By Jason KUROSU
The Glendale City Council voted against approving a request for a Precise Plan of Design (PPD) overlay zone for a development at 1407 Glenoaks Blvd. Tuesday night. The proposed development was the subject of a contentious Glendale City Council meeting, in which residents attended en masse to voice their opposition to the project that called for two alternatives ranging from a 52 to a 74 residential unit building.
Residents opposed the project on a number of fronts, from concerns over increased traffic to air quality, though the largest concern stemmed from the use of a PPD overlay zone that would allow developers to build their alternative without strict adherence to zoning codes. Without the overlay zone, Alternative A, a four-story, 10,600 square-foot mixed-use project would require 13 variances to be constructed as planned.
The site was previously the location of Bob’s Big Boy and, most recently, Kyoto Seafood Buffet that closed last year. Alternative A would have had subterranean parking for 220 spaces and contain a 5,400 square foot open air, public plaza. The Design Review Board and Planning Commission both approved the project, though it was reported that there was opposition from residents at the community meetings held in October and November.
Twenty public speakers voiced their disapproval of the proposed development.
Randy Carter of Northwest Glendale suggested the council exercise restraint with this type of project, especially considering other developments in current consideration in the city.
“We have literally thousands of units in the pipeline, in construction. Let’s see what that density does to the city, what the effects are before going headlong into more of it,” Carter said.
Northwest Glendale Homeowners Association President Peter Fuad summarized the concerns of many of the residents that the use of the PPD would set an unfortunate precedent for developments in other parts of the city.
“Residents were led to believe that the type of projects that were built downtown will stay downtown,” he said. “In many ways, they feel that this is a gateway project. If it can be done here, why not elsewhere?”
Glendale City Manager Scott Ochoa argued that the PPD did not set such a precedent.
“Folks talk about PPD as though it is something that is inherently bad, which gets you around what the city’s codes are,” said Ochoa. “This PPD would only be applied to a handful of properties because it is entirely dependent on the specific characteristics of a piece of property. This project is no more a precedent located on West Glenoaks then if it were located anywhere else.”
Though the audience did not agree, Ochoa said that the project fit the area’s density and surrounding buildings. He also said that use of the PPD fit the surrounding area as it is an “area in flux” and “doesn’t have an identity.”
Hassan Haghani, director of Community Development, echoed Ochoa’s assertion.
“We do not know how Glenoaks is going to develop,” Haghani said.
Members of the city council recommended that the project be brought back at a later date after undergoing a redesign. Councilmember Paula Devine found that the number of changes to code that the development would allow was more than she could accept.
“Approving code deviations through the PPD process certainly provides flexibility to staff and to the developer, but it puts the stakeholders in our community to a great disadvantage,” said Devine.
Councilmember Laura Friedman said that the density of the surrounding neighborhood was precisely why that development should not be built.
“When staff says it’s already a dense neighborhood and there’s a thousand units around it so it’s compatible, that’s exactly why people don’t want another dense building. They see the impact of those larger units and see the crowding that it’s caused in those neighborhoods,” said Friedman. “I think we have a responsibility to listen to the residents when they say this is already an overcrowded neighborhood. We don’t want to give a variance to make a building bigger than it needs to be.”
Ara Najarian said he would accept neither Alternative A nor the 8,600 square-foot Alternative B.
“I would like to see a redesign in which the number of variances is limited to the mixed-use component,” said Najarian. “Glendale as a whole is overbuilt. We have too many units. We just have to stop and measure the impact that all this development is having on the city.”
The city council will return to this issue during its Jan. 27 meeting to see the developer’s redesigned project. The project will still need to go through the Planning Commission for review subsequent to Jan. 27.