Lex on Orange

'Lex On Orange' apartments in downtown Glendale, half which is near completion and half which is at a mid-point of construction, is one of several residential properties under development in Glendale. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / November 27, 2013)

A slew of goals for Glendale residential planning over the next eight years — from small-lot subdivision to encouraging developers to take advantage of density bonuses offered in exchange for affordable housing units — were approved by the City Council this week.

But the council’s discussion quickly moved beyond the goals laid out in a lofty 270-page report known as a “Housing Element” to gentrification — specifically, whether the boom of luxury apartments in south Glendale will push out poorer residents.

“The fear of a gentrification of our downtown is a serious concern of mine,” said Councilman Ara Najarian.

But his remarks struck a nerve on and off the dais as city officials jumped in to diffuse the controversial discussion.

Councilman Frank Quintero said he didn’t consider the increase in development south of the Ventura (134) Freeway as gentrification because new units are being built — 3,800 are in the entitlement process, under construction or recently completed — and new residents are not driving out ones in older rental units.

Community Development Director Hassan Haghani said Glendale is not at “that dangerous point” when community improvements lead to gentrification, but he plans to bring back a city report regarding gentrification and its relation to Glendale at a future council meeting.

Councilwoman Laura Friedman added that there’s also a silver lining to gentrification. Yes, rents may go up, but communities often improve at the same time, she said.

“Neighborhoods becoming safer, blight being reduced is not a bad thing,” she said.

The “Housing Element” is required to be completed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Once the report is certified by the federal agency, the city is then eligible for special funding sources, said Principal Planner Laura Stotler.

“It makes the city examine its housing policy and the rules we have in effect,” Stotler said.

Some goals highlighted in the report, include:

—Completing a small-lot subdivision ordinance by June 2014

The City Council gave planning staff the go-ahead to begin drafting policies for the development of homes on skinny, smaller lots in December 2012. The guidelines aim to allow developers to take an average lot in south Glendale of 5,000 to 7,500 square feet and build multiple small homes in order to encourage developers to build single-family residences rather than multiunit complexes in already crowded neighborhoods.

—Encouraging density bonuses

If a developer mixes affordable-housing units into a market-rate project, state law allows them to construct a building larger than Glendale guidelines. City officials plan to encourage developers to take advantage of this state rule by maintaining outreach materials highlighting the benefits. Glendale’s goal is to review one density-bonus project that includes a minimum of two units affordable to tenants with very low incomes through the eight-year plan. Glendale has approved the development of 127 affordable units through density-bonus provisions, thus far.

—Streamlining permit systems

Officials are currently studying ways to streamline the permitting process, such as eliminating redundant review processes and increase the number of projects that can be approved at the staff level following a 50% reduction in community development staff due to budget issues in 2012. In addition, the city plans to create an interdepartmental team that can assist affordable housing developers by streamlining the development process.

Between 2006 and 2014, the prior eight-year period, city officials added about 2,500 new dwelling units, roughly 250 of which were affordable to very low- and low-income households, adopted changes to reduce parking requirements for housing units in downtown and created new mixed-use residential zones, according to the report.

--

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


ALSO:

Glendale pedestrian safety effort yields 28 citations