Some Glendale and Burbank residents are corralling together to prevent Silver Spur Stables in Glendale’s Riverside Rancho from being demolished and replaced with condominiums.
Though the City Council is far from considering a proposed zoning change, residents are speaking out early against an application submitted in February by Art Simonian, founder of Metro Investments and a member of the Glendale Design Review Board as well as Thomas Bell, owner of Silver Spur Stables, to change the stables’ zoning from commercial equestrian to multifamily residential. If approved, Metro Investments plans to build 21 townhouse-style condos in six buildings, each three stories high.
The plan would also remove 30 feet of Allen Avenue, a major route to horse trails and Griffith Park.
For decades, Silver Spur Stables, located at 1900 W. Riverside Drive, has been home to many horses, 78 currently, and has welcomed families who visit for a day of horseback riding. Opponents of the zoning change say the stables are much more than a commercial equestrian property — they have created a community for people who live the rancho lifestyle and those who want to escape urban life.
Some residents say changing the zoning of Silver Spur Stables would be detrimental to that community and open the doors for further redevelopment of surrounding businesses.
“Silver Spur Stables supports the rare marriage of urban and semirural life centered on horses,” said Joanne Hedge, president of the Glendale Rancho Neighborhood Assn., during a council meeting Tuesday. “Of all the horse communities in the U.S., only this one offers a unique lifestyle opportunity a mere 9 miles from one of the nation’s largest cities.”
Hedge is one of several members of the “Save the Rancho” movement, which has garnered more than 3,000 signatures on an online petition and more on paper. About 20 more speakers attended the council meeting to voice their opposition to the proposed rezoning.
Among the speakers was Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy, who showed council members a map of the equestrian area, which spans Glendale, Los Angeles and Burbank and is woven together by the Los Angeles River and Griffith Park trails.
Though Silver Spur Stables may seem like a dot on the map, it is the “heart” of the equestrian community, and changing the property’s zoning would affect people across all three cities, she said.
Gabel-Luddy then asked for those who were opposed to the proposed rezoning to stand, and the majority of people in the packed room rose to their feet.
Speakers said they were also concerned about the children’s programs that would be impacted if Spur Stables were demolished, including Operation Progress, a program that takes kids to the stables from the Watts neighborhood.
Several residents noted the therapeutic benefits of the stables, some even saying that being around horses saved their children’s lives in difficult times.
Others focused on the impact the rezoning would have on businesses in the Glendale Rancho and beyond.
“The construction resulting in the change there would create an environment too dangerous in which to conduct our business,” said Dalon Williams, owner of L.A. Horse Rentals, which is next to Silver Spur Stables. “It will also affect businesses that the horse community brings to Glendale.”
Some said the city has attempted to slow down development, and this move would be counterproductive.
“Glendale has beaten its own housing goals,” said Bill Luddy, a resident. “You’ve surpassed those and you’ve got a moratorium in downtown because of over-development. That moratorium was enacted to give you time for solutions for over-development. You’ll be creating the same kinds of problems you’re trying to resolve now.”
Residents opposed to the zoning change expressed discontent with Bell, who also owns Bell Diversified Development Inc., saying he is unnecessarily trying to make more profit from the zoning change, when there are willing buyers available with the current zoning. Bell, who purchased the property in 2008, has been a controversial figure.
In 1996, Bell was indicted on charges of using more than $375,000 intended for renovation of buildings damaged during the Northridge earthquake to purchase personal luxury items. He served 18 months in prison and was ordered to pay a $350,000 fine.
The proposal has not yet been scheduled to go before the Design Review Board or the Planning Commission, said city spokesman Tom Lorenz. He added that because Simonian is on the board, he would have to recuse himself from discussions about the issue.