Stop the Mansionization — Urgent Call to Action

For those of you who follow City Council happenings, you might have seen an extremely disturbing occurrence recently (and for those of you who shun the often-sordid world of politics, it’s time pay attention before it’s too late):  Glendale laws which are meant to prevent irresponsible development and “mansionization” in the hillsides are being casually dismissed by the majority of City Council members as mere “suggestions,” despite the pleas of homeowners whose properties and lives are being negatively affected.

As a very short history, in 2011, the then-current City Council adopted the Hillside Design Guidelines (https://www.glendaleca.gov/home/showdocument?id=5155) in response to many years of intense lobbying by CCEA, the Glendale Homeowners Coordinator Council and many other homeowners groups which were opposed to the desecration of our beautiful hillside communities by mansions which were not only completely incompatible with existing neighborhoods (in terms of both size and design style), but also frequently required extensive grading which destroyed the natural beauty of the hillsides and created serious safety hazards for increased flooding and erosion.  With gigantic eyesores popping up throughout hillside communities – (an early example was the 3150 El Tovar Drive project in the early 1990s, when the City approved the construction of a house in the range of 2000 square feet, but somehow the developer managed to build an 11,619-square-foot mansion instead) — the public had finally had enough and the City Council finally took action.  To put an end to this irresponsible development blighting entire neighborhoods, the Glendale Municipal Code (Zoning Chapter 30.11.040, https://www.glendaleca.gov/Home/ShowDocument?id=4915) was revised to provide:

30.11.040 – Residential District Additional ROS and R1R Development Standards. The following standards shall apply in the ROS and R1R zones:
A.    Hillside Development Review Policy.
1.     Every discretionary decision made by the city council, along with city boards, commissions and administrators related to development in the ROS and R1R zones shall take the following into consideration:
a.     Development shall be in keeping with the design objectives in the Glendale Municipal Code, the hillside design guidelines and the landscape Guidelines for hillside development as now adopted and as may be amended from time to time by city council.
b.     Development shall be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood in terms of size, scale, bulk/mass, roofline orientation, setbacks, and site layout.
c.     Site plans shall show preservation of prominent natural features, native vegetation and open space in a manner compatible with the surrounding neighborhood, minimizing alteration of terrain necessary for development.
d.     Site plans for development of property on steep slopes shall take into account the visual impact on surrounding properties.
e.     The architectural style and architectural elements of in-fill development shall be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.
B.    Regulations in Primary Ridgeline Areas, Secondary Ridgeline Areas, and Blue-Line Stream Areas. All subdivisions, development, building, construction, and grading in the ROS and R1R zones shall be regulated by Sections 16.04.03016.04.033 and 16.04.037 of this code as related to primary ridgeline areas, secondary ridgeline areas, and blue-line stream areas. Any exception to the standards contained in these sections shall only be made by the planning commission or the city council at a public hearing.

Unbelievably, the majority of the current City Council seems to believe they are somehow exempt from enforcing these Zoning provisions, belittling the Hillside Design Guidelines as mere “suggestions,” not law.  (The notable exception is Councilwoman Paula Devine, who has steadfastly tried to uphold the Hillside Design Guidelines, but whose arguments have been minimized and dismissed by fellow City Council members.  Councilman Ara Najarian was not present at this meeting.)

Recently, the City Council turned a deaf ear to an appeal from neighbors who objected to a proposed 5,400-square-foot house which would replace the existing 2,792-square-foot home at 1650 Cumberland Terrace.  The proposed house is about twice the size of neighboring houses and certainly is not architecturally consistent with the mid-century modern homes which comprise the majority of the neighborhood.  Nevertheless, with only four of the five City Council members present, three City Council members approved the project.  Councilwoman Paula Devine cast the lone dissenting vote, saying that she agreed with the neighbors that the mass and scale of the project was incompatible with the neighborhood.  Councilman Ara Najarian was not in attendance.

