City may take brakes off car dealers

More signs are OK, balloons are out and trees are still up in the air as city officials work to revamp restrictions on car dealerships along South Brand Boulevard.

The shift is an attempt to create a more business-friendly environment for Glendale’s second biggest tax revenue source. Autos and transportation companies brought $6 million to Glendale last year, with car dealers leading the pack, said Finance Director Bob Elliot.

“We have to do everything we can to try to help them increase their sales,” Councilman Frank Quintero said as planning officials laid out proposed zoning changes Tuesday for car dealers along South Brand Boulevard, bounded by West Elk Avenue, San Fernando Road and Central to Glendale avenues.

The dealerships have long complained about city codes that they say hamstring their ability to maximize business. In response, officials began looking at ways to cut red tape, but in a way that wouldn’t turn Glendale into another Van Nuys, where dealerships have been allowed to dominate the landscape.

“It’s trying to establish a sort of a balance of what is somewhat aesthetically pleasing and what’s necessary to sort of do business,” said Principal Planner Wolfgang Krause.

Some of the proposed changes include:

- Increasing the number of wall signs on buildings larger than 100 linear feet from one to four.

- Allowing temporary banners for 60 days with a permit, but no need for design approval.

- Allowing visitors to park for more than two hours during certain times on streets currently restricted to give parking preference to residents.

But council members drew the line at balloon displays. That may mean no more “sky dancers” wiggling in the wind. Glendale currently allows small balloons to be approved by staff, but often the dealers use them without approval.

“We’re doing a lot here to try to benefit the dealerships,” Mayor Laura Friedman said. “I hope you have enough respect to not violate our codes.”

Dealership representatives said banners and balloons are crucial to selling cars.

“When you have a lot of small balloons on your lot, it attracts attention. People think there’s a sale going on. They’re more apt to buy a car,” said Pete Mehrabian, general manager for Glendale Hyundai. “The more you limit the dealers, the less revenue we can generate for the city.”

As for parking, some dealerships don’t provide employee parking, so owners would like employees to be able to purchase street parking permits reserved for residents. They also asked the council to lift a rule requiring multiple trees placed throughout parking lots.

“Trees and all the birds and things that come out of them damage our paint on our vehicles,” said Jeanne Brewer, who owns Acura of Glendale.

The matter is scheduled for a final vote January 10.

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