During a special hearing Wednesday, the Glendale Planning Commission voted 4-1 against recommending to the City Council several land-use changes to accommodate a proposed high-density, residential development on the site where the Glendale Unified School District's headquarters and two district-owned apartment buildings are currently located.
The district is looking to make a property swap with developer Carmel Partners because its administration building is in dire need of repairs.
Carmel Partners is proposing to construct a five-story, 286-unit apartment building at North Jackson and North Kenwood streets on the current school district site.
In the exchange, Glendale Unified would take ownership of a building about a half a mile south of its current location, which Carmel Partners plans to purchase.
The existing Glendale Unified administration building, located at 223 N. Jackson St., and other structures would be demolished to make room for the new development.
The developer was requesting amendments to the the city's general plan, zoning map and Downtown Specific Plan map in order to meet design requests for the proposed residential project.
According to city documents, the amendments were to accommodate for "additional height/stories and floor area ratio."
Carmel's building is 113,000 square feet and was constructed in 1984, according to the Los Angeles County Assessor. It comes with 380 parking spaces — 224 more than the 156 available at Glendale Unified's current administration building, which is 40,000 square feet.
However, the developer will have to head to City Council without the commission's recommendation or propose an alternative project without the land-use change requests, which developer officials said would be impossible.
The nearly four-hour hearing was marked by debate among commissioners as to whether the benefits of a new Glendale Unified administrative building were enough to allow a high-density building in a residential neighborhood.
The roughly 20 people who spoke during a public-comment portion of the hearing were mostly split between Glendale Unified employees who touted a dire need for a new administration building and residents who said raising the density ceiling for the developer would "up-zone" their community.
Gerry Rankin, a longtime member of the First United Methodist Church, located a block from the project site, said he's witnessed a trend of large new buildings and fewer parking spaces.
"The city of Glendale, not individual business, developers or churches, is ultimately responsible for fixing the serious parking problem that has arisen in the city," Rankin said. "Aggravating the problem by adopting the proposed project would place an unfair burden on the people who live in the area."
Glendale Unified Supt. Winfred Roberson Jr. said approving the Carmel Partners' project would assure the school district continues to provide excellent services to its students and their families.
"Supporting the GUSD move of buildings actually frees up parking space for the residents because we won't have 50 to 100 cars looking for space around the perimeters," Roberson said. "A new building gives us space for [a] parent community center [and] a better concentration of resources and services to our families."
Still, only commissioner Leonard Manoukian disagreed with his commission colleagues, who were against recommending the project.
Commissioner Greg Astorian said the developer's project does not provide enough of a public benefit to offset the various land-use amendments requested, citing the complete lack of affordable housing units in the proposal.
"This [site] needs to be developed [and] I think it can, but not at this kind of density. If you want to go over and above density, where is the public benefit?" he said. "Other than the benefit to the [GUSD] with the new property, there is no other public benefit for the surrounding area."
The Carmel Partners proposal is tentatively scheduled for consideration by City Council in January.