City to Weigh Variance in Zone for High-Rises

Times Staff Writer

In what would be a significant turnaround in city policy, Glendale Redevelopment Agency members said they are willing to consider permitting low-rise office and retail buildings to be constructed in a few downtown areas set aside for construction of high-rise projects.

Since the redevelopment project began in 1972, property owners have been prohibited from replacing existing buildings with ones of similar size because it could increase the city's cost to acquire whole blocks for major redevelopment projects, officials said.

The policy was enforced by requiring that any construction in the downtown area include adequate parking, making construction of small-scale projects, which lack the land for parking, economically unfeasible, officials said.

But, last week, the owners of two old buildings, at 106 and 116 E. Broadway, told the redevelopment agency, composed of City Council members, that their two-story, unreinforced brick and masonry structures are so poorly built that they should be torn down and replaced with three-story structures.

The developers had city permission to renovate the buildings but said they did not discover their shoddy condition until the structures were stripped to a skeleton.

The developers also are seeking a variance from meeting the parking requirements. They are asking that parking spaces for the proposed buildings be allocated in a parking garage the city plans to build on Maryland Avenue between Broadway and Wilson Avenue.

Developer Bill Holderness, who has renovated other buildings along Brand Boulevard between Wilson Avenue and Harvard Street under strict city guidelines, called the gutted structure at 116 E. Broadway "just a little brick building that doesn't seem to have a whole lot of unusual character to it . . . just a bad looking thing."

Unlike other buildings that have been renovated, Holderness said, the two structures on Broadway have no steel reinforcement.

Prohibitive Costs

He said the cost of renovating the buildings is comparable to new construction. Holderness argued that new structures could be designed to be more architecturally compatible with other buildings being renovated in a two-block area along the east side of Brand between Harvard and Wilson.

The agency unanimously agreed to consider the proposal, which will be heard later.

City officials said they are concerned that permitting one or two developers to construct low-rise buildings downtown without meeting parking requirements could prompt others to seek similar permission and quickly fill the city's proposed 740-space parking garage.

The redevelopment agency Tuesday approved final design plans for the garage, which has been increased from the 650 spaces proposed in 1985 because of projected higher demand for parking. The estimated cost of the project also has risen, from $5.3 million to $6.5 million. Construction is scheduled to begin by early summer.

However, city officials said there is support for the developers' proposal.

Councilman John F. Day said: "If it benefits the city, it should be done."

Rising Property Values

Susan Shick, deputy redevelopment director, said rising property values resulting from construction in the area near Brand and Broadway could make private development of new parking facilities economically feasible.

However, she also said that any new low-rise buildings and parking facilities may have to be demolished after a few years if a major development materializes.

Four years ago, the city rejected similar requests from owners of property along the east side of Brand between Harvard and Broadway who sought to improve the block with a combination of new, low-rise buildings and renovation.

Instead, agency members favored an ambitious plan by a Sherman Oaks developer for a mixed-use project combining high-rise office buildings with retail and residential condominiums in a two-block area bordered by Brand, Louise Street, Broadway and Harvard.

The city had pledged to pay $5 million of the estimated $11 million to $15 million of land acquisition costs for that project, but negotiations later collapsed.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World