Council Says Environment Study Needed at Alpha Road Site

Times Staff Writer

The Glendale City Council has upheld a city planning board ruling that called for an environmental impact study for a proposed 104-unit Alpha Road apartment development, which neighbors have been trying to block.

City officials said the study, which will cost developer Marc Kogan more than $29,000, will delay construction of the project for four to six months.

Meanwhile, residents are seeking to have the zoning on the three-acre site changed in the city's proposed zoning consistency plan, which is nearing adoption. They complained that their neighborhood already is overdeveloped and that the density permitted by the city's zoning laws is far too high in an area of narrow, winding streets.

Specifications for the apartment development, at 1905 Alpha Road, meet all requirements of the zoning code, and a building permit normally would have been routinely issued. However, the developer must obtain a variance because excessive grading is required on the hillside site.

The city Planning Commission and City Council in 1982 turned down a proposed 52-unit condominium project on the same site, saying the development was too large for the area, even though an environmental impact study on that project found there would be little or no significant adverse effects.

In that case, the developer was required to obtain the City Council's approval under provisions of the state subdivision act. However, because an apartment project does not entail subdivision of land, the new developer automatically is entitled to a building permit if the project meets all requirements of the city code.

Residents, who have fought since November to block the project, urged the city to require an environmental impact study before granting a variance.

Representatives of Kogan argued that a new impact study is not necessary because the city engineer already has found that provisions for traffic circulation and drainage are sufficient for the project.

However, Jerrett Anderson of Glendale, Kogan's attorney, said he expects the city engineer to approvr the project once the impact study is completed. He said apartment projects, unlike condominiums, do not require City Council approval.

City planning officials said they cannot block a project if it meets all of the specifications of the zoning code. The zoning has existed on the site for years.

If a project does not meet all code specifications, cities must determine whether granting a variance would have a significant impact on the environment. Representatives of the developer in this case argued that the grading of the site, the only condition that exceeds code standards, would not, in itself, have any effect on the environment. But residents charged that, if the grading is subject to review, then the full impact of the project must be studied.

Attorney Robert Garcin, a former mayor of Glendale who represents homeowners and who recently moved to an Alpha Road apartment, said he plans to take legal action if necessary to block the proposed development. He told council members the project "would result in a loss of the community characteristics of the area."

Ellie Baker, who has led residents' opposition, called for the council to change the zoning on the site to end the constant threat of high-density development. She said the proposed project would double the amount of traffic on Alpha Road, which has restricted parking, no sidewalks and homes set back only 10 feet from the curb. She said the zoning on the site "is a little pot of honey" to developers seeking to build a high-density project.

"The project is a good one," Baker said. "It's just in the wrong location."

City planners acknowledge that the Alpha Road site is unusual. Kathy Marcus, a city planner, said, "This particular street is a very unusual situation. There literally is no other street in town like it. We just do not have multifamily zoning in the hillsides, with that exception."

She said all other apartments and condominiums in the area were built before enactment of the environmental quality act. Multifamily development is permitted on the street because it has subdivided hillside lots large enough to accommodate high-density projects.

Marlene Roth of Pasadena, a consultant for the developer, argued that no project could be built on the site without a grading variance and charged that the city is being unfair in requiring an impact study. "You couldn't build a doghouse up there without a variance," she said.

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