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Hillside ordinance assumptions incorrect

Community Commentary

July 03, 2006|By Harry Zavos

There has been a rash of letters critical of the City Council's affirmation of a lot size variance granted for the 6,229-square-foot vacant lot at 2632 Kennington Drive ("Council shuts down plan appeal," May 18). The lot is nonconforming. By "nonconforming" lot, I mean one that conformed to the city's code when created, but was rendered nonconforming by a subsequent code change; in this case a change which now requires a minimum lot size of 7,500 square feet in the R-1-R hillside ordinance residential zone.

I write to challenge incorrect assumptions about the law and the facts, which I believe are contained in many of these letters.

First, the hillside ordinance (the R-1-R zone) was never intended to preclude development of in-fill hillside lots; its purpose is embodied in section 30.11.010 (B) of Glendale's code and reads in part: "Within this zone it is purposed to preserve valuable open space while, at the same time, permitting a substantial and reasonable beneficial use of such property."

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Second, the grant of a variance does not violate the R-1-R zoning law; variance provisions are as much a part of Glendale's code as the R-1-R requirements. The purpose of a variance appears at section 30.43.010 of the code and reads: "The purpose of the variance is to assure that no property, because of special circumstances applicable to it, shall be deprived of privileges commonly enjoyed by other properties in the same zone and vicinity."

When the city makes the required findings and grants a variance for a nonconforming lot in the R-1-R zone, it is not violating the hillside ordinance (the requirements for the R-1-R zone); but, rather, it is acting in accordance with its code, which applies the variance law to all zones, including the R-1-R zone. The hillside ordinance does not stand apart from the code's variance provisions.

In the Kennington case, part of the evidence before the council allowing it to make the findings is: without the variance, the property cannot be used for the only use allowed by the code, thus depriving it of all use and value; the size of the proposed house is well within the size allowed in the R-1-R zone; the amount of lot covered by the house is dramatically less then the allowable 40%; the house does not affect any primary or secondary ridge lines; and the house will require minimal grading, leaving most of the lot's contours unaffected.

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