Council strikes down hillside home

For the third time in five years, a proposal to build a home on a North Glendale hillside that overlooks the intersection of Brand Boulevard and Kenneth Road has been shot down by the City Council.

The proposed two-story house on an undeveloped knoll between Hazbeth Lane and Glenmont Drive has sparked discontent between property rights proponents and neighbors, who fear the development will scar the hillside and cause geological issues.

The proposed project — which would include a 3,278-square-foot house, a garage of roughly 900 square feet, a 510-foot private roadway and a 100-foot tram on a granite bedrock slope — has become one of the most contentious hillside development proposals in years, befuddling the property’s’ owner, Adel Luzuriaga.

“I don’t know what to think anymore,” she said.

Since 2007, Luzuriaga has been trying to build on the property she’s owned for 20 years. However, because the 66% slope of the hillside is more than the 50% permitted for development by city rules, and the amount of grading would involve more than 1,500 cubic yards of material, she must get a conditional use permit.

Planning officials have given her the OK in the past, but their rulings have been overturned by the City Council. On Tuesday, that happened again on a 2-1 vote, with Councilman Dave Weaver dissenting.

Mayor Laura Friedman was absent and Councilman Frank Quintero excused himself because he lives near the proposed project.

In her latest proposal, Luzuriaga reduced the size of her house and private driveway by nearly half compared to the original project. She also moved the house from the ridge to a saddle-shaped depression on the property.

Principal Planner Laura Stotler, who had approved the permit, said Luzuriaga agreed to re-landscape post-construction. Luzuriaga’s consultant, Fred Dean, said construction crews would pump materials through pipes laid underground and transport them on the planned tram, minimizing environmental impacts.

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For the Record: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Dean's name as Martin Burke.
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But neighbors still pushed back.

“It’s going to have irreversible impacts on us,” said neighbor Beatriz Magallon during a council hearing on the project Tuesday.

Others also complained that several hundred cubic feet of dirt displaced by construction could cause geological issues, a sticking point for some council members even though Burke said the claim was inaccurate.

Property rights advocates said since Luzuriaga has changed her plans to satisfy city officials, her project should be approved.

“To hassle somebody like this for this ongoing circus is mind-boggling,” said Glendale resident Joe Mandoky.

In denying the proposal, Councilman Ara Najarian said he was looking toward the future.

“In the end, it is always the city that gets sued on these issues,” Najarian said, referring to landslides triggered by development.

Next to neighboring homes on Hazbeth Lane is a flat pad that some council members and neighbors suggested Luzuriaga use instead of the hillside. However, Luzuriaga said it’s not safe to build on the pad because it is in a drainage area.

Weaver agreed.

“Never ever would I spend one penny to build on that pad down there,” Weaver said, adding that it would be like building a house in a hole.

He had rejected the project in the past, but approved the new plan.

Community Development Director Hassan Haghani said Luzuriaga can submit a new application if she wants to continue trying to build her home.

Luzuriaga said she would now have to re-evaluate her options.

“I’ll have to discuss it with everybody now,” she said.

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