CITY HALL — Chamlian Armenian School can move forward with plans for a new gymnasium after the City Council on Tuesday unanimously overturned a commission-level decision to deny the project.
The decision on Tuesday was a victory for the dozens of school administrators, parents and students — many donning athletic jerseys — who packed the City Hall chambers in support of the gym.
“Our only purpose for this project is to enhance our daily physical education classes for our students,” said Principal Vazken Madenlian.
City planners determined that the gym would not add to existing traffic associated with daily drop-off and pick-up of students.
Despite this, the Planning Commission voted 3 to 1 in January to reject the gym, siding with neighbors who have vigorously opposed the project because they say it will add to neighborhood traffic and parking problems.
“I don’t think it’s going to particularly impact the neighborhood,” said Councilman Frank Quintero. “Between a good neighborhood protection plan in terms of traffic and in terms of restrictions on the gym, I think this would work out for both the school and the neighborhood.”
School officials proposed that the 9,345-square-foot gymnasium — featuring a 7,970 square-foot sports court, an entry lobby, bathrooms and a storage area — be built near the east perimeter of the school’s property at 4444 Lowell Ave, south of Foothill Boulevard, in north Glendale.
Because the 35-foot-tall gym will exceed height and floor-area restrictions for the neighborhood, school officials applied for the required zoning variances to move forward with the project.
Roughly 500 students in kindergarten through eighth-grade attend the private school, which has been located at the former public school site of Lowell Elementary for more than 20 years.
If the gym had been proposed at a public school, it would have been exempt from the required variances.
“I’m not going to draw the distinction that we should treat a private school differently than all the public schools in this city,” said Councilman Dave Weaver.
School officials said the gym would allow students to have a place for athletic activities no matter the weather, and said the facility would not increase enrollment or be rented out.
“I have no idea why a gym at a school is a controversial project,” said Rodney Khan, a consultant representing the school.
City planners also noted that the gymnasium would reduce noise impacts to the neighborhood by allowing physical education to take place indoors.
City Planner Roger Kiesel also said the gym’s mass and height “would not overwhelm the neighborhood.”
But nearby residents, who also turned out in droves to the City Council chambers, disagreed, arguing that the building would disrupt neighborhood views and hurt property values.
“I don’t want this big monster standing above us,” said resident Claire Fortier.