By Gerry Rankin, GOCHA Board Member (reprinted from the Fall 2009 ECHO)
As early as last summer, articles about a proposal to build a restaurant-banquet hall and community center high upon the ridge between Glenoaks Canyon and Eagle Rock appeared in periodicals targeting Eagle Rock residents. The massive development would be entirely within Los Angeles City limits but would be visible to anyone walking on the dirt fire road on the ridge. On August 10, 2009, at a GOCHA business meeting, the association’s Board of Directors voted to oppose the project and to take steps to ensure that responsible city officials in both Glendale and Los Angeles were made aware of the Board’s misgivings about the project.
The developer, Hamlet Der Avanessian of Glendale, has met several times with city planners in both Los Angeles and Glendale. In these meetings some details of his proposal have become apparent. According to Hassan Haghani, Director of Planning for the City of Glendale, the proposed project includes a two-story, 28,475 square foot restaurant-banquet hall, a 6,584 square foot community center, and 288 parking spaces. Since the 134 Freeway would block entry from Eagle Rock, access to the development would be by a 900-foot road carved into the hillside at Mt. Carmel Drive in Glendale. Mr. Avanessian has told Glendale City Planners that he would require Glendale to provide utility services, such as electricity, water, trash collection, and sewer. In discussions with community groups in Eagle Rock, Mr. Avanessian has explained that the restaurant-banquet hall would operate seven days a week, fifteen hours a day, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
GOCHA Board members have approached City Councilmen Dave Weaver and John Drayman regarding concerns about the proposed project. Both Councilmen have indicated that they oppose it. In fact, the Board has learned from City staff that all Glendale City Council Members have expressed serious reservations about the project.
Meanwhile, The Eagle Rock Association (TERA), an active community organization in Eagle Rock, has made extensive lobbying efforts in opposition to the project. Mike Woodward, a member of TERA's Board of Directors, and Frank Parrello, Chairman of Planning, Preservation & Development for TERA, attended the GOCHA Board meeting of August 10. They discussed reasons for TERA’s opposition to the project: loss of wildlife habitat, heightened fire danger, increased noise level, late-night traffic congestion, and deterioration of the view now enjoyed by Eagle Rock residents. In addition, they mentioned that a commercial development at the proposed location would likely encourage further development on the ridge.
Also attending the meeting of August 10 was Marc Sturdivant, President of VOICE, which has been active in efforts to save the Verdugo Hills from further development. He advised that letters to City, State, and Federal representatives would be helpful in bringing pressure to bear against the development. He said letters should be addressed to, among others, members of the California State Assembly and Senate who represent Eagle Rock and Glendale.
Hassan Haghani, Director of Planning for the City of Glendale, was the main speaker at the GOCHA Board meeting of August 10. Mr. Haghani confirmed that an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and a zone change would be required before the project could begin. He added that Mr. Avanessian had not yet paid the fees to the City of Los Angeles that would be required for these processes to begin. Mr. Haghani said he agreed that the project appeared to involve many potential drawbacks. In particular, he mentioned his concern about the impact on Glendale streets including Mt. Carmel Drive, Harvey Drive, and Holly Drive. He said that the Los Angeles City Planning Department had been cooperative in sharing information with the Glendale Planning staff and that he had requested that Glendale be included in any EIR scoping meeting in the event an EIR is initiated. Mr. Haghani estimated that an EIR for the project would take at least two years to complete.
The site of the proposed development is currently zoned for agricultural use. Jimmy Liao, the case manager for the project at the Los Angles City Planning Department, has explained that a change in zoning to allow commercial use would not be considered by Los Angeles City until an EIR is completed and accepted by the City. Hearings involving variances, permits, and design review would then need to be done, he said, leaving final disposition of the case several years in the future should Mr. Avanessian continue to pursue the project.
Mr. Haghani reported that while definitive plans had not been seen by Glendale Planners, the 900-foot driveway planned to access the project would probably begin on property within the City of Glendale. He remarked that Glendale City would likely refuse to grant a zoning change if it were required for that property.
Contacts with Jimmy Liao have revealed that Mr. Avanessian has engaged in numerous meetings with City Planners and community groups with regard to the project but has repeatedly delayed paying the fees required by the City for the review process to begin.
Several persons present at the GOCHA Board meeting of August 10 noted that proposing a development that is bound to be offensive to a community is a common tactic of property owners who have land that is difficult to develop. The motive for such an action is that a threat of this kind might induce the community to purchase the nearly worthless property, affording a profit to the developer. While those present recognized that this scenario may not exist in the Avanessian project, some participants at the meeting questioned the seriousness of Avanessian’s plans, noting the pattern of delay along with extensive contacts with City officials and community groups.
We hope that everyone who has an opinion about this proposed development leave comments on the form below.