‘No’ Vote by Day Abolishes Review Panels : Ordinance to Regulate Design of Buildings Allowed to Lapse

Times Staff Writer

In an unexpected turn of events, a controversial Glendale ordinance that created design-review panels to stop what city officials said was a rash of ugly buildings was abolished Tuesday.

Extension of the year-old ordinance required a four-fifths vote of the council. With one member absent, a “no” vote by Councilman John F. Day killed the measure.

Mayor Ginger Bremberg said she was “shocked and angered” by Day’s action.

On Wednesday, Bremberg contacted Councilman Larry Zarian, who is vacationing in Mexico and was absent from the meeting. Bremberg said Zarian agreed to return early and is expected back Friday. A special council meeting has been called for 4 p.m. Friday when the four-member council majority is expected to adopt an emergency design review ordinance and reappoint members to the review panels.


Day said he voted to abolish the panels because he has become “absolutely convinced over a period of time that the city should not interfere with private enterprise.” He ignored repeated pleas from city officials, builders, architects and planners that he reconsider his action.

With Day’s negative vote, the ordinance automatically died at midnight Tuesday. Announcement of the measure’s defeat drew an audible gasp from the crowd of builders, developers and architects at the meeting.

‘A Fate Worse Than Death’

Both proponents and opponents of the city’s design policy predicted that the death of the three review panels will create chaos. They warned that many builders may try to rush undesirable projects through the planning department before new checks are installed and that many others may become victimized by temporary confusion over design requirements. Some said it will result in long delays in the issuing of building permits.

Marlene Roth, a developers’ consultant and frequent critic of the city’s policy, called the dissolution “a fate worse than death.” She said builders now face “a costly, time-consuming process filled with uncertainty.”

Charles Walton, an architect and chairman of one review panel, said he was “appalled” by Day’s action. “We’ve been struggling for a year to make the review process run right. We finally got the bugs out and we get the rug jerked out from under us. It is really sad.”

The architectural guidelines specified that designs for apartment and commercial buildings provide “changes in material, height, projections in the vertical or horizontal plane or similar facade changes.” Guidelines also called for elimination of “the ugly, the garish, the inharmonious, the monotonous and the hazardous,” which officials said described many buildings being erected in the city before controls were adopted.

The ordinance was passed in March, 1986, after more than a year of study. It contained a one-year “sunset clause,” meaning the panels would go out of business unless renewed by the council.


Meantime, the council, the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, builders and others have been studying proposals for a revised design ordinance that was expected to be adopted within about a month. The revised measure would have extended the life of the review boards indefinitely.

The council earlier this year extended the old ordinance for 60 days--until April 28--when it had expected to adopt the revised ordinance. But action was delayed for weeks as various commissions and groups ironed out details of the measure and the old ordinance was again scheduled to be extended until June 9.

Despite the action, the council on Tuesday went ahead with a scheduled hearing on a proposed revised ordinance. Many of the speakers, who said the design-review process had created severe hardships such as delays in construction and uncertainties over the city’s goals, nonetheless said they liked the concept of control over design.

James Glazer, a city planning director, said his biggest fear is that the elimination of the panels will cause “the undoing of everything that the design-review board has done in the past year.”