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Tuesday, Sep 26, 2023


WADE DANIELS Staff Reporter Now that demand is picking up for luxury hillside homes in Glendale, developers are running headlong into Municipal Ordinance 5009 better known as the ridgeline preservation ordinance. The 1993 law is designed to protect residents’ view of the hillsides, prohibiting what proponents see as unsightly development on ridgelines. But developers say the ordinance is so tough and allows so few homes per parcel that it destroys the profitability of most projects. “The ordinance is very restrictive and with very few exceptions makes it impractical to develop hillside areas,” said Marlene Roth, a development consultant and principal with Glendale-based Roth Group Inc. Moving to meet a pent-up demand for homes especially luxury hillside homes in the $600,000 price range developers are proposing four housing projects that would add some 640 homes to the hillsides. Developers say the upscale residential projects will serve to complement Glendale’s office base. The city has seen the construction of about 760,000 square feet of office space early this decade, and its office vacancy rate has fallen to 7 percent from 17 percent in 1992, according to Grubb & Ellis Co. In addition, a 171,000-square-foot office building is slated for completion in December while a 525,000-square-foot building is scheduled for completion in the spring. Bill Boyd, a senior vice president with Grubb & Ellis, said there is a “critical shortage” of housing in Glendale and that this could affect the success of the new office developments. “There is now concern that the leasing of the new office properties could be retarded by the lack of housing,” Boyd said. “The low number of single-family houses is a big topic around Glendale.” But preservationists vow to fight any attempts to skirt Ordinance 5009. “Glendale is a special place largely because of the hills that surround it,” said Denis Brumm, director of Volunteers Organized in the Conservancy of the Environment. “We intend to see that (hillside) overdevelopment doesn’t ruin it for the people here now and for the future.” The largest of the proposed projects is Oakmont View V, which could see as many as 572 hillside houses on 248 acres of the Verdugo Mountains. Proposed by Gregg Development Co., its environmental impact report is expected to be completed in November and it may be reviewed by the City Council soon after. The Costa Mesa-based EPAC Construction Inc. has tentative approval to build 18 hillside homes that will cost between $600,000 and $700,000 apiece. The company bought the already approved project last year from another developer. It received approval in 1993, and is the only project to obtain a development go-ahead since the passage of Ordinance 5009. EPAC also recently purchased a nine-home project called Somerset, located at the end of Cascadia Drive. Another developer obtained tentative city approval for the project in 1991, though the project needs its grading and final map approval. Santa Rosa-based land owner Norman C. Poulsen intends to re-submit an application this year to develop 40 luxury houses in the Verdugo Mountains at the top of Glenoaks Canyon Drive. The city rejected a development application earlier this year because it was incomplete. “There is a lot of demand for hillside homes, especially nice ones,” said Hovik Sarkissian, a residential broker for Fred Sands in Glendale. “Some new housing developments would really help things around here.” Developers, though, are unsure how strict the City Council will be when considering their proposals. City Councilman David G. Weaver said Oakmont View V, the largest project to come along in some time, will likely set the tone for how the other projects are handled. “People want to see how much wiggle room they might find in seeking things like exceptions or variances, and whether they can get all the houses they want,” he said. Gregg Development President Lee Gregg, whose grandfather started building in Glendale in the 1930s, said he intends to gain approval for the full 572 homes he first applied for in 1992. Gregg said the luxury homes would be aimed at an upscale market. Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg said it is impossible to predict how many homes may end up being built. “I haven’t seen the environmental impact report, and there’s no telling what will be there,” she said. “I’ll be holding them strictly to the hillside ordinances.” Despite the tough talk, Glendale homeowner organizations fear the council will cave in to market demands. In early October, the council voted 4-1 to tentatively approve an exception to the 1993 ordinance for a proposed nine-home hillside development called Deerpass, giving Glendale-based Gangi Development permission to grade a secondary ridgeline for the development. The council, concerned about a discrepancy in the application concerning the amount of dirt that would be moved, later voted against final approval of the exception, effectively killing the proposal.

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