Officials Propose Slashing Density of Apartments, Condos

Times Staff Writer

A package of zoning amendments that would reduce the size of new apartment buildings and condominiums in Glendale as much as 58% and require such amenities as open spaces and spas was submitted to the City Council this week.

The city's planning staff developed the proposals to curtail what some council members have characterized as a flood of low-quality apartments and condominiums that has caused rapid population growth, traffic problems and crowding in local schools.

"We're really trying to put back into the development process the quality that seems to be lacking," said director of planning, John McKenna, who supervised the drafting of the amendments. "The current ethic of the developers is to maximize the number of square feet."

Although the amendments would not reduce the number of units allowed on the city's multifamily residential zones, the size of buildings would be regulated by limiting a structure's "floor-area ratio," the ratio of square feet of floor space to square feet of property.

Under the proposed amendments, the maximum floor area for apartment buildings in high-density zones would be reduced 33%, while the percentage for buildings in low-density zones would be reduced 58%.

If the changes are approved, developers of apartment buildings and condominiums would have to choose between either fewer units or smaller units.

Developers would also be required to provide residents with laundry facilities as well as private and shared outdoor space. There are currently no requirements for outdoor space.

Landscaping requirements also would be increased and developers would be allowed to build on only 50% of their property, down from 60%. The proposed amendments would also increase the parking spaces required for new apartment buildings to three spaces per unit for buildings with more than 1,200 square feet in floor area.

McKenna said the amendments will discourage the construction of massive "box-like" apartment buildings by creating incentives for smaller projects. For example, fewer outdoor facilities, parking spaces and other amenities would be required for projects with fewer units, he said.

The council and the Planning Commission held their first informal study session on the zoning regulations Monday.

In support of new regulations, Councilman Jerold Milner once again cited population density statistics. There are currently 2.4 residents per housing unit in Glendale, as compared to 2.17 when the city developed its consistency plan in 1986, he said.

But Vahik Shafrazian, a developer, said he feared zoning regulations would raise construction costs and lead to higher rents. "Can people living in this city afford that?" he asked.

The Glendale Fair Growth Coalition, a group of local developers, has formed a committee of architects, engineers and contractors to review the proposed ordinance, said coalition chairman Haik Vartanian. Although the committee has not completed its review, Vartanian said members of the coalition recognized the need for revisions to the zoning ordinance.

"We agree with the general principle of the changes, but we think they need to be tuned," Vartanian said. The coalition was concerned that the proposed changes might not be practical or affordable, he said.

Public hearings on the amendments are scheduled for Nov. 28 before the Planning Commission and Jan. 10 before the City Council.

The City Council imposed a five-month moratorium on the construction of new multifamily units Sept. 27 to prevent a flood of building applications while it drafts the new zoning regulations.

During council meetings in October, developers argued that the moratorium unjustly froze building projects in which they had already invested large sums of money.

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