits if the city changes its hillside development policies.

The city's current development rules, adopted in 1981, permit one to three housing units per acre in hillside areas designated as very low-density residential/open space, depending on the steepness of the slope. Proposed new rules could reduce the allowed density to as few as one unit per five acres--a rule that landowners say would make development virtually impossible.

Various interest groups and the city planning staff in the last few months have proposed a variety of compromises.

The City Council is expected to determine the most acceptable solution at a special meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the council chamber at City Hall, 613 E. Broadway.

Robert L. Gregg, a partner in a development team proposing to build up to 623 housing units on 238 acres in the Verdugo Hills, north of the Oakmont Country Club, presented a petition to the council Tuesday that he said represents owners of 1,140 acres of the remaining 1,500 acres of privately owned open hillside land in the city.

The City Charter requires a four-fifths vote by the council to approve a change in the Land Use Element of the city's General Plan. Under the charter, however, a protest by 20% of the owners of "frontage," or street front, property in the affected area could require a unanimous council vote for any zoning change.

Howard said he will now have to determine if the petition presented by developers represents such a contingency and is valid under rules of the charter.

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