On two separate, politically significant issues, the Glendale City Council this week decided that preservation of historic sites and a hillside neighborhood should take precedence over private property rights and potential large-scale development.
The council on Tuesday voted to reduce the permitted density of construction in a hilly Verdugo Canyon area along Alpha Road and adopted an ordinance to protect buildings and sites deemed to be historically significant. Both actions, which may be challenged in court, blocked plans for projects that normally would have been permitted.
On the historic preservation issue, several council members expressed concern over potential infringements on property rights, but approved, 4 to 1, an ordinance creating a five-member Historic Preservation Commission to review the significance of historic landmarks. The commission could recommend that the council prohibit an owner from demolishing or altering a landmark.
The no vote was cast by Councilman John Day, who said: “I believe this is eating at the fundamental issue of private property rights. We are treading on very, very dangerous ground.”
Plan to Raze 97-Year-Old House
The ordinance was introduced by Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg, who drafted the measure with the assistance of a committee composed of representatives of the local Historical Society, real estate brokers, builders and business.
The action was prompted by a developer’s plan to demolish a 97-year-old house at 119 N. Cedar St., former home of Glendale pioneer Edgar D. Goode. It is the last Queen Anne/Eastlake-style home on its original site in Glendale. Plans called for an eight-unit apartment development on the property.
The council in May adopted a 90-day moratorium on demolition of the 30 sites deemed historic in the city’s 1977 general plan. Until now, the city had no procedure to protect such properties. The ordinance adopted Tuesday is an emergency measure, effective immediately.
Calvin Rodriquez of El Cajon, owner of the Cedar Street house, claimed that the city has caused him considerable financial loss by thwarting the sale of the property. Rodriquez, whose family has owned the house for 60 years, said the property had been for sale for a long time and a buyer had only recently been found.
Elks Lodge Affected
Under the ordinance, the commission will recommend to the council which sites should be preserved. Once sites are designated by the council, permits will be required to alter or remove buildings. Requests for permits will be reviewed by the commission and the council. The ordinance prohibits demolition of historical sites unless preservation deprives the owner of “all reasonable use” of the property.
The ordinance also affects members of the Glendale Elks Lodge, who want to demolish their 69-year-old building at 120 E. Colorado Blvd. and sell some of the land to pay for construction of a new building.
The ordinance gives the city power to order property owners to maintain structures. However, the city has no procedure to compensate owners for the cost of maintenance or the loss of use of property.
Several council members said they are concerned about the property rights issue.
Councilman Carl Raggio said the community may have to accept the cost of preserving historic sites by raising private funds to purchase them. “Maybe we should pay if we really want to call this history,” he said.
‘Being Old Is Not Being Historic’
Mayor Jerold F. Milner also said he has “some real reservations,” adding, “We have to recognize that being old is not being historic.”
Councilman Larry Zarian, who voiced similar concerns earlier, said he agreed to vote for the ordinance, contending that there are enough safeguards to protect owners. He added, “If we are looking for a perfect ordinance, we’ll never get one.”
Council members also indicated that they are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the ordinance, which could be rescinded by council action.
Members of the historic review commission are expected to be appointed next week.
On the Alpha Road decision, the council tentatively agreed to change the zoning on three parcels to low-density, single-family development. It had been designated for medium-density, multiple-family development.
The unanimous action, when final, will block plans by developer Marc Kogan to build a 104-unit apartment complex on the land at 1905-07 Alpha Road. No development had been planned on the two nearby properties.
8 Houses Permitted
Kogan purchased the three-acre parcel last year. He said construction was scheduled to begin immediately. He and his representatives had argued that the zoning change is an infringement on his property rights. He said they intend to challenge the city’s action in court.
Under the new zoning, Kogan is permitted to build only eight homes on the land.
The Glendale Planning Commission earlier had recommended that the council retain the multiple-density zoning on Kogan’s property because it is between two other multiple-family developments-- 101-unit and 40-unit condominium complexes.
The commission warned that changing the zoning on selected property would create “spot zoning,” a practice considered improper by city planners. However, council members said they are reluctant to change the zoning on the adjacent properties because the existing condominiums would then not conform to zoning laws and could not be replaced or repaired if damaged.
Opposition to Project
Residents of Alpha Road, including condominium owners, unanimously opposed Kogan’s project, arguing that the narrow, winding roads in the neighborhood already are crowded.
Councilman Zarian told residents: “We do not want to take away anything you already have. What’s there is there. What we are saying is, ‘It’s dense enough. Don’t build any more.’ ”
Final action on the zoning-change ordinance is scheduled for Sept. 10. Because the developer has filed a formal protest, the ordinance will require the approval of all five council members.