Banquet hall is dealt blow

The Glendale City Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to uphold an earlier decision to revoke the zoning exception that allows the Montrose Collection Restaurant and Banquet Hall to operate, notching the latest mark in a long-running battle among the restaurateurs, neighboring residents and city officials over what is and isn't allowed to operate on the Honolulu Avenue site.

Over the past three years, the contentious dispute has escalated from the zoning administrator up to the City Council on several occasions, in and out of Los Angeles Superior Court, including a slander lawsuit brought against neighbors who complained publicly over the impacts of the banquet hall.

In March, after years of hearing-level squabbles and a Los Angeles Superior Court judgment, the City Council voted to revoke Montrose Collection's parking reduction permit, which allowed the eatery to operate without the required number of parking spaces.

With the parking reduction permit officially nullified, the city's zoning administrator revoked the zoning use certificate two days later, setting the stage for Montrose Collection attorneys to appeal to the Planning Commission.

On Wednesday, the commissioners upheld the zoning administrator's decision, setting the stage yet again for an appeal to the City Council.

It was the latest in a long series of developments for Montrose Collection, a case which has strained and frustrated all sides since it began rolling in 2006.

The nexus of the dispute has centered on what zoning rules apply to the site, since they have changed over the course of the life span of the building at 2831 Honolulu Ave. Owners Armen and Takui Aivazian contend they have a right to operate the building fully as a banquet hall, while city planners and neighbors have asserted repeatedly that zoning laws restrict banquet business to only up to 30% of the service area.

And since expanding the restaurant in 2006, city officials contend the Aivazians lost their grand-fathered rights and must meet higher parking standards.

“Enough is enough,” said Robert Thompson, a nearby neighbor of the restaurant who was named in Aivazian's slander lawsuit, which was dismissed in March 2008. “All of this has been heard before. It's time for the city to show that there are consequences for not following the codes.”

Frustration had also clearly taken ahold of Armen Aivazian, who in addition to claiming vested rights to operate fully as a banquet hall, ascertained that neighborhood opposition is thinly-veiled racial discrimination against an Armenian establishment.

“This is not an Armenian banquet hall; this is for my neighbors, for my community,” he told the commission. “This is for everybody.”

But Planning Commissioners steered clear of the political morass, with Chairman Bill Kane acknowledging that the “long and drawn out and somewhat torturous” process had clearly frustrated its stakeholders.

Still, he and his colleagues agreed that without the parking reduction permit, Montrose Collection clearly did not fit within current zoning laws.

The Aivazians essentially have two weeks to appeal the commission's decision to the City Council.

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