Planners Deadlock on Hillside Residences

Times Staff Writer

The Glendale Planning Commission deadlocked this week on the latest proposal to build residences in the San Rafael Hills. It would be the largest development in Glendale history.

With newly appointed Planning Commissioner Don M. Pearson excused during the panel's first public hearing on the project because of a previous commitment, the remaining members stalemated, 2 to 2, on the plan to build 136 single-family homes and 452 town houses north of Mountain Street and just east of the Glendale Freeway. That leaves the fate of the development to the Glendale City Council.

The plan unveiled at Tuesday's meeting was the third attempt by Hensler-MacDonald Inc. of Sun Valley to build on a 316-acre tract in a prestigious, hillside neighborhood, where residents have successfully resisted development plans for 20 years.

The Planning Commission has voted against the two other proposals, one for 792 homes and town houses and another for 627 homes. But the City Council, which has final say, has never reviewed them because of delays and protests. The council will hear all three plans Aug. 8.

Neighborhood Opposition

The plans have been strongly opposed by neighboring homeowners, who complain that such a project would create traffic congestion and overcrowding and would disrupt the natural character of their hillside neighborhoods.

The city and the developer have not settled some questions, such as who should pay for providing a second street access, estimated to cost between $4.5 million and $6 million. But commissioners focused their discussion on the size of the project and whether multiple-family housing would fit in with the area.

"I just cannot accept town houses and paired houses up there," Planning Commissioner Lloyd Bouchet said. "We have a responsibility to the people who live up there now. . . . People would have a hard time accepting a $150,000 unit next to their $350,000 house."

Commissioner Richard E. Jutras, who voted in favor of the project, said of the housing units: "I don't think it's our job to decide the proper size. . . . Our job is to come out with the best thing we can and I think we've got it."

Donation of Land Offered

Hensler-MacDonald has offered to donate 213 acres of hillside wilderness to the city in exchange for city approval to build on the remaining 103 acres, but the company and the city differed over when the transfer would take place. The city wants the property before construction begins. Hensler-MacDonald offered to transfer title after the development is built and the residences are sold.

In addition, the city has said the developer must construct a section of Mountain Street to connect with Camino San Rafael and Bouquete Street so project residents and emergency vehicles have two ways to enter and leave the area. Hensler-MacDonald wants the city to share the cost.

Last week, the firm successfully bid $1.125 million to purchase from Glendale Community College a 2.8-acre parcel at the east end of Mountain Street, east of the Glendale Freeway. The land was needed to provide access to the proposed development. The college had been trying to sell the unused property for four years.

In other action, the commission voted to keep multiple-unit zoning on a three-acre hillside property in Verdugo Canyon, the site of a controversial plan to build a 104-unit apartment development.

Protests from neighbors prompted the City Council last month to order a review of the site at 1905-07 Alpha Road, which is zoned to accommodate up to 107 apartment units without public review. Residents had asked that the property be rezoned for single-family homes.

The commission considered the current zoning proper because the property is next to 40-unit and 101-unit residential developments. The council will review the commission decision Tuesday.

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