Glendale News-Press: Proposal to Build Next to Alex Theatre Gets Early Glendale City Council Approval

Glendale News-Press: Proposal to Build Next to Alex Theatre Gets Early Glendale City Council Approval

By Jeff Landa
The City Council on Tuesday approved the first steps to fill a vacancy next to the Alex Theatre with a proposed two-story restaurant and office site.

The proposed project would demolish the long-vacant 9,480-square-foot, two-story commercial building at 222 N. Brand Boulevard and replace it with a full-service restaurant on the ground floor and offices on the second.

The new building would stand 12,608 square feet on a 6,983-square-foot lot.

The council unanimously approved the concept, saying it fits into the character of downtown.

But council members Paula Devine and Ara Najarian said no when it came to granting a parking-space exception to the developer.

City code mandates that new buildings require a minimum number of on-site parking spaces. If the current building was simply remodeled, zoning requirements would demand 24 parking spaces, for which the developer has already obtained credit.

But as a new construction project, the proposal would require the creation of 46 parking spaces.

City staff argued that the requirement to provide on-site parking is impractical, given the building’s land-locked location and that building an above-ground or subterranean lot would disrupt pedestrians on Brand Boulevard.

Most of the nearby businesses, including the Alex Theatre, rely on street parking and parking facilities, according to a city report.

A parking study prepared through the developer argues that that an exemption should be granted because 2,189 off-street parking spaces are available nearby, and only 1.5% would be allocated to the proposed project.

However, the study is based on numbers from a 2011 parking study, and the number of more than 2,000 spaces listed does not reflect a current assessment of parking available in downtown during lunch and dinner hours.

“What they are doing is that they are getting a larger spot and … I am not convinced and persuaded by the parking study,” Najarian said. “Anybody who has seen downtown Glendale, it’s a day and night difference between 2011 and what we have now.”

Devine suggested developers offer up to three hours of validation to encourage visitors to use nearby parking garages.

“If we start giving these parking exceptions to everyone that wants to build along Brand then we are eventually going to fill up our parking structures, and we’re not going to have any place for them,” Devine said.

City Manager Scott Ochoa suggested the council direct city staff to take about six months to craft a sliding-scale program that would allow development staff to negotiate parking alternatives with similar developments instead of flat-out exemptions.

Developers can be charged fees in lieu of parking spaces, but Ochoa argued the half a million dollars in fees for the 46 parking spaces would discourage developers from ever building on the site.

“I want to be fair about this,” Najarian said. “I want to encourage business but I don’t want to give away parking where there is a much better benefit being conferred on the developer than there is to the city.”

Councilman Zareh Sinanyan mentioned the parking exemptions given to the Laemmle Lofts project and wondered why the “little guy” now has to pay the price.

“We give away hundreds of parking spaces for the big guy and then the little guy comes around … and all of a sudden we become very scrupulous about how concerned we are about parking spaces in downtown and the cumulative effect?” Sinanyan said. “We passed that threshold a long time ago when we gave away all these parking concessions to all these mega projects.”

Source: Glendale News-Press