It was at that hearing that Mayor Zareh Sinanyan, who voted in favor of the proposal, stated that the design guidelines “are not laws, but suggestions, and therefore open to interpretation and discretion.”  (See http://www.latimes.com/socal/glendale-news-press/news/tn-gnp-me-cumberland-mansion-approval-20180831-story.htm for the whole story.)

Does Mayor Sinanyan have a secret copy of the law which is being hidden from the rest of us?  According to the Zoning Code, any development “shall be in keeping with” the Hillside Design Guidelines.  Does “shall” sound like a “suggestion” to you?  Mayor Sinanyan’s statement that the City law is merely a “suggestion” is beyond outrageous.  What will we hear next – that it is a “suggestion” that we not steal from the corner store?  that it is a “suggestion” that we not cut down protected oak trees?  that it is a “suggestion” that we not abandoned cars in the middle of the street in violation of traffic laws?  Are those laws, too, merely “suggestions”?  And if “shall” does have this new meaning, can we assume it is merely a “suggestion” that we pay our property taxes and utility bills? Fair is fair, after all.

With a few flippant comments, the City Council is destroying years of work which created laws which benefit Glendale residents, not a handful of developers out to make a buck by building the biggest house they can squeeze onto a parcel, regardless of the negative impact to the surrounding community.  The City Council needs to be reminded that it is their responsibility, both legally and morally, to enforce ALL the laws; they don’t get to dismiss ones they don’t like, or which might inconvenience their friends or supporters, as mere “suggestions.”

CALL TO ACTION:  On Tuesday, 9/18/2018, the City Council will hear the appeal of a Design Review Board (DRB) decision to approve a 9,100-square-foot house to be built on the hillside immediately adjacent to both the Ard Eevin home (which is listed on the National, California and Glendale Registers) and the locally designated Aard Eevin Highlands Historic District.  (A letter supporting the appeal is online at https://static1.squarespace.com/static/53a3b9c5e4b0c7212191f67f/t/5b996b9e03ce64cdc84b3bae/1536781215701/ardeevin-historicassessment.pdf.)  The Glendale Historical Society is supporting the appellant in this case and this will clearly be an important decision to watch – not only to protect the Highlands district but to protect your neighborhood as well.

If you are concerned about protecting your neighborhood by upholding the rule of law, we strongly urge you to review these recent cases and make your opinions known by emailing the City Council members:

Mayor Zareh Sinanyan   zsinanyan@glendaleca.gov

Ara Najarian    anajarian@glendaleca.gov

Vartan Gharpetian    VGharpetian@GlendaleCA.GOV

Vrej Agajanian    vagajanian@glendaleca.gov

Paula Devine   pdevine@glendaleca.gov

The Glendale Historical Society

PLEASE ENSURE NO ADVERSE IMPACTS TO HISTORIC ARD EEVIN HOME & ARD EEVIN HIGHLANDS HISTORIC DISTRICT

Ard Eevin-cropped1.png

On Tuesday, September 18, City Council will hear the appeal of a decision to approve a 9,100 square-foot house with two garages, to be built on the hillside immediately adjacent to both the Ard Eevin home (listed on the National, California, and Glendale Registers), and the locally designated Ard Eevin Highlands Historic District.

We ask you to attend this meeting in support of the appeal. We want to ensure that:

  • Glendale prepares an adequate environmental review of the project to assess potential impacts to the historic buildings that surround it as well as to historic artifacts on the project site.
  • A smaller, more compatible project is built in conformity with Glendale Design Guidelines.

In April 2016 the Design Review Board approved the project despite two main problems:

  • The City relied on an outdated environmental review document from 2010, when the project was to subdivide one lot into two and build two smaller houses farther from neighboring properties. No analysis of the impacts of the current project on the surrounding historic resources has been prepared.
  • The contemporary-style house will dwarf everything around it and is incompatible with the surrounding properties, a range of historic Period Revival and Ranch homes from 1903 – 1955, in terms of size, scale, massing, and architecture.
AE Project.jpeg

TGHS is not the appellant in this case; however, we support the appeal. The appellant had an excellent historic resources assessment prepared, which you can access here. The letter in support of the appeal from attorney Amy Minteer is here.

