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.


Comments

Stop the Mansionization — Urgent Call to Action — 11 Comments

  1. Dear Elected City Council members:

    I canNOT believe that we have to keep fighting the battle of ugly mansionization in Glendale. Shame on all of you! Except Ms. Devine – who apparently understands the historical and neighborhood aesthetic of the Glendale that the majority of us know and seek to preserve.

    This Ard Eeven design looks like a Costco warehouse. How dare you fill a natural (and semi historical) canyon with your ugly and “look at me, I have money” tasteless housing design. None of us want to see this . . . how about a little respect for your neighbors?

    Greedy designs like this create tension and ruin neighborhoods. Such selfishness by the owners of the property should not be approved. Change is a reality, of course – but good taste and respect for others should also be a part of the equation. Scale it down and work with the neighborhood around you.

    Over the years, the City Council has, for the most part, sought to balance the needs of ALL concerned when ridiculous housing designs like this are proposed. I hope you will do your jobs once again. And if not, Glendale residents will remember your poor decisions and vote you out when elections are here again. You are stewards of our beautiful city – act like it!

  2. Please make the time to show up and oppose this project in person. The character, integrity, privacy and views that our neighborhoods provide are in serious jeopardy with this Council.

  3. The Ard Eevin project, and the all-but-guaranteed approval by a majority of the City Council, is an affront to all right-thinking (and don’t even think about trying to twist that to mean “right-leaning” in a political sense) Glendale residents. Anyone who witnessed the travesty of the recent Cumberland Drive “hearing” (if you can even dignify that kangaroo court as a hearing) should be outraged by the blatant disregard three members of the City Council showed for the rule of law and the best interests of city residents. The battle to protect the hillsides was a bitter one, and it lasted for years. Apparently, longtime residents were naive in believing the issue had been resolved once and for all with the passage of new zoning laws and the Hillside Design Guidelines. Little did any of us suspect that a set of horrible City Council members would come along and decimate the honest efforts of thousands of residents and prior city officials who worked together and ultimately managed to reach common ground. By brushing off the *law* as a “suggestion” they are free to ignore, these current City Council members have given new meaning to the word “dishonorable.” If they are indicative of what we can expect in the future, it is time to run *from* the hills, and leave this once-beautiful area to turn into a garbage heap of tasteless displays of arrogance and extravagance.

    And for those of you who think this can all be written off as just “an honest difference of opinion,” take a look at http://articles.glendalenewspress.com/2007-11-15/news/gnp-gpoa15_1_design-review-board-property-rights-conflict. Did anyone know that now-Councilman Vartan Gharpetian had a close prior business relationship with the land owner who is now determined to mansionize Cumberland Terrace? According to the published article, Councilman Gharpetian and the applicant were “co-managers” of an association which promoted the rights of property owners to build whatever they want, wherever they want, regardless of the terrible effects on neighbors or the city — the very issue raised in the Cumberland Terrace case and, now, the pending Ard Eevin case. Not only did Councilman Gharpetian NOT disclose his seemingly cozy prior relationship with the applicant on the very topic being heard, his demeanor at the City Council hearing did not provide any hint that he had ever even met the applicant! If that doesn’t stink of dirty politics, I don’t know what would. The City Attorney should investigate Councilman Gharpetian for potential conflict of interest, and if one is established, Councilman Gharpetian should be summarily removed from office.

    Wake up, Glendale residents. We thought the War for the Hillsides had been won, but apparently a new set of generalissimos is in charge, and they seem hellbent on reviving one of the ugliest battles in the city’s history.

  4. The ‘Mansion Kings’ ~Towering over all~

    We, who reside in the canyon because we enjoy seeing the mountains WILL DO all that we can to stop you who have zero vision, and zero consideration for the aesthetics of the wild landscape or concern for wildlife habitat.

    What you are proposing (and continue heckling us like a bunch of termites) is barbaric and disgusting as you continue to batter us with your elitist profile of how and What YOU want, insofar as building up and up and up and higher and higher and taller and TALLER in GLENDALE!!

    DO YOU ACTUALLY LIVE IN GLENDALE!?? SO YOU APPRECIATE THE LACK OF A SKYLINE AND NO SUNSETS?! If you DO, then Absolutely, You indeed ARE ALL ABOUT THE MONEY, PEOPLE!! Sooner than later YOU WILL BE VOTED OUT, IF YOU DO NOT BEGIN LTO LISTEN TO THE RESIDENTS OF GLENDALE AND THEIR CONCERNS! Perhaps you LIVE in one of these towering, gargantuan MANSIONS, eh? You’ve been systematically been RUINING Glendale for the past 10 years! I am not the only person who has stated this!

    ALL WE THE CITIZENS SEE NOW ARE A BUNCH OF SKY-HIGH, HIDEOUS LAYERS OF CONCRETE!! More city residents and more traffic!! STUPID!! The situation might as well be in some congested city-scape like NY CITY! It is No longer the charming Glendale that we once knew!

    So– WHEN will you self-centered, self-serving people on the City Council WAKE UP?! WE DO NOT AGREE WITH THE WAY YOU ARE RUNNING GLENDALE INTO THE MUNDANE, METROPOLISTIC, HOT CONCRETE HELL that you have been– everyone there, save for Ms. Devine, may God Bless her!

    All right- So:‘Down on our knees’, We beseech you:

    PLEASE, SAVE YOURSELF A LOT OF TROUBLE AND US A LOT OF MISERY — DO NOT ALLOW MANSIONIC STRUCTURES, RESIDENTIAL MONSTROSITIES TO BE BUILT ON OUR LAST REMAINING B E A U T I F U L HILLSIDES.

    Thank you,

  5. It is all good when you are happy and snug in your comfy little home. Just hope that day never comes that you want to do a bit of remodeling on your own old home. Yes! I am all for keeping it quaint and old but at some point a facelift on old houses become a necessary thing. Then costs are way too prohibited because of all the extra hoops you have to burn up in. Mixed feelings! You ought be able to do as you desire on property you own.

  6. CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS: IT RANKLES MY MIND TO SEE THE APPROVAL OF SOMEOF THE RECENT BUILDINGS THAT HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TOBE BUILT IN CHEVY CHASE CANYON. THE MOST RECENT ONE THAT I AM AWARE OF IS THE “CAVE-LIKE” HOUSE THAT WAS COMPLETED. Allowing that “variance” makes me sue that there is somewhat of a reward scheme at work. I have come to the conclusion that ETHNIC PRESSSURES, MONITARY CONSIDERATIONS, or POLITICAL AGENDAS are definitely operating to the detriment of ALL OF US. Yes, even you!!!

  7. Please stop the development of mansions in any area in the hills of Glendale. It is important to keep the hillsides as they are; so everyone can enjoy the views of nature.

  8. I don’t have a problem with big houses but obstructing views and destroying the hillside beauty and environment I am opposed to. If you want to build here, work with the community. If you do not want to compromise then build somewhere else. People want to live here because it is beautiful, so let’s keep it that way for everyone.

  9. Is it a coincidence we have not heard any justification in favor of construction of such an eyesore leaving me to believe the only justification is not in the public intrest but is in the personal interest of supporters of the builder
    What we need at the council is transparency

  10. I have lived here since 1955 when Glendale residents respected and obeyed the laws.
    I was recently speaking with a new Glendale resident. I said, “I think it is a law”
    He replied, “It is the law, I break the law” And was proud of it!

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