Verdugo Woodlands Dispute : Restraining Order on Construction Lifted

Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has lifted a temporary restraining order that blocked the City of Glendale from granting certain building permits in the Verdugo Woodlands area.

Judge Irving Shimer last week ruled that building can resume, even though some developers propose to construct projects with densities higher than the densities that may be permitted under proposed changes in the city's zoning laws.

Members of a Glendale homeowners group that sued the city said this week that they will appeal the court ruling.

'Only Begun to Fight'

William F. Hertz, attorney for the Verdugo Woodlands Homeowners and Residents Assn., said a new restraining order will be sought through the Los Angeles District Court of Appeal.

George Davis, president of the homeowners group, said, "We have only just begun to fight."

The restraining order, issued March 5, had applied only to four-story apartment and condominium projects proposed in the Verdugo Woodlands area. Homeowners favor a proposal by city planners that would restrict buildings in the area to three stories or less.

Existing housing in the the Verdugo Woodlands, in the northeast part of the city, is largely single-family residences and has some low-density apartment buildings and duplexes. Current zoning in the area permits high-density development of housing, despite the fact that the city's General Plan, adopted in 1977, recommends lower-density development. A few higher-density developments, including apartments and condominiums, were built recently, and several more are planned.

63-Year-Old Provision

The temporary order was issued after residents filed suit against the city because it is still issuing building permits, even though downzoning--lowering permitted densities--is proposed in large areas of the city. Residents are seeking to block construction until new zoning laws are adopted, which may not happen for months, if ever.

Homeowners had asked the court to enforce a 63-year-old provision in the City Charter that prohibits high-density construction on a parcel proposed to be downzoned. But Judge Shimer said, "That's a 60-year-old law. Life is more complicated today than it was 60 years ago."

The City Council this month exempted the current rezoning study from the charter provision. Instead, the council said it would consider such construction on a case-by-case basis.

January Approval

Shimer said the council action permits the city to block development, although it has not done so. The council in January approved plans for one four-story apartment building on Verdugo Knolls Road, saying it would be unfair to halt plans by the developer.

Since then, other developers have nearly completed planning for similar projects in the area.

The state Legislature has ordered cities and counties to bring their zoning laws into compliance with their own general plans, outlining the type of land uses permitted in their jurisdictions.

'Window of Time'

However, Shimer said, the Legislature provided for a "window of time" in which cities could propose building restrictions but still permit development to continue under current zoning standards.

The suit by Glendale homeowners seeks to force the city to require all new development to conform to the city's land-use element of its general plan--and not just its zoning laws.

If a court were to grant the building moratorium sought by Glendale homeowners, the ruling could have statewide ramifications. Glendale City Atty. Frank Manzano said there is no court precedent to determine how cities should make the transition from old zoning laws to new, more restrictive zoning laws.

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