Compromise Presented for San Rafael Hills Project

Times Staff Writer

The builders of what would be the largest housing development in Glendale’s history need to swing one more member of the City Council to their side for a necessary zoning change. With that in mind, they have come up with a compromise on the piece of their plan that most displeased councilwoman Ginger Bremberg: a new road.

Bremberg said last month that she would oppose the zoning change for the 588-unit Hensler-MacDonald subdivision in the San Rafael hills above Glendale Community College because plans called for extending Mountain Street 1 1/2 miles east of the Glendale Freeway to Camino San Rafael. She and many area residents said they feared the road would bring more crime and speeders to secluded canyon neighborhoods.

The developer now has proposed scaling back the road from its original planned width of 40 feet to 15 feet and blocking it with entrance gates that would open only during emergencies, primarily for police, fire and other such vehicles. It would would not be open to day-to-day traffic, as was originally proposed.

“They are looking for that fourth vote to avoid a can of worms” a Glendale city planner said of the latest proposal.


Opposition From Milner

Any zoning change needs approval from four of the five council members. Three have said they would vote for the change but stressed that they wanted a road to provide extra access in case of emergencies. The fifth, Mayor Jerold Milner, said he opposes the project because it requires too much grading of scenic hillsides and has too many attached town houses and not enough single-family homes.

Bremberg has said she likes the developer’s concept of keeping 213 of the 316 acres as open space and building a mixture of 140 town houses, 312 duplexes and 136 single-family houses on the rest of the tract. She said she is not philosophically opposed to changing the single-family house zoning to one allowing so-called planned residential development. The road was her main objection.

The council was scheduled to vote on the zoning change Tuesday, but councilman John Day, a strong supporter of the project, was absent because of illness, along with Councilmen Larry Zarian and Carl Raggio. The matter was continued until Dec. 17 at the request of the developers, Richard R. Hensler of Sun Valley and the S. T. MacDonald family of Montrose.


Interest Expressed

After the meeting, Bremberg said she had not seen the developer’s latest proposal for the road because it has been filed only with the Planning Department and not yet submitted to the council. However, after being told by a reporter about it, she said: “It certainly sounds a heck of a lot more interesting that it did the last time around.”

Zarian, who last month was most vocal in pushing for the extension of Mountain Street, said Tuesday that he might be satisfied with a limited-access road. “That’s OK with me as long as there is access and egress for emergency vehicles,” he said.

But Milner said the idea for the new road only strengthens his opposition to the project because, he said, any large development there would need a full access road. “Their modification is an effort to get Ginger’s vote. It does not accomplish what should be done with that road. In my view, they are simply worsening their position, if it can be worse than a ‘no.’ ”

Marlene Roth, a planning consultant for the developers, said in an interview Tuesday that she hopes the council will be able to consider the zoning change and the new road at the same time next month. She conceded that the change was made to get an extra council vote and said, “It is something that meets the needs that have been identified.”

According to Roth, the alignment and length of the road would remain the same as in its original concept. “But the function would be different,” she said, adding that the type of gates and how they could be opened are still under study. The new road also would be lined with parallel trails for bicycling and jogging, she said.

Roth estimated that the new proposal would cut the cost of extending Mountain Street from its original $4.5 million to $2 million. The city was to pay a third of the cost, up to $1.5 million for the 40-foot-wide road; she said she expects that the city would pay a third of the $2 million for the narrower project.

After 15 months of controversy and numerous revisions, the council voted 3 to 2 on Oct. 1 to approve the site plan for the Hensler-MacDonald tract; that plan included the wider road. Bremberg and Milner were the no votes.


However, a separate vote is required for the zoning change. City Atty. Frank Manzano has warned that the developer would have ample grounds for a lawsuit if he faces contradictory council actions with approval of site plans, but a loss on zoning.