Please note you do not need to speak at Council if you prefer not to. In fact, we encourage members to fill out position cards, which you can use to indicate support of the appeal, but allow TGHS to make the formal case.

Stay tuned. Thank you for your support of historic preservation in Glendale.

Secret Canyon Stairs Neighborhood Cleanup

Did you know there is a Secret Stairway in Chevy Chase Canyon?  It’s part of a city-owned path that connects Buckingham Rd. with Linda Vista Rd.

The stairs had all but disappeared under years of washed down dirt and leaves The city hadn’t cleaned for over 25 years, secret stairs are not high on their priority list.  Today a group of neighbors spent two hours trimming, shoveling, scraping and raking, and we unearthed the vanishing trail and stairs.  It all started with a post on Nextdoor dot com by Sarah Emery Bunn, a new canyon neighbor who wanted to know the story regarding some secret stone stairway she discovered out on a walk.  More people posted about the stairs and one thing led to another, and the decision was made to meet Saturday morning with tools in hand and rescue the stairs.  It was two hours of hard dirty work and everyone had a ball.  Our crew was made up of Sarah Emery Bunn, Susan Padilla, and two CCEA Directors, Zak Grausam, and Graeme Whifler.  And a special shout-out to Hilda Kelley who brought the crew water.  Photos below.

Click here for a map to the secret stairs.

Ice Cream Social Photos

Too Much Fun. 

The Chevy Chase Estates Association sponsored an Ice Cream Social that was a smashing success.  The Glendale Fire department offered a detailed inside tour of firefighting, lifesaving info for the young ones on how to survive a fire, and some hands-on experience with a fire hose (see photos).  Thanks to all the Bat Cave guys at Station 23.  Following the tour, everyone feasted on Free Ice Cream courtesy of the CCEA.  Then the day wrapped up with art projects and story time.  We have lots of photos to share.  Click on the little arrows in the upper right to see full-sized images.

City Council at Chevy Chase Photos and Important Info.

For the first time, Glendale City Council moved their Tuesday night meetings from city hall and held court at the beautiful new Chevy Chase Country Club.

It was a well-attended event with a lot of citizen oral communications, hours worth.

One issue of widespread and deep concern echoed over and over was the problem with reckless drivers in our canyon.  Please read below a bullet point summary prepared by one of Chevy Chase Estates Association Directors, Zak Grausam.

Canyon Speeders – CALL TO ACTION

The Glendale City Council held a “Council in your Neighborhood” event recently.  It featured a report from the police department that spoke generally about traffic concerns and enforcement.

It was requested that they give some specifics as to what the general public could do to help facilitate a greater presence in the canyon given the issues we’ve had with speeders/reckless drivers.

Lieutenant Rafael Quintero stated that they need reports of incidents so they can build up their database and know when/where to target areas of concern.  They use that data (in part) when scheduling officers.  He said he should be the point of contact for such information.

So the next time you experience a speeder, reckless driver, cyclist blowing through a stop sign, etc. send him a message!  If everyone reports each incident hopefully it will tip the data scales in our favor and result in an increased police presence.

Here is his information:

Lieutenant Rafael Quintero

(818) 548-3131

RQuintero@glendaleca.gov

Be sure to include the date, time of day, and as many details as you can about the incident.

Chief Carl Povilaitis also mentioned that when they hear about issues and ask people when it’s happening they usually hear “all the time”.  The interpretation is that general complaints (with no specifics) become white noise to them after a certain point.  If we start reporting all incidents hopefully it will help our canyon rise about the noise and turn into some action on their part.

Be sure to keep Lt. Quintero’s info handy and give him a shout out when you see something.

Ice Cream Social hosted by the CCEA!

The Chevy Chase Estates Association invites all canyon residents, especially those with children to our very first ice cream social.  The event starts at 2 pm Saturday the 25th with a tour of the Chevy Chase’s Bat Cave formally known as Fire Station 23 that is right next door to the Library.  Following the tour, there will be story time at the Library and then FREE ICE CREAM!

