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Stalled projects are a headache for both neighbor and builder

Posted by on Feb 18th, 2010 and filed under Viewpoints. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Mike Lawler

A couple of months ago, I
wrote about an unfinished
housing project on Frances
Avenue that had become
a messy headache for that
neighborhood. The property
owners have since cleaned
up the lot, including significant
brush clearance, removing
construction debris,
and re-fencing the abandoned
pool. I hope these actions
have helped to improve
neighborhood relations.
When I wrote that column,
I was unprepared for the avalanche
of e-mail responses
from neighbors of other misguided
local developments.
One such e-mail was from
an older lady who lives next
door to a very large multifamily
project in the 3100
block of Montrose Avenue.
She told me that the project
appeared to have stalled
mid-construction, and was
now an eyesore. I decided
to pay her a visit a couple of
weeks ago to get a view from
her perspective.
I pulled up in front of a
huge partially completed
building that fronts Montrose
Avenue. Progress on it
seemed to have been halted
just before stucco was to
be applied: The walls were
covered with tarpaper and
chicken wire, and the entire
structure was enveloped in
an intricate web of paintspattered
scaffolding. Architectural
details that had
attractive potential were
unpainted, weather-beaten
and cracked. The site was
minimally fenced, and there
appeared to be someone living
in a ramshackle trailer
on-site.
The lady who had sent me
the e-mail showed me onto
her balcony, where the development
stood window-towindow
with her condo. The
scaffolding, in place for several
months now, provided
easy ladder access directly
to her balcony. Besides the
obvious security issues,
she was also worried about
fire. With the unfinished
driveways and construction
debris clogging the walkways,
she felt there was no
way firefighters could get
in there. The value of her
home – if she could sell at all
– would be severely reduced.
She told me the project,
which began almost three
years ago, had gone well for
a few months but stalled a
year and a half ago; it had
only been worked on intermittently
since. She said
the last time anyone had
worked there was October
2009. Did she call the city
of Glendale? Of course, and
they were helpful, but only
to a point.
I put in a couple calls to
the city and got responses
right away. Both the Planning
Division and the Building
and Safety Division
confirmed that the building
permits were still active.
I had a long talk with
a representative in Building
and Safety, and he was
sympathetic, not only with
the neighbors of the project
but with the builder as
well. He explained that the
builder probably had lost his
funding and was just doing
the minimum work to keep
his permits active while he
scrambled to line up a new
loan. What could the city do?
They could push the builder
all they wanted, but if he
had no money, it would do
nothing. Their only option
was to go after the builder in
court, and that would only
delay the project longer. He
explained that they normally
ask builders to finish
projects within a two-year
window, but with the current
economy, that was hard
to enforce.
A call to Neighborhood
Services confirmed everything
I’d just heard. They
said there were many such
stalled projects citywide,
with few options on enforcing
compliance, and that
they were currently meeting
with other city officials to
craft some policy on how to
deal with the mess.
So what’s the answer for
beleaguered neighbors of
this hopefully temporary
eyesore? To wait it out? And
how can the city help, when
the normal punitive fines
and fees would only push
the builder further under?
All these questions will, for
now, remain unanswered.
We hand developers a lot
of power over the future of
our neighborhoods when we
agree to let them build in
our community. Their profit
increases proportionally
in the desirable neighborhoods
we have maintained. I
would hope that they would
reciprocate with neighborly
courtesy – in this case by
addressing the concerns of their neighbors.

Mike Lawler is the president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley.
He can be reached at lawlerdad@yahoo.com

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