Glendale Council Extends Freeze on Building Apartments

Times Staff Writer

In a renewed effort to limit the city's population to close to the 200,000 residents recommended in the General Plan, the Glendale's City Council on Tuesday extended its 10-month-old moratorium on apartment construction until next February.

The extension, approved on a 4-1 vote, will give the council sufficient time to adopt a zoning ordinance reducing the population density in neighborhoods where apartments and condominiums are allowed, City Manager David Ramsay said.

The moratorium excludes projects that provide housing for low- to moderate-income senior citizens, Planning Director John McKenna said.

The building freeze, which was due to expire August 22 after two previous extensions, has been challenged in court by developers whose projects are being held up in the plan approval stage, but City Atty. Frank Manzano said he was confident that the judges will rule in the city's favor.

"The moratorium is less than a year old so far, and the courts have upheld moratoriums for more than two years," said Manzano, "so we're in the ballpark as far as that's concerned."

Closing arguments in one of the lawsuits before the appellate court are scheduled for July 26. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the developers, but the city appealed. The second suit is awaiting the appellate court decision on the first one.

"I think the extension is grossly unfair to the projects in the pipeline," said Haik Vartanian, who heads the group of 30 developers that sued the city. Vartanian had three projects awaiting approval by the Planning Department when the moratorium was imposed in September, 1988.

'All Talk'

"We're still in the same situation we were 10 months ago," he said. "It's all talk and no action."

Councilman Dick Jutras, who cast the only dissenting vote, said he was concerned about the suits and whether it is fair to keep the developers on hold for another extended period.

"I thought we were going to lift the moratorium with whatever interim zoning standards we work out while we consider a permanent solution," Jutras argued. All zoning proposals need a 4-1 majority for approval.

For the last two months, the council tried to agree on interim zoning restrictions to lift the moratorium, but was unable to reach agreement. Council members Carl Raggio and Ginger Bremberg and Mayor Jerold Milner favored reducing by half the number of new building units allowed in apartment neighborhoods while a permanent solution was worked out, but Jutras and Councilman Larry Zarian blocked the proposal for easing the moratorium, saying it was "too drastic."

Nevertheless, Zarian voted with the majority Tuesday to extend the ban on apartment construction, a more extreme step than those he has opposed in the past.

'Might as Well'

"If we can't agree on the right numbers, we might as well extend the moratorium," he said.

McKenna said it would take the Planning Department at least six months to come up with an ordinance outlining the zoning reductions favored by the council.

"February is an optimistic target date, depending on factors beyond our control," such as the length of the public hearings, McKenna explained. "The council direction is to make this process as fast as possible."

In an interview after the council meeting, McKenna outlined the timetable to ready the draft ordinance for approval. The first step, McKenna said, would be to review the draft amendments to the General Plan, rewrite density descriptions and amend city maps. This process would be completed by the end of October, McKenna said.

Next would be to develop environmental reports and analyses of projected population changes, to study similar examples of population reductions in other cities, and to amend the zoning code. This process would be completed by the end of November.

December and January would be spent in preparing, advertising and finally conducting public hearings before both the Planning Commission and the City Council, McKenna said. Two months, with a holiday break in between, would be the bare minimum time for this process, he said.

Prevent Rush

The building moratorium was adopted unanimously on September 27, 1988, to prevent a rush of building applications while the city considered zoning changes to control its growth. Two months later, the Planning Department introduced a draft ordinance that was hailed by council members as the solution to the city's growth problems, such as traffic congestion and school overcrowding.

By late February, council members acknowledged that the proposed ordinance would do little more than improve the city's appearance and began calling the proposal the "design ordinance." Soon thereafter, the council instructed McKenna and his staff to begin work on the zoning restrictions, and on Tuesday the moratorium was extended for a third time to allow the Planning Department staff enough time to come up with a proposal.

Meanwhile the design ordinance, which would end the moratorium if it were adopted, has become a fixture on the City Council agenda. Last Wednesday, it was postponed for the 10th time.

However, Manzano said, Tuesday's building freeze extension preempts the moratorium-ending clause of the design ordinance. With this obstacle out of the way, the council is expected to adopt the design ordinance next week, imposing landscaping, lot size, parking and other restrictions on apartment and condominium construction.

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