See a part of our canyon that maybe you have never seen before – Firehouse Station 23!  The Chevy Chase Estates Association Board is hosting an event for you and your family on Saturday, August 25th.  At 2 pm we have planned a tour of Fire Station 23 followed by story time in the library.  Hear stories read by our Firemen and Estates Board about wildlife in the canyon and what it is like being a firefighter.  After story-time enjoy our ice cream social!  Make delicious creations with an assortment of ice cream flavors and toppings.  What a great way to stay cool and celebrate our canyon.

When:  Saturday, August 25 at 2 pm

Where:  The Chevy Chase Library and Fire Station 23  – 3301 E. Chevy Chase Drive

Newly Discovered Chevy Chase Canyon History

A treasure trove of never seen canyon history has been donated to the Chevy Chase Estates Association and we would like to share the highlights.  Most of these documents detail the early years of our canyon development as the founder Bert Farrar laid out his plans for the canyon and then proceded to build it.

The first item is a tantalizing hint of what could have been, the sketch of a never built canyon hilltop house by the architect Lloyd Wright, famous around these parts for having designed The Derby House on Chevy Chase Drive.

Sketch by Lloyd Wright

Next, full memberships in the Chevy Chase Country Club can be had for $250.  The year was 1925 and one also had to pony up the $25 war tax.  The Club hadn’t actually been built yet but the layout is described in detail in their first brochure.  For a full-sized gallery click on the two arrows upper right.

As the first homes and country club were being built Bert Farrar placed an ad in the local Glendale paper describing his vision of Chevy Chase Estates.  For easier reading, one can click on the photo below to download a PDF.

And finally an invite poster Bert Farrer created offering his guests a free brunch so they could see for themselves all the magnificent progress way up in the canyon.  Note the country club and many of the original homes have been completed and are pictured.  Also of interest are the sketches of a proposed but never built shopping center.  Clicking on the image will allow one to download a large PDF so all the details can be seen.  Big file.

Off To Make Music – CCEA Elects New Officers

Brian Duran

Brian Duran

After many years of truly inspirational dedication to Chevy Chase Estates Association, our longtime President, Brian Duran, will be stepping down from the CCEA board to dedicate himself more fully to his many other activities.  Most of you know Brian as one of the great champions of hillside protection; over his many years as CCEA’s President, he has devoted countless hours to monitoring proposed developments in the Canyon and being a true advocate for the Hillside Ordinance which safeguards the quality of life of every Canyon resident.  Some of you might also know that Brian is an I.T. expert who has worked at law firms and currently teaches computer classes.  But what you might not know about Brian is that he is also an accomplished studio-level woodwind player.  Having performed with many professional groups during his career, Brian is looking forward to devoting even more of his time to being a professional musician, music teacher and, most recently, author of a book on a revolutionary technique for teaching instrumental musicians.

The CCEA Board extends its most sincere thanks to Brian for being an amazing leader over these many years, and wishes him every success – and a world of musical enjoyment – as he focuses even more of his seemingly-limitless energy on his creative talents.

The CCEA board will now be led by co-Presidents James Ward and Graeme Whifler, both of whom are longtime Canyon residents.  Graeme and James look forward to continuing the CCEA’s 81-year history of protecting the quality of life for all residents of Chevy Chase Canyon.

Laird Project Again – Let Your Voice Be Heard

Update – Project sent back to the drawing board once again!  

The CCEA and concerned neighbors prevailed.  The Design Review Board voted to send the Laird Street project back for another redesign.  Thanks to all who wrote emails and attended the meeting.

Canyon Development Alert!  

Once again the project at 910 Laird will be held this 5 pm Thursday the 12th, at the MUNICIPAL SERVICES BUILDING – 633 E. Broadway, Room 105  And all are welcome!

If you can’t make this hearing please send your thoughts on this project to:   kduarte@glendaleca.gov 

FOUR YEARS!  Concerned neighbors and the CCEA have been raising objections to a developer’s proposals to build at 910 Laird for the last four years.  You can read the brief history here.

