Cumberland Terrace project gets green light from council


A proposal to construct a modern house nearly twice the size of the existing mid-century home currently on a lot along a hillside cul-de-sac in north Glendale was approved by the City Council members Tuesday as they rejected an appeal by a neighbor who argued the home would not fit the character of the neighborhood.

Passions flared at times Tuesday during a three-hour hearing to address Lee Straus’ claim that the city’s Design Review Board erred in approving the project at 1650 Cumberland Terrace in March because it violated local aesthetic and size guidelines adopted by Glendale officials in 2011.

At one point, a police officer interceded as two local residents exchanged expletives in council chambers.

“The way the guidelines were written were a way of preventing mansionization in Glendale that had been happening,“ Straus said during the hearing.

“If allowed, this would be precedent for other similar construction. The floodgates will be open,” Straus added.

The proposed approximately 5,400-square-foot, single-family residence and attached three-car garage would also include a swimming pool, outdoor kitchen, detached bathroom and covered outdoor living room, according to a project summary released in March.

The existing 2,792-square-foot home built in 1957, along with an existing detached garage and swimming pool, would be demolished to make way for the project.

Artak Dovlatyan, the homeowner who proposed the project last year, pointed out that he is not asking for variances, and the proposed house is 11 feet under the allotted 32-foot height limit for the 27,734-square-foot lot. The two-story home would also feature larger setbacks than what’s required, he said.

“If I took [Straus’] scale, and applied it to my property, I would be proposing a bigger property than I am today – and he talks about scale,” Dovlatyan said.

Ultimately, the council sided with the design board’s recommendation for approval, voting 3-1 to allow the project to progress with non-binding considerations, including shaving off a few hundred square feet, if possible.

Councilwoman Paula Devine cast the lone dissenting vote and said she agreed with Straus that the mass and scale of the project was out of tune with the neighborhood.

“These guidelines are protecting our neighborhoods,” said Devine, who suggested a larger, one-story home.

Mayor Zareh Sinanyan, who voted in favor of the proposal, stressed that the design guidelines are not laws, but suggestions, and therefore open to interpretation and discretion.

“At the time that those [mid-century] homes were built, they were considered modern, and now you’re having a modern building being built in 2018,” Sinanyan said. “To me, it’s kind of a natural process.”

City Atty. Mike Garcia persuaded Sinanyan not to read a post on hyperlocal social-media site Nextdoor about the project that the Mayor called “an opposition letter — except it’s an opposition letter to an entire ethnicity of people.”

Garcia said the hearing could only be based on evidence presented in the case at hand.

Twitter: @lila_seidman