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Ordinance requiring residential projects in Glendale to offer affordable units clears key commission

Ordinance requiring residential projects in Glendale to offer affordable units clears key commission
Under a proposed inclusionary zoning ordinance, developers of rental properties in Glendale would have to set aside 15% of their project's units as affordable. (Tim Berger / Glendale News-Press)

An ordinance that would require developers to include a certain percentage of affordable units in proposed projects in Glendale, or pay a fee, is heading to City Council at the end of the month for consideration.

Under the inclusionary zoning ordinance, or IZO, developers of projects exceeding four units would need to earmark 15% of their units as affordable for a rental project, and 11% for an ownership project, said Glendale’s principal housing manager Mike Fortney during a Planning Commission meeting last week.

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Those who want to bypass the requirement can pay what’s known as an “in lieu” fee, which increases with the size of the project. Developers would be on the hook for a maximum of $55 per square foot for rental projects and $26.30 for ownership projects, Fortney said.

A study conducted to determine the fees looked at what was “legally defensible and economically viable,” according to Philip Lanzafame, the city’s director of community of development.

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Developers also have the option to provide the required affordable units at another location that is a mile or less from the primary project or at another existing residential building they purchase and rehabilitate.

According to Fortney, it’s hard to estimate how many affordable units the IZO will bring online per year, but 150 “would be great.”

“North of that would be really nice,” he added.

Council members still have to decide whether the affordable units have to be the same, in terms of size and amenities, as a project’s other units. Planning staff members have offered an option that would allow developers to opt to build a larger number of smaller units.

Planning Commissioners voted 3-0 on April 3 to advance the proposed ordinance. Commissioner Stefen Chraghchian recused himself because he had previously done consulting work for a local developer.

Commissioner Greg Astorian recommended reducing what’s known as a development impact fee, which is typically levied on developers of smaller properties to support parks and libraries.

Currently, developers offering affordable housing do get a reduction in that fee. Because the IZO requires all developers to offer affordable housing, Fortney said it doesn’t make sense to continue to offer the reduction.

The development impact fee is outside the Planning Commission’s purview, but Astorian’s comments could be conveyed to the council, according to planning staff.

“I believe [the ordinance] is important … We need it. I just wish there was a little more incentivization alongside this too,” Astorian said.

It was a point echoed by lone speaker Diana Coronado, director of government affairs at a local chapter of the Building Industry Assn.

“Builders of homes need meaningful and flexible offsets to reduce the cost to create affordable units based on individual project needs,” such as increased building area and density, reduction of open space and elimination of building fees, Coronado said.

According to Lanzafame, an affordable housing incentive included in the city’s downtown building regulations “hasn’t been widely used.”

In November, City Council members directed staff to draft the ordinance as part of a strategy to address the housing crisis plaguing the city and the state.

Since then, council members have adopted an ordinance, known as Right to Lease, requiring landlords to offer tenants a one-year lease and pay relocation fees in certain circumstances. They will also consider a subsidy program for low-income, elderly renters later in the year.

“We develop as much as we can with the resources we have,” Fortney said during the recent meeting. “With the limited resources that the housing authority has, we do the best we can.”

There is already an inclusionary zoning requirement for the city’s San Fernando Road corridor, and in the past year it has affected three projects, Fortney said. The proposed citywide ordinance would replace the existing one that is limited to the San Fernando Road area.

The City Council’s first reading of the proposed ordinance is set for April 30. A second reading is expected to follow on May 7.

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