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Planning Commission recommends approval of Tropico development plan

The Glendale Planning Commission recommended approval of a transit-oriented development project in the Tropico area that aims to revitalize the neighborhood using transportation-focused and mixed-use development during a meeting Monday night.

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The project is intended to be one portion of the larger South Glendale Community Plan, which council members have been discussing since 2016. On Monday, members of the city’s planning department presented an environmental impact report for the transportation center and the South Glendale Community Plan overview to the planning commission for possible recommendation to the City Council.

Commissioners said more research should be done on the areas identified in the South Glendale Community Plan, including the zoning necessary for implementation, and the possibility of having no increase in density. They also suggested updating the Land Use Element and the Circulation Element before adopting the South Glendale Community Plan.

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Only the Tropico Center TOD project portion of the plan, which was the “genesis” of the South Glendale Community Plan, was supported. The project received two grants of about $500,000 total from Metro, which requires certification of an environmental impact report in July.

Transit-oriented development centers are designed with the idea of creating walkable spaces, discouraging the need for cars and often incorporating mixed-used residential and commercial spaces.

According to a project summary, the plan’s goals are to “create a vibrant mixed-use community; well-designed buildings; attractive streetscapes; engaging public spaces; multimodal streets accommodating pedestrians, bicyclists and motor vehicles; and a variety of housing, retail and entertainment options.”

The main portion of the Tropico Center Plan is the Glendale Transportation Center, which will include the city’s Metrolink and Amtrak station. The proposal includes adding a streetcar that would travel between the transportation center and the Hollywood Burbank Airport.

Another focus will be the Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital and the Brand Boulevard of Cars because they are two primary job centers in the Tropico area. The plan aims to “enliven” the area with a more pedestrian-friendly environment.

A primary point of contention during Monday’s meeting was the thousands of additional housing units proposed in the plan, which would draw in thousands to Glendale and create too many unavoidable impacts, such as traffic, according to some who raised concerns.

Philip Lanzafame, the city’s director of community development, said the Planning Commission did not approve any housing units or development with their motion.

“They didn’t approve any housing units,” he said. “They approved a plan and [environmental impact review] that looked at development of a certain number. The zoning isn’t there, nobody is going to construct those units because of their action. This is a plan, how we would envision things being developed.”

About 10 residents attended the meeting to voice their concerns about the project. The majority opposed the project, saying it would increase the area’s density too greatly and cause more traffic and overcrowding. Some residents also said the project is contradictory to a recent downtown development moratorium passed by the City Council.

One homeowner said she was disappointed in the planning staff for dismissing the public’s statements. In response to commissioner’s question about the public’s concern for overcrowding.

Erik Krause, a principal planner for the city of Glendale, said those were “generic comments we get from people who don’t want any development in the city.”

When a resident asked the Planning Commission the question, “Why are we doing this?” commissioner Leonard Manoukian echoed the question to the planning staff.

Principal planner Laura Stotler said that due to increasing transit development, the city will experience growth even though it may be coming from other areas.

“We know transit is going to be huge … how are we going to deal with that growth?” she said. “A lot of that growth isn’t going to be in Glendale, but we’re certainly going to experience it.”

Commissioner Talin Shahbazian said she is concerned about the South Glendale Community Plan being a “Band-Aid” to a larger problem.

“Our general plan is outdated, so we are having a specific plan supporting a very old plan. If we don’t have the big picture, we can’t just put a Band-Aid.”

She added, “I’m pro-growth, but this is not the right way to go.”

Chairman Greg Astorian agreed with Shahbazian and said approving the South Glendale Community Plan would be like “putting the cart before the horse.”

Although the staff said a study about inclusionary housing is ongoing, Astorian pressed that what south Glendale needs is inclusionary housing and more park space, such as pocket parks.

“We have to look at this with a fresh set of eyes,” he said.

The commission’s recommendations are scheduled to be presented to the council on July 17.

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