Glendale City Council gives green light to Arts Colony

Dozens of seniors filled City Council chambers Tuesday to oppose a $29.9-million affordable housing project for creative industry workers planned for downtown Glendale, but the showing wasn’t enough to prevent approval of the final design and a city housing loan for the so-called “Glendale Arts Colony.”

The project design was approved by a 3-2 vote from the City Council, while a roughly $6-million city housing loan got the green light on a 4-3 vote by the Housing Authority, which consists of the five-member council and two additional appointed members.

The project at 140 N. Louise St. is a joint venture between the city, the YMCA — which owns the property — and a private developer. While it’s been reviewed by the council several times before, the final vote faced the most opposition to date.

YMCA officials had originally wanted to build senior housing on the property, however, their counterparts at the city reoriented the 70-unit project toward artist housing. Glendale officials aim to reinvigorate the downtown and Arts & Entertainment area, and want to see residents who would support nightlife activity.

In addition, there’s sufficient senior housing in the area — about 400 units within two blocks of the YMCA — officials have said.

Councilmen Zareh Sinanyan and Ara Najarian led the opposition to the project because they didn’t want to limit the housing to artists or people in the creative workforce because the need for senior affordable housing in Glendale is so great and the possibility of the city building more affordable developments in the future is so slim.

“It is going to be a cold day when I open this project up to an unemployed actor in Santa Monica,” said Najarian, adding that he believed seniors and people with disabilities within the Glendale community will be frozen out because “they’re not creating films, videos or architecture and I have a problem with that.”

City officials said, however, that seniors and people with disabilities would not be blocked outright from the project. Other council members added that the council as a group has created preferences for affordable housing developments in the past. On Wednesday, the city is set to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for Veterans Village, a 44-unit affordable housing project that will give preference to veterans.

“We prioritize groups of people all the time,” said Councilwoman Laura Friedman after the meeting. “This is a population that will help the downtown. We can do something different and create something exciting.”

But, during the meeting, Sinanyan emphasized that he opposed the 222,598-square-foot development because there is statistical proof of the need for senior housing, but there isn’t similar information backing the need for housing for individuals in the creative workforce.

The demand for artist housing in Glendale was based on anecdotal evidence, said City Manager Scott Ochoa, adding that if not enough artists apply to live at the development, spots will open up to the general low-income community.

He added that the definition of an artist was still in the works and will have to come back for council approval. According to a city report, the target residents are those “who express themselves through a medium — those that create, curate, teach or propagate imaginative works using a wide range of artistic mediums.”

The development, which will replace two apartment complexes owned by the YMCA, one with 22 units and the other with four, is set to include one, two and three-bedroom units and 8.450 square feet of community space, such as an art gallery and digital media lab. The YMCA's main gymnasium is slated to remain, as well as its nearby 84-unit hotel for men.

Rent at the Glendale Arts Colony is set to range from $480 to $961 per month for one-bedroom units to $666 to $1,332 per month for three-bedrooms units, which are slightly higher than originally reported by the city last year when the council approved an exclusive negotiating agreement with the project’s developer.

Income for potential residents may range from $17,940 for the lowest income for one-person to $59,460 for the maximum for a six-person household, according to a city report.

City officials expect the modern building, featuring gray, yellow and white coloring and multiple balconies, may help spark activity in the area and serve as a catalyst for future development in the Arts & Entertainment District, according to a city report.

Glendale’s downtown and Arts & Entertainment District is in the midst of a development boom, with numerous market-rate apartment complexes in the development stages aimed at young professionals seeking urban luxury living.

The Arts Colony developer, Meta Housing Corp., expects to pay for the project by using the city housing loan and about $20 million from a state program that allows affordable housing developers to sell tax credits to private firms.

The remaining costs may be covered by a private lender and deferred developer fees. Officials don’t expect to complete construction until 2016.


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


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