Three months after the Design Review Board gave a thumbs-down sending their latest proposal back for a redesign because the structures placement up on the hill, and its general design were not compatible with Glendale’s Hillside Ordinance, the developer is back.  It’s claimed to be a redesign.

The garages have been moved to the center of the building, and the structure has been sunk into the hill 8 feet and moved west 5 feet.  Other than that it is pretty much the same house.  Needless to say, the CCEA and concerned neighbors are not pleased with these superficial changes.

This new submittal has raised alarms with Neighbors and the CCEA because it leaves intact an illegally graded driveway that traverses the lot, a drive that could potentially provide access to more development.  Had the redesign been a true makeover, and the house sited down the hillside as was suggested, it would have effectively blocked the illegal driveway.  But the house site wasn’t moved and the illegal driveway was saved.

At 5:00 pm this Thursday, April the 12h, the city’s Design Review Board (DRB) will approve or deny the construction of a new home on Laird Drive.  The CCEA and concerned neighbors have repeatedly opposed this project for 4  years because its location behind and above existing homes would eliminate the privacy those homes have enjoyed for many years and would compromise the forested hillside that is part of the Chevy Chase Canyon charm.  Another reason this project should be denied is because of the precedent it would set for other developers who are not concerned about preserving the woodland character of the Canyon.  They are hoping for an opportunity to build on hillside areas that have historically been off limits.  If this project is allowed to move forward, they will get that opportunity.

You can help the effort to preserve the beauty of Chevy Chase Canyon by registering your objection to this project by letting the DRB know your position.  The best way is to appear at the hearing and say this project is incompatible with the neighborhood and you request denial of the project.  The next best thing is to send an email to the case planner for the project, stating your objection.  The more people who express their position, the better the DRB will understand the wishes of the community.   Information to communicate your position is below.

Address of the proposed construction:  910 Laird Drive
Case No. :  PDR1709694  (staff report here)
Case Planner: Kathy Duarte
Hearing: Thursday, April the 12th, 5:00 pm – 633 East Broadway, Room 105

Send emails objecting to this project to:  kduarte@glendaleca.gov

If you have questions, send an email to Questions and Comments.  You will receive a rapid response.

READ THE CHEVY CHASE ESTATES ASSOCIATION’S FORMAL OBJECTION BELOW

April 10, 2018

VIA EMAIL

Kathy Duarte

Planning Division

Community Development Department

Re: CCEA Opposition to 910 Laird Drive development plans PDR1403541

Ms. Duarte,

The Chevy Chase Estates Association has continuously supported the Applicant’s right to develop the property at 910 Laird Drive, but the Applicant has repeatedly demonstrated his disdain for and rejection of the rules and regulations governing the development process. His irresponsible actions have led to a project that again does not conform to the spirit and intent of the Hillside Design Guidelines, leading the CCEA to continue its opposition and to call upon the Design Review Board to again reject the plans as submitted.

The Applicant’s extensive, unpermitted grading has allowed him to effectively expropriate the natural hillside for his own purposes, without the benefit of regulatory controls that preserve the natural terrain and maintain safety in the environment.  This attempt to bypass or subvert regulatory controls by fait accompli should not be tolerated because we now have slopes that previously did not exist, a significant cut for a driveway that shouldn’t be there, and many cubic yards irresponsibly dumped on city and neighbor property.  Public Works should enforce the citation issued to the Applicant and cause the topography to be restored so proper assessment and development of the site can proceed.

The Planning Commission and the Design Review Board’s repeated admonishments and directions to the Applicant to remedy questionable siting and other mass and scale issues have been met with a specious, minimally compliant response.  This Applicant has never demonstrated a sincere desire to maintain neighborhood compatibility by conforming to the codes that govern hillside projects and should therefore be prevented, once again, the opportunity to build a house in the wrong place and in a way that endangers neighbors, violates their privacy and degrades the forested environment of Chevy Chase Canyon.

Respectfully submitted,

Brian Duran