Design review issue up for vote

CITY HALL — The nearly yearlong odyssey city officials have embarked upon to overhaul the design review process for single-family homes could end soon if the City Council on Tuesday approves procedural changes meant to curtail the authority of Glendale's two Design Review boards.

The breadth of change to the design review process would be extensive, giving city planners more authority to reinforce concepts of neighborhood compatibility — a major sticking point for homeowners associations — with architects soon after they submit their project applications.

It would also represent a swing to the other end of the pendulum after those same associations lobbied hard in the 1990s to have design review of single-family homes placed under the purview of the Design Review boards amid criticism that city planners were out of touch with neighborhood concerns.

After last year's municipal election, public discontent over the so-called “mansionization” of older neighborhoods heated up, which in turn spurred the council into what has been months of review and debates on how to modify the process again.

“We sort of threw the book out the window and rewrote the book,” Councilman John Drayman said. “I have certain sense of excitement about it.”

Council members have been careful to point out in the past that the proposed overhaul will not be a cure-all, but will lay the groundwork for clearer direction on neighborhood compatibility and compliance with forthcoming design guidelines.

A key part of the overhaul would be the introduction of a two-step process in which the Design Review boards would have the authority to send a proposed project back for redesign only once. Upon its return, the boards would have the option of approving the project with or without conditions, or rejecting it altogether, according to city reports.

Currently, there are no restrictions on the number of times the two boards can send a project back for redesign, although an applicant is allowed to appeal to the Alternative Assessment Panel — made up of members from both boards — after the third review.

Other major proposed changes include the elimination of the assessment panel in favor of a direct appeal to the City Council if a Design Review Board rejects the redesigned project at the second meeting.

The relative fast track to the council, which has consistently sided with neighborhood opponents of proposed projects, should motivate applicants to be more amenable to early suggestions and direction for planners, city officials say.

Some of the proposed amendments have already been incorporated into the city planning process — including a larger public noticing radius for a proposed project, larger signs, more staff involvement and second urban designer to handle the anticipated increased workload — ahead of the expected approval of the ordinances, Assistant Planning Director Tim Foy said.

“Many of the changes are already in place,” he said.

The City Council will also consider changing the terms of Design Review Board members Tuesday to serve concurrently with their council counterparts. This after the two boards were fully reconstituted Feb. 27, with each council making one nomination for each review board.

The City Council will take up the items at its meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers, 613 E. Broadway.


?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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