Affordable-housing project stalls

CITY HALL — The City Council on Tuesday put the brakes on a potential affordable-housing project after several members said the process had run afoul of established procedures.

The Housing Authority on Tuesday was set to discuss the potential for building a new affordable-housing project on city-owned property near the corner of Sonora Avenue and 5th Street in northwest Glendale.

But the City Council postponed any action after several council members questioned a presentation from an affordable-housing developer, which Councilman John Drayman said sounded "an awful lot like an attempt to circumvent a process."

At the beginning of the meeting, city officials recommended that the City Council authorize officials to accept proposals from developers interested in the site, which the city bought in 2008 for $6 million.

But during the public-comment portion of the meeting, local architect Efrain Olivares told the City Council he had already assembled a development team and spent eight months developing plans for the site.

Olivares, a longtime member of the Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee, requested that the city forgo a formal proposals process and begin negotiations for the site with his development team.

He joined representatives from developer AMCAL and nonprofit Alternative Living for the Aging to present a proposed 53-unit affordable housing development on the site.

The project would cater to seniors and people with special needs, with select units designated for military veterans.

Councilmen Frank Quintero and Dave Weaver said the proposal made sense in light of a recent focus on helping veterans find affordable housing.

Citing the developer's ability to break ground by next year, Quintero said the agency should review the plans and consider an exclusive negotiating agreement.

"It's certainly not the first time that the Housing Authority has not done a full [request for proposals]," he said. "For me it's about how quickly this organization could move into building something that works for the low-income people here in Glendale."

But Drayman argued that proper procedures had to be followed, regardless of whether the proposal had merit.

"Typically, this is not how it happens," he said.

Mayor Ara Najarian went further, questioning whether a new development, which would cost more than $300,000 per unit, was a cost effective use of city housing dollars. He requested that the City Council consider other options, such as buying existing units.

"I am not happy again this is brought before council because it's the wrong process. It's the wrong way," he said. "I vote for putting the brakes on this whole thing."

The issue is expected to return to the dais in the coming weeks.

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