Ban on zoning exceptions sought

CITY HALL — The fate of zoning use variances in single-family residential neighborhoods could hinge on the argument of one woman: Laurie Collins.

The Glendale resident was one of a handful of vocal opponents last year when a home in her East Glenoaks Boulevard neighborhood sought a zoning use variance to operate a business in the home. The ensuing yearlong battle, which eventually saw the applicant back down, spurred a movement among homeowners associations to have the practice banned altogether.

To do it the City Council needs a supermajority, but Councilman Ara Najarian on Tuesday expressed misgivings about altering a process that didn’t appear to present a major problem.

“I don’t see what the ill affects are,” he said. “I think we have sufficient safeguards.”

Last week, the City Council offered up two competing motions, one that would ban the practice altogether, the other simply altering the process by which applications are heard.

With Councilman Bob Yousefian backing the latter, Najarian is positioned as the swing vote, and, while promising to keep an open mind, he publicly called on Collins to appear before the council and state her case for banning use variances from single-family zones.

Collins argued for the ban before the Planning Commission in October, which voted unanimously to recommend a compromise amendment to the City Council banning the variances in single-family residential zones.

The Glendale Homeowners Coordinating Council, an umbrella organization for dozens of homeowners associations in the city, has lobbied hard to have all future use variances banned.

Real estate and development representatives maintained that the six use variances approved since 2006 proved the practice is not abused, while opponents argued the same zoning allowance can be achieved through a code amendment.

Collins was absent from the council meeting last week due to a scheduling conflict, but on Friday, said she’d answer Najarian’s call.

“I think it’s a solvable problem,” she said. “I don’t think anybody will be hurt if use variances are banned in single-family neighborhoods.”

Limiting the ban to only single-family zones, and removing the initial zoning administrator hearing by sending applicants straight to the Planning Commission, was seen as a compromise last week by City Council members who agreed that no harm would come of preserving single-family neighborhoods.

“I don’t think by doing this we’re going to affect anything else in the city, however, we’ll be taking one more step to protect single-family neighborhoods,” Councilman Frank Quintero said.

Mayor John Drayman and Councilman Dave Weaver also supported the Planning Commission’s recommendation, but without another vote, the proposed ban will fail.

That would leave Yousefian’s motion — to leave the use variances alone, but send applications straight to the Planning Commission — as the alternative. That daft ordinance would require only a simply majority.

The City Council will consider both options at 6 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers, City Hall, 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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