By Brian CHERNICK
On Tuesday’s meeting of the Glendale City Council, the council voted 3-2 to sustain the Planning Commission’s recommendation to deny subdividing a 2.22-acre lot on Aspen Oak and Rimcrest Drive in Glendale’s Hillside neighborhood.
The recommendation in December by the city’s five-member Planning Commission was originally considered by just three Commission members. One member was absent and another had recused himself stating a conflict of interest. Two of the remaining members voted to deny the parcel map.
The map had proposed dividing the single lot of about 96,000 square feet, or 2.22 acres, on which a single-family two-story house currently sits on Rimcrest into three lots. The new lots, Lot 2 and Lot 3 – approximately 32,000 and 29,000 square feet, respectively – would accommodate two new, three-story houses accessible from Aspen Oak.
The Commission’s decision was based primarily on the steepness of a slope located at what would be Lot 3 and the suitability of the proposed project in terms of physicality, scale and density in relation to the neighborhood. The commission argued that the house on Lot 3 would “not comply with the Hillside Design Guidelines” and therefore would “not be consistent with the City’s General Plan.”
The appeal, filed by Vazrik Bonyadi, the property owner, cited a city ordinance that requires subdivided lots average 30,000 square feet and be no less than 12,000 square feet and, according to the applicant, the three lots would satisfy these requirements.
“If you take the laws of the City of Glendale and apply [to] the facts of the case this parcel map … we meet all city requirements and hillside guidelines,” Fred Gaines, the applicant’s lawyer, said. “Glendale has strict requirements, there are a lot of rules in Glendale … and no exception, no variance, or deviation is (made) in this case.”
Speaking on behalf of the Glendale Highland Association and three homeowners, former developer and realty broker Kurt Nelson argued against the development stating that he had been involved in similar efforts in the past that were struck down by Glendale City Council and that the rules should continue to be applied.
“If this is approved then the neighbors have a great lawsuit, but they shouldn’t have to bring it,” Nelson said. “Because this lot was never intended to be subdivided.”
Nelson, who developed properties in Glendale during the 1980s, was the former property owner of the contested lot.
Councilmember Vrej Agajanian attempted to find compromise with other members by suggesting the proposed houses be closer to the street, a story shorter or square footage reduced.
Other councilmembers did not find those suggestions convincing. Councilmember Ara Najarian, who has previously voted in support of the subdivision when it was first brought to council in 2012, said he could not support it this time around.
“This is a tough one,” Najarian said. “I have to reverse my position I had five years ago and I don’t think two lots should be developed. If it was one lot, I think there is a possibility to do something different with the architecture that would make it less impactful on the visual.”
Mayor Vartan Gharpetian agreed that the proposals meet the hillside guidelines, but stated the case being made against it was about neighbors objecting to the project itself.
“Based on the documents I have, and all the information and reports I have from staff, I don’t see any reason denying this project because these houses are not intrusive,” Gharpetian said. “If you make this house two-story [or] one story, the neighbors wouldn’t want it because they’ve lived there for a long time with that side of the hill being undeveloped and that’s what they’re used to.”