Verdugo Group Blocks Building Permits

Times Staff Writer

The Verdugo Woodland Homeowners Assn. this week won an injunction against new multifamily development that exceeds densities recommended in the City of Glendale's proposed new zoning laws.

A temporary restraining order blocking issuance of new building permits was granted Tuesday by Judge Irving Shimer in Los Angeles Superior Court as a result of a suit filed against the city and several local developers.

The order prohibits the city from granting permits for new high-density apartments and condominiums in the Verdugo Canyon area until a court hearing March 22. The temporary order will remain in effect only if the homeowner group posts a $10,000 bond with the court by noon today.

Applies Only to Final Permits

The ruling does not affect projects that already have building permits from the city. The moratorium applies only to final permits--not preliminary city approval of design stages--and only to those projects in the Verdugo Canyon area, a spokesman for the city attorney's office said.

George Davis, homeowner association president, said the action blocks four large projects. He said the suit also seeks to halt new construction on several hundred parcels of land thathave been proposed by the city for "down-zoning," or lower permitted densities. The down-zoning has been recommended by city planners to reduce the population growth permitted under zoning laws.

Davis said dozens of developers are rushing to "get in under the wire" to start high-density development before new, restrictive building laws are adopted.

"Things are going crazy here," he said. "The city issued 68 building permits in January, which is more than they usually get in a whole year. Many of those permits involve properties to be down-zoned. That's the kind of swing we are seeing citywide. Its ridiculous."

Proposed Laws Would Lower Density

Residents in the Verdugo Woodlands oppose current regulations that permit high-density, multifamily units up to four stories high. Proposed new zoning laws would lower the density permitted in the area to current uses, predominantly single-family homes, small duplexes and apartment bungalows.

Even though the rezoning issue has been widely publicized for several months, the city has continued to issue permits for new construction of buildings with higher density than may be permitted under the proposed changes.

The Verdugo Woodlands homeowner group in December persuaded the city to enforce provisions of a 1922 law requiring a moratorium on most major new multi-unit development in areas recommended for down-zoning. The moratorium was lifted a week later by the City Council when it adopted an emergency ordinance exempting the current rezoning study from the required hiatus in building.

Normally, a proposed new ordinance is posted for public review a week before it is adopted by the council. But the emergency ordinance in December was approved by the council immediately after it was introduced.

Ordinance Legality Challenged

The suit filed by homeowners challenges the legality of the city's adoption of an emergency ordinance in dealing with the rezoning issue and the validity of building permits issued since the ordinance was adopted.

Because of the suit, the council, after meeting with legal advisers in a 40-minute closed-door session, on Tuesday reintroduced the ordinance for adoption next week.

William Hertz of Glendale, attorney for the homeowner group, said residents will urge the council not to adopt the ordinance. He said they hope to persuade the council to halt all new construction that does not conform to proposed new zoning codes.

Charges City Defeats Plan

"It just doesn't make sense to spend the time, the effort and the expense of formulating the general plan and then not follow it," Hertz said. He said that, by permitting high-density construction, the city "is only defeating and destroying the plan and its ultimate goals."

Assistant City Atty. Dennis Shuck said homeowners are being required to post a bond that could reimburse the city and developers for defending themselves, because "the judge has strong reservations about the merits of the petitioners' case."

However, Hertz said the bond "is normal procedure." He also said the homeowner group "has been contacted" by others seeking to block new construction that does not conform with proposed new laws.

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