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Council members call for more family-friendly development in downtown Glendale

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City Council members are set to vote on revised downtown Glendale building regulations on March 23.
(Courtesy of Glendale city staff )

Under a proposed regulation, all new residential developments in downtown Glendale would need to include a designated percentage of units with more than one bedroom, in a move meant to make the area more family friendly.

“Glendale has been a place for families … and we are going away from [that],” Councilman Vrej Agajanian said during a council meeting earlier this week before recommending that all future projects be comprised of at least 25% two- and three-bedroom units.

Developers looking to build more densely would need an even higher percentage of what city staff calls diversity-in-housing units. Those seeking the maximum development allowance would need to set aside 40% of their units to have two or three bedrooms, under Agajanian’s proposal.

Calling Agajanian’s recommendation a “bold statement,” Councilman Ara Najarian said he would support the diverse-unit requirements that are being considered as part of a larger set of revised building regulations in the city’s Downtown Specific Plan.

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“There are a lot of developers having coronaries right now, trust me, but I think it gets us to where we want to be,” Najarian said.

Later in the meeting, Councilman Vartan Gharpetian said he would also support the requirement, but threw out 20% as the baseline percentage for all new projects.

Council members are expected to vote on the revised plan on March 26, just three days after the expiration of a downtown building moratorium adopted last year in response to complaints that developments being constructed in the downtown area were unsightly and shut out public activity on the street level.

Under the proposed plan, developers would have to use materials of a better quality, change the size and height of projects and often include more than double the amount of open space than under the existing plan — aspects that City Council members unanimously supported during the meeting Tuesday evening.

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“We really want to inform what the urban design looks like, what the buildings look like, the kind of character that we’re creating, from the building to the streetscape to the experience that [people] feel as they move through our city,” said Bradley Calvert, the city’s assistant director of planning, last month.

While council members appeared to reach consensus in support of requiring a diverse housing mix for all projects, it was an idea that divided the city’s planning commissioners, who looked at the proposed plan last week.

At that time, the city’s planning staff said the diversity requirement could potentially expose the city to lawsuits. This week, there was no mention of the requirement running afoul of the law.

“The city attorney’s office has expressed comfort with including the requirement,” Calvert said in an email after the council meeting.

Mayor Zareh Sinanyan expressed some concern that the requirement might have a “chilling effect” on development in the downtown area.

City Manager Yasmin Beers told council members that city staff members would need to study the economic impact of the diversity requirement, and that they would likely bring back two versions of the plan for a final vote — one with the requirement for all projects and one without.

“It’s always good to be bold, but we have to make sure it doesn’t ultimately have that chilling effect,” Beers said.

lila.seidman@latimes.com

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Twitter: @lila_seidman


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