Glendale home battle to go to court

Adel Luzuriaga's proposed dream home is a nightmare for her neighbors.

Since 2007, Luzuriaga has been trying to make that dream a reality on a piece of prime hillside property in Glendale that she's owned for 20 years. But time and again, her proposals have been shot down by city officials amid stiff opposition from neighbors concerned about the amount of grading and earth moving that would be required to build into the steep slope.

Her proposed two-story home on an undeveloped knoll between Hazbeth Lane and Glenmont Drive has become one of the most contentious hillside development proposals in years, sparking discontent between property rights advocates and neighbors who fear the development will scar the hillside and cause geological issues.

Not helping matters is that the 66% slope of the hillside is more than the 50% permitted for development under city rules. And at 4,760 cubic yards, the amount of grading would involve more than the 1,500 cubic yards of material allowed before triggering special review, which means she must get a conditional-use permit.

Planning and zoning officials have approved her differing designs in the past, but their rulings have been repeatedly overturned by the City Council on appeal.

It happened again in March with Luzuriaga's latest design, which inclluded a 3,278-square-foot house, a roughly 900-square-foot garage, 510-foot roadway and a 100-foot tram on a granite bedrock slope.

The decision was 2 to 1, with Councilman Dave Weaver dissenting and two others not voting.

Now, Luzuriaga is taking the city to court.

In a lawsuit filed in June, Christopher Sutton, Luzuriaga's attorney, argues that the latest City Council vote shouldn't count because state law requires a minimum three-vote majority.

Last month, the city filed court documents claiming that three City Council members don't have to concur in an administrative appeal — a requirement that's reserved for “resolutions, orders for the payment of money and all ordinances,” according to state law.

But Sutton said not calling the appeal decision a resolution is word play.

“We believe the court will see through that,” Sutton said.

The case is set to go before a judge in October.

But the lawsuit may be taken off the table if a new application Luzuriaga plans to file is approved and not appealed. That application nixes the 510-foot road — thereby minimizing the grading — since Sutton believes Luzuriaga has legal access to a nearby private roadway that leads to neighboring properties and 50 feet into her own lot.

A city engineer, though, found no records supporting Sutton's claim, said Public Works Director Steve Zurn.

Luzuriaga said her access is derived from documents signed by the original developer that are up to interpretation.

Delma Kirch, a neighbor who has been vigorously fighting against the project, could not be reached for comment. But she and other property owners have offered to give Luzuriaga use of their private road if she signs a contract limiting development on the land — something Luzuriaga, 63, refuses to do as a matter of principle.

“If I never build that house, it will not kill me. It will be sad, but I will give that up first before I give up my property rights,” she said.

Councilman Ara Najarian, who voted against the project in March, said if Luzuriaga submits a new application, city officials will review it.

“If it's something new, we'll give it a new look,” he said.

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