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Freeway Access Project Approved : Traffic: The street widening is designed to ease downtown congestion. It involves a vacant lot that was purchased amid controversy.


GLENDALE — Despite a cloud of controversy that has lingered for years, the Glendale City Council voted Tuesday to move ahead with a proposal to use a vacant lot it purchased from a prominent developer to widen access to a Ventura Freeway (134) on-ramp and relieve some congestion in the downtown office district.

In a 3-to-1 vote, the council agreed to seek a contractor to widen Monterey Road from Balboa Avenue to a westbound on-ramp at the freeway west of Glendale Avenue.

The work is expected to help speed commuters, particularly during the evening rush hour, between the freeway and the recently completed Carnation building and the Red Lion hotel in the downtown redevelopment zone.

The widening will be facilitated by the city's controversial purchase more than a year ago of a small freeway frontage lot that a developer--Salvatore F. Gangi and his partners--had been unable to use.

Gangi had attempted in 1988 to trade the lot for a piece of city-owned property in order to complete an exclusive 197-lot subdivision at the top of Oakmont View Drive. When they learned of the transaction, residents vehemently protested the swap, which was then dropped.

But the City Council in August, 1992, voted without discussion to purchase the vacant parcel--less than one-third of an acre at 870 Monterey Road--for $392,040. The lot in 1988, when the trade was rejected, had been appraised at $105,000, according to city records.

Gangi for years had unsuccessfully tried to rezone the property for commercial development over the protests of neighbors. He eventually proposed the swap for six acres of city-owned property in the hills, which also drew a public outcry.

Public Works Director George Miller said the city needs a portion of the Monterey Road lot to add a right-turn lane to the freeway entrance. He said the developer had objected to the city purchasing only a portion of the lot and had threatened to sue.

Other city officials, including Mayor Larry Zarian, said private negotiations between the city and developer eventually led to the city's purchase. The price was based on a compromise between the value of the land as it was zoned for residential use and its potential for commercial development, officials said.

The unused portion of the lot not needed for the road widening will be landscaped as a mini park, officials said.

The proposed widening of Monterey Road is linked with a separate improvement project to widen Cypress Street at Glendale Avenue to provide an additional left-turn lane from Cypress onto Glendale. The cost of the two projects is estimated at $150,000 and no breakdown has been given for each.

Councilman Rick Reyes voiced the lone opposition to the projects, saying he thinks the improvements are unwarranted under current tight budget constrictions. Councilman Sheldon S. Baker was absent for medical reasons. The other council members--Zarian, Eileen Givens and Mary Ann Plumley--authorized the city clerk to advertise for bids.

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