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Many Glendale apartment developers now required to offer affordable units

A single construction worker appears in the windows of the Kaiser Permanente Glendale Orange Street
Forthcoming rental projects of a certain size in Glendale will need to include 15% affordable units under an ordinance passed unanimously Tuesday by the Glendale City Council.
(Tim Berger / Glendale News-Press)

Glendale City Council this week adopted an ordinance requiring developers of new rental projects greater than seven units to earmark 15% of those apartments for low-income tenants or pay a fee, adding another prong to city officials’ ongoing plan to combat rising rents in the area.

Set to go into effect in early June, the inclusionary zoning ordinance, or IZO, has gone through several iterations since City Council members directed staff to draft it in November and voted unanimously during Tuesday’s council meeting to approve it.

When the draft ordinance came before the Planning Commission in April, it applied to apartments greater than four units, as well as ownership projects such as condominiums. During the recent meeting, council members agreed to exempt ownership properties.

Compromise underpinned members’ ultimate consensus.

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Councilman Zareh Sinanyan suggested that, in an ideal world, developers would provide 50% affordable housing in their projects.

“But … that has nothing to do with our reality. That means that nothing would be built in this city,” Sinanyan said. “So what we have is a pretty good model for increasing our affordability in this city while not entirely stopping development.”

Councilman Vartan Gharpetian unsuccessfully attempted to rein in the ordinance’s effect by having it only apply to the downtown area and other high-density areas.

“We keep talking about the fairness of this whole ordinance,” Gharpetian said. “I think if we implement a blanket ordinance for all the [zoning types], it’s the wrong thing to do.”

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Developers who don’t want to build the required affordable units can pay an “in lieu” fee, which increases with the size of the project. Developers would be on the hook for a maximum in lieu fee of $55 per square foot for rental projects, according to Mike Fortney, the city’s principal housing manager.

Previously, the city offered developers who built a certain percentage of affordable units a reduction of a fee to support parks and libraries. That incentive was eliminated for rental property developers because many of them will now be required to build those units.

Under the new regulations, developers of ownership properties can still qualify for a reduction of the fee for affordable units they plan to sell.

There were three public speakers at Tuesday’s meeting — a stark contrast to the dozens who showed up for discussions in recent months of another affordable housing ordinance now in effect, known as Right to Lease, which requires landlords to offer tenants a one-year lease and pay relocation fees in certain circumstances.

One speaker, Diana Coronado, director of government affairs at a local chapter of the Building Industry Assn., recommended tweaking the ordinance to allow more projects currently in the pipeline to be exempted from the ordinance.

“This could not have been factored in a builder’s pro forma when deciding to invest in this community,” Coronado said.

It was a point echoed by Art Simonian, who sits on Glendale’s Design Review Board and is also developing a 28-unit project in Glendale.

Council members conceded, exempting developers who pull a shoring and grading permit before the ordinance goes into effect. A previous draft exempted developers who pulled a building permit, which comes with fees, during the same time frame.

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