Foothill site plan denied

CITY HALL — A controversial three-story mixed-use proposal for the former Foothill Builders and Hardware site on Foothill Boulevard appeared headed to the City Council on Thursday after city commissioners, uncomfortable with setting a design precedent in the fiercely protected neighborhood, voted unanimously to deny the project.

The 38,574-square-foot mixed-use office and retail building proposed for 3522 Foothill Blvd. was redesigned following a Feb. 12 hearing before Design Review Board No. 2 to include a less obvious third story and more appealing facade, but it was not enough to win over nearby residents who said it was still too large for the area’s small-town aesthetic.

They also appealed to the board to consider the far-reaching implications of a three-story complex to a mostly single-story commercial corridor.

“If you open this box, we’re going to be in big trouble,” said Richard Kraus, who lives near the site.

The main quagmire facing the board was two abutting zones with competing building allowances. The commercial zone allows for a maximum building height of 50 feet, but it abuts a residential zone comprising single-family homes owned by people who cherish their rural neighborhood and mountain vistas, which they argue would be harmed by the proposed project.

Wary of setting a precedent without any firm guidelines on how to reconcile competing property rights, board members denied the project, leaving the City Council to grapple with the dilemma.

While arguing property rights “only go as far as the other guy’s property line,” Design Review Board member Randy Carter said he could not go through with setting a major precedent for the neighborhood.

“I’m not prepared to go to three stories here,” he said.

Every one of his colleagues on the five-member board agreed, arguing that, to some extent, they were hamstrung by the new design review guidelines the City Council implemented two years ago streamlining the hearing process.

At the time, the council adopted the changes as a way to prevent developers from trying to push through maximum-sized projects by wearing down city commissioners through multiple redesigns over a long period of time.

Rodney Khan, who is representing the project’s developer, Farshid Khosravi, has argued repeatedly that the building falls well within the guidelines allowed under the commercial zone, and that it would be a much-needed improvement to an otherwise drab corridor.

But board members ultimately said it came down to a policy decision that they were not comfortable making, arguing they had run out of options under the shortened review process.

“We probably could have made it more productive if we could have made more decisions,” board member Alek Zarifian said.

Even city planners conceded that the board had been put in a hard position of considering a project that, unlike any before it in north Glendale, had tested the intent of zoning codes in the area.

“Staff realizes the board was put in a position to make a policy decision in a vacuum,” Planning Director Hassan Haghani said after the vote.

The Planning Department has been evaluating possible amendments to the North Glendale Community Plan to address development issues that have cropped up over the years, but the review is still in the early stages.

After the hearing, Khan and Khosravi said an appeal to the City Council would be forthcoming.


 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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