Ordinance to Cap Growth Won’t Work, Council Says

Times Staff Writer

Five months after requesting an ordinance designed to place a cap on population in Glendale’s increasingly crowded neighborhoods, council members acknowledge that the proposed measure would do little more than improve the city’s aesthetic appearance.

The proposed zoning ordinance would require new apartment buildings to be smaller, shorter, better-looking and, therefore, more expensive to build than those now rising throughout the city’s multiple-unit residential areas. But the proposed law would have a marginal impact on population growth, city officials said this week.

After its third study session on the proposed changes Tuesday, the City Council postponed voting on the measure for at least a week. However, council members have yet to comment on the individual items that make up the complex proposal, and it may take well over a month before any decision is made.

“We’ll take as much time as we need to get it right,” Councilman Larry Zarian said.


Favorable Vote Indicated

Several council members said they are inclined to vote for the package of zoning changes. But they also said the council will have to start from square one to achieve its oft-stated goal of limiting Glendale’s population to about 200,000, in accordance with the city’s general plan.

Senior Planner James Glazer, architect of the proposed ordinance, told the council that under present zoning laws, there is room in Glendale for 49,000 new apartment units. The city has 40,788 multiple-family units and 27,687 single-family units.

If the council adopts the proposed ordinance, he said, building restrictions would reduce the number of units by 8,000. And if the council incorporates recommendations made by the Chamber of Commerce in the proposal, the number of potential new units would not change.


The news did not please council members.

Moratorium Imposed

Problems caused by population growth such as school overcrowding and traffic congestion prompted the council six months ago to unanimously adopt a moratorium on building and begin work on the proposed zoning ordinance.

“The reason for the moratorium is the dramatic growth in this area,” Mayor Carl Raggio wrote in a Glendale News-Press editorial in October, one month after voting for the 150-day apartment-building freeze. The moratorium was later extended until April 24.

“The five months should be sufficient to restructure an ordinance and code that assures quality associated with apartment building,” he said.

After Tuesday’s study session, three council members acknowledged that they were surprised and disappointed when the planning staff introduced the measure Feb. 28 without provisions to drastically reduce growth.

“They misunderstood our instructions,” Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg said. “We thought we made it absolutely clear that we wanted a population cap, but they went into aesthetics and design when we thought they were working on population reduction. I was a little astonished when they came up with the ordinance.”

Councilman Larry Zarian agreed. “The intent was to reduce population growth,” he said. “Whether we stated it clearly or not, it should be clear through the numerous statements we made in public and to the press. We’ve been saying for three or four years that we want to limit our population to 200,000, and I was surprised that the ordinance does not accomplish that.”


Measure Called ‘Inadequate’

Councilman Jerold Milner called the proposed ordinance “totally inadequate. We wanted it to reduce the number of building units allowed it the city, and it clearly did not.”

Raggio would not criticize the work, but said further legislation would be required to limit the city’s population growth.

On the other hand, Councilman John F. Day said that trying to control population growth is an “exercise in futility.” He said the city could not control the influx of immigrants pouring into Glendale, “short of keeping people out, because the population is going to grow.”

Glazer said he estimates that Glendale’s population of 165,000 will level off eventually at 200,000 to 230,000, as projected in the city’s general plan. But before then, it will probably exceed that number by between 50,000 and 100,000, he said. He said he based his projections on the fact that the pace of growth is surpassing the attrition rate of large, nonconforming apartment buildings in single-family and low-density zones, but that population eventually will fall as such buildings are removed.

He refused to say whether he had received a mandate from the council to address population growth in the proposed ordinance.

Glazer would only say that his instructions, as he understood them, were “one, to identify community values in terms of design and what’s being built and, two, try to establish solutions.”

Population growth notwithstanding, council members said they were pleased with the planning staff’s solutions to improve the quality of apartment buildings in Glendale.


Follow-Up Measure Possible

Bremberg, Raggio and Zarian said they favor adopting the proposed ordinance without major changes, then immediately putting the staff to work on another ordinance that would restrict growth mainly by rewriting zoning laws to limit building heights and density. Zarian and Raggio said they believe that they can keep the population close to 200,000. “It will be very difficult but it’s a wonderful goal,” Bremberg said.

Milner said he believed that the city’s population could be kept to close to 200,000 without having to rezone a single block. He said it could be accomplished by limiting the size of underground parking garages to 50% of the property area.

This limitation, added to the requirement of 2 1/2 to three parking spaces per unit in the proposed ordinance, would automatically reduce the amount of units that a developer could place on any given lot, Milner said. He said he will make this proposal at the next council session where the proposed ordinance is discussed.

On Tuesday, the council postponed acting on the measure to allow more public comment. The Fair Growth Coalition, a developers group, is scheduled to make a presentation Tuesday.

Fair Growth Coalition representative Haik Vartanian told the council March 21 that his group would not be making a presentation and accused the council of “political grandstanding.” But he said Tuesday that his group changed its mind at the urging of Day and Zarian.