City Clamps Down on Design, Size of Houses


The Glendale City Council on Tuesday approved stringent building restrictions on all new single-family houses and all but minor home improvements, despite some complaints that the rules will subject homeowners to excessive bureaucratic review.

The guidelines will regulate a house's design, size, height, landscaping and parking to ensure that it is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood, planning officials said.

The five-member council unanimously approved a general ordinance that requires approval by one of the city's design review boards for all new houses, additions greater than 700 square feet and any changes to a structure's front facade that ordinarily require a building permit.

But Councilman Richard Jutras dissented in a companion measure that established three compatibility categories based on sizes of houses and lots in Glendale neighborhoods. Jutras said the broad groupings were too general to determine fairly the size of new houses in specific areas.

City planners began drafting the new measures in September, 1989, after the Chamber of Commerce, the Northwest Glendale Homeowners Assn. and other homeowners' groups called for stricter design rules to curb "mansionization." The term refers to the building of large houses that nearly fill their lots in neighborhoods with comparatively smaller houses.

Some residents, architects and builders objected that the regulations would overstep that goal by restricting creativity in house design and subjecting homeowners to the desires of their neighbors.

The Glendale Planning Commission also voiced those concerns at a public hearing last month but approved the measures anyway.

On Tuesday, some City Council members also expressed reservations about the scope of the design guidelines, but said they were satisfied the rules would not be overly restrictive.

"I don't like this ordinance completely . . . but I feel it's time to put something on the books," Mayor Larry Zarian said.

Among other limitations, the guidelines limit a house and garage to 40% of a lot. They also expand the role of the design review boards by allowing them to deny a new house design or renovation that is deemed incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood, even if it meets all zoning requirements.

Before approving the ordinance, the council amended it to require the city to notify homeowners of major changes to neighboring properties.

Under the plan, the city will inform property owners by mail when one of the design review boards is considering changes at an adjacent residence. In addition, the property owner requesting the change will be required to post a sign at the residence to inform neighbors.

The notification plan is expected to cost the city about $17,000 for an additional, part-time clerk and cause a one- to two-week delay in scheduling review board hearings. Previously, the city merely posted at City Hall a review board agenda of such changes.

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