Despite opposition from some residents, the Glendale City Council voted 4-1 to approve construction of a new 85-room hotel in an area outside of the traditional downtown.
As expected, the council voted to move forward with the six-story hotel since the area at Brand Boulevard and Dryden Street is zoned for commercial use. Still, the council did impose restrictions on the hotel's lighting and the hours of operation of its roof-top lounge.
Prior to the vote, opponents of the project told council members the hotel would dwarf adjacent apartments and homes and ruin the look of the neighborhood. They also expressed worries that future guests of the hotel would bring noise and traffic congestion.
Sean Bersell, who lives down the block, said he's unhappy with the sheer number of new downtown developments and how they are changing the look and feel of the city.
"They keep adding apartments and more apartments and more apartments in that downtown area. It’s creating huge traffic problems," Bersell said.
Now, with the new hotel project, development from downtown Glendale is beginning to creep into Bersell's neighborhood, which is just above the 134 Freeway.
“This is bringing downtown Glendale up above the 134 where we were promised it would not go,” he said.
Bersell, who spoke at the meeting, pointed to marketing materials that portrayed the Aloft Hotel as a hip, and potentially loud attraction.
“All that noise, all that light is going to go right into the neighborhood,” he said.
Councilwoman Laura Friedman, who cast the lone dissenting vote, agreed. She expressed concern that the building might become the first of many large-scale developments to enter the more suburban stretch of Brand Boulevard north of the 134 Freeway.
“It’s just a building that feels like it belongs somewhere else,” said Friedman “I’d like to see something that feels more pedestrian.”
Development and zoning complaints have become more commonplace at city councils across Southern California as more large-scale residential and mixed-use projects are popping up.
Some anti-development groups have gathered enough support to take their concerns past the city council level, and to the voters directly. In Santa Monica, a group of concerned citizens say they've gathered enough signatures to get an initiative on the November ballot, which, if passed, would require developers to get voter approval before they move forward on "major" projects in the city.
Los Angeles residents will vote on their own development initiative in November. The Build Better L.A. initiative would put new restrictions on developers — among other things, they would be forced to include a certain percentage of below-market rate units in new housing developments.
Another L.A. group is trying to get an initiative on the March 2017 ballot, which, if passed, would impose a two-year moratorium on high-density projects.
But lawmakers and urban planners generally view density as necessary to make housing more affordable in Southern California. