By Ted AYALA
Plans to renovate the nearly century-old Chevy Chase Country Club were looked upon approvingly by the Glendale City Council during its meeting on Tuesday night, though concerns from some of the course’s neighbors remained.
In a meeting that ran over four hours, supporters and opponents of the proposed expansion of the country club were pitted against each other, arguing over inconsistencies and errors in the plan.
The club, which was built in 1927, has seen a decline in its fortunes in the past decades. After riding high in the 1950s, membership and activity has dwindled. The current membership roster stands at barely 55.
At the heart of the matter is a plan by current owners Melmark Holdings, LLC of Glendale to establish renovations to the site that Art Simonian of Metro Holdings, LLC of Glendale, who represented the owners, assured were “very modest for a 35-acre site.”
Their proposed additions will expand the east wing of the clubhouse and construct a new west wing. The existing pool would be demolished and a new pool will take its place, which would be angled along the existing driveway. The applicants have also requested to open a bar, restaurant and banquet facilities to the public. Events such as wine and whiskey tasting events would be held off site.
Simonian told the council that the changes to the club were an urgent matter in order to forestall further decline, calling their plan one that would ensure “future generations would enjoy [the club].”
“The intent of the expansion is to create an economically viable country club, to make sure it thrives in the 21st century, and to return it to its glory days,” he said. “This evening we have the opportunity to let the club remain for another 100 years.”
He warned residents and council that if the proposed expansion were to fall through, the owners would be forced to sell the property. That could open the door to development of the property that could see it converted for use as condominiums, schools, office spaces or others that would chafe local residents.
It was a concern that was echoed by Councilmember Laura Friedman, who expressed her strong support of the owners’ plans.
“If this property goes under, it’s not just going to sit there,” she said. “We have to be realistic about this. The current scale of the club is an issue. [Owners] have to generate income somewhere. That’s all reasonable. To be economically viable, they have to expand.”
Julie Wood, a 22-year resident of Chevy Chase Canyon, expressed that both owners and residents were “on the same page” about wanting the club to thrive, but concerns regarding noise, parking, traffic and lighting needed to be better addressed. She claimed that the city’s Precise Plan of Design Overlay Zone, known as a PPD, hindered residents’ abilities to detangle possible errors and inconsistencies in the owners’ design plans.
“It’s going through city hall too fast for a project of this size,” she argued. “I don’t think that should be just done in a snap.”
City Manager Scott Ochoa countered those concerns by saying that the PPD was a “zoning tool” that ultimately demanded a super-majority in order to pass.
“All the stakeholders on both sides are able to ensure that the planning commission and the city council are very aware of what this plan ultimately could be,” he said.
He rebuffed allegations that the PPD isn’t transparent or that it’s being rushed.
“Over the years I’ve been here, the club was seen as just dying,” he said. “You’re never going to get to a point where everyone is 100% comfortable. Everybody wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.”
That didn’t convince resident Roland Feurer who said that the PPD “fails to address all aspects of this project.”
“Why are residents with little knowledge of this project forced to uncover these errors?” he asked. “The current ordinance seems to lack teeth.”
One of a number of details which both sides argued over were measures the owners were taking to mitigate potential noise from the club. Among the conditions of the PPD were the elimination of doors and operable windows on the west side of the banquet hall. Double walls insulating sound from reaching the outside would also line the structure.
Residents worried, however, that without double lining the ceiling, noise could still be a problem.
Concerns were also expressed about what resident Annie Wood, who has lived in Chevy Chase Canyon since 2003, called “inconsistencies” between the plan and the conditions stipulated by the PPD.
The PPD requires the owners ensure that no amplified music be played after 10 p.m. The plans, however, detail ideas for events such as outdoor film screenings.
“Unless it’s a silent movie, these films will have musical scores,” she said.
She also said that the 63 conditions set forth by the PPD would be a “herculean” task for the city to enforce.
Others disagreed, welcoming the owners’ efforts to revitalize the club.
“I do hear noise from parties, swim meets, and golfers … and I welcome them,” said resident Alex Bagdasarian. “That’s a sign that they’re being utilized.”
He also chided residents for their concerns on the project’s impact on traffic, saying that traffic from Art Center College of Design in neighboring Pasadena poses a greater danger.
Mayor Zareh Sinanyan echoed assurances that the PPD would hold the owners accountable to the conditions set.
“If we see any aspect of this is not working, we’ll address,” he said. “It’s never the end of the world.”
He also expressed his support for the project, stating that he was “very excited” to see it come to fruition.
“The neighborhood would benefit from it,” the mayor said. “It’s a lovely thing.”