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Hillside codes up for changes

CITY HALL — Another package of proposed changes to hillside zoning codes will be presented to the City Council today, nearly three years after the last round of amendments.

Since that time, the City Council has increasingly had to deal with complaints about how intrusive a proposed home can be in relation to the lot’s size and slope as neighbor criticisms — and appeals to projects — have continued to mount.

What started out as a simple request in November 2004 to review the merits of amending hillside development standards further to include a variable floor-area-to-lot-size ratio, adjusting street-front home setbacks and having different requirements for uphill and downhill lots has turned into a list of 10 proposals after dozens of community and planning staff meetings.

“None of this is meant to be a major overhaul of anything,” city Principal Planner Wolfgang Krause said. “Everything got thrown in there, and this is what came out.”

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After years of meetings and revisions, the proposed amendments set to go to the City Council are still young, and face what could be another round of revising and inquiries and suggestions on the dais.

City planners will take that input to draft an ordinance, which would still have to go through public hearings for the Planning Commission and City Council before being ratified, Krause said.

All of the amendments would be in addition to proposed changes to the design review process for all single-family homes in Glendale that the City Council is scheduled to consider at its meeting tonight.

Even if the council approves the items as they are proposed, an additional set of public hearings would need to be scheduled before the final vote, since some of them would change the zoning code for the Chevy Chase and Adams Hill areas, according to city staff reports.

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This has been a long time coming for the two homeowners associations representing the areas that have been dealing with numerous home-addition issues, mostly related to neighborhood compatibility.

“Things should have moved so much more quickly,” said Dick Murray, president of the Chevy Chase Estates Homeowners Assn. “They covered so much subject matter, but it’s not rocket science.”

But complication is what got the main provision in the set of proposals significantly neutered after the Planning Commission at its Sept. 19 meeting voted unanimously to throw out a formula to reduce the allowable home size as the slope of a lot steepens for being too complicated to codify.

It was replaced with a more broad threshold that would affect lots where the average slope is 40% or higher.

For the first 10,000 square feet of any proposed home on those lots, the ratio of lot coverage would be reduced from 0.3 to 0.25 — reducing future home sizes by about 15%.

For any additional square footage over 10,000, the ratio would be 0.05, according to the proposal.

Also included in the set of proposals approved by the Planning Commission are provisions that would exclude an attached garage from being factored in as a story in the height measurement of a house.

A pilot program for Adams Hill would allow street-front setback requirements to be pliable and allow garages closer to the front property line — a move that city planners expect to reduce hillside excavation.

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Michael Teahan, president of the Adams Hill Homeowners Assn., said the proposal would also help to alleviate street parking deficiencies since homeowners and city planners would have more leeway in finding a place to put the required second parking spot that comes with most home additions instead of seeking the usual zoning variance that allows the requirement to be ignored.

Other proposals would promote lot-merging in Chevy Chase Canyon to encourage fewer homes, while others would reduce the minimum lot size for proposed single-family homes in Adams Hill from 7,500 square feet to 6,000 square feet to discourage large homes that would be more appropriate in Chevy Chase.

The 10 proposals were borne out of a dozen meetings with the Hillside Ordinance Working Group — a consortium of 32 architects, developers, design review and other board members and neighborhood representatives — between May and November 2005.

Out of those discussions, the City Council in February 2006 referred a list of options back to the Planning Commission for discussion.

Over the preceding year and a half, commissioners held eight study sessions before approving their final list of recommendations on Sept. 19 for the council.

“It was incredibly inclusive,” Teahan said.

“Everyone has an interest in seeing good work done. I think we got that.”

The City Council may vote on each of the items, or send some of them back for more development at their meeting at 6 tonight in City Council chambers, 613 E. Broadway.

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 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.


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