Glendale City Council candidates spurn downtown residential development

While city officials have heralded Glendale's growing downtown core as a symbol of the city's economic revitalization, most of the City Council candidates at a forum this week took shots at the nearly 2,000 apartments in roughly a dozen buildings coming online either in the coming months or next few years.

Even an incumbent who approved most of the new residential units criticized one of them and plans to look closely at future projects.

“As of this moment, I'm taking my foot off the gas pedal for new development in downtown,” Councilman Ara Najarian said Wednesday night at the Glendale Homeowners Coordinating Council forum. “My foot's off the gas, and I'll be scrutinizing any new development.”

Najarian specifically criticized Eleve Lofts and Skydeck, a 208-unit building at 200 E. Broadway featuring apartments as small as 375 square feet with monthly rents starting at $1,500.

“I'm against that. Why? What kind of element does that bring in to Glendale. Fun, hip partyers. I don't need that in downtown,” Najarian said.

Although Najarian voted against Eleve Lofts, which is already pre-leasing units, he approved other downtown apartments trying to attract young apartment dwellers.

Most of the other 10 candidates at the forum agreed with him.

Attorney Roland Kedikian and architect Aram Kazazian said they didn't want Glendale to look like New York, and retired salesman Mike Mohill said the incoming development is adding to traffic gridlock.

Business owner Herbert Molano said he would have approved sidewalk improvements and new parks in South Glendale before ushering in new housing developments.

“I would never, ever do what these councilmen have done,” Molano said.

The City Council has approved several park improvements in recent years, but council members have continually said it's too expensive to create brand-new open space in South Glendale, the densest and most park-deficient area in the city.

Meanwhile, Sam Engel, Glendale's former neighborhood services administrator, and Realtor Rick Barnes said they would like to see more retail and hotel development.

Next week, the City Council is set to review a proposed Hampton Inn & Suites at 315 S. Brand Blvd.

Engel said he also wants to institute an analysis system that lays out the effect of development on the police force, parks and utilities, much like a program used in the city of Carlsbad.

Attorney Zareh Sinanyan agreed that more analysis of quality-of-life impacts should be done before new housing is approved, adding that the city rushed to green-light multiple developments because it was struggling financially.

“We should be more careful than ever,” Sinanyan said after the forum.

A few years ago, the city offered discounts to developers who paid entitlement fees early in an effort to boost revenues. Glendale also requires developers to pay into a park impact fund and include urban art in their projects or pay a fee.

Councilwoman Laura Friedman was the sole candidate who wholeheartedly supported Glendale's current development path, calling for a downtown that keeps going after 5 p.m.

Young professionals turn away from Glendale because the only options now are multi-unit buildings from the 1970s or expensive single-family homes they can't afford, Friedman said.

“What we're building now is building for a young workforce, for those Disney animators, for those DreamWorks workers,” she added. “Right now, they're living in Hollywood, they're living in Silver Lake. Let them come and live here and reinvigorate our city.”

The next two candidate forums will both be on Feb. 28. The Glendale Women's Civic League will host one at 1 p.m. at the Elks Lodge, 120 E. Colorado St., and the Crescenta Valley Community Assn. has one planned at 7 p.m. at the La Crescenta Library, 2809 Foothill Blvd.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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