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City may extend moratorium on downtown residential development

City may extend moratorium on downtown residential development
The Saltana Apartments under construction on Pioneer Avenue in Glendale on June 18, 2016. (Tim Berger / Glendale News-Press)

Glendale City Council introduced a draft ordinance Tuesday that would extend a 45-day moratorium on residential development projects in and around downtown Glendale by more than 10 months.

In March, the council voted 4-1 to temporarily halt the issuance of permits or entitlements for residential developments in the Downtown Specific Plan area in order to ease the rate of development of dense apartment projects.

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Incentives are designed to encourage developers to create projects with public benefits, such as providing open space or including affordable housing. Qualifying projects are given a bonus in the form of additional height or density.

If a project already had a building permit at the start of the moratorium in March, the city's practice is to allow the project to continue even if the rule has changed for "ease of enforcement," according to City Atty. Michael Garcia.

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At the suggestion of Councilman Ara Najarian, city staff members were instructed to prepare a version of the moratorium that would include an exemption, or carve-out, for adaptive reuse projects — those that convert an existing commercial building to residential use.

The adaptive reuse projects could also add up to 50 additional residential units, as long as the projects do not cause significant impacts to traffic, air quality or noise.

Councilwoman Paula Devine said she supported a moratorium with no exemptions and added that any adaptive reuse residential project in the downtown area "can wait" for 10 months.

"These are not going to be affordable units, I'm sure, if they're on Central [Avenue] or Brand [Boulevard]," Divine said. "What are we helping with, how are we making this better for our residents by allowing a carve-out? Let's be fair … A moratorium is a moratorium."

Although Mayor Zareh Sinanyan was the single vote against the 45-day moratorium in March, he said he would support the extension if it included Najarian's suggested carve-out.

"I consistently argued against the moratorium. My position hasn't really changed … I think we're meddling with the market at a time when we recognize there's a housing crisis, but the carve-out makes it palatable to me to actually vote for what ends up being a limited moratorium," he said.

A final version of the moratorium will return to City Council for a vote, likely before May 11, when the current moratorium expires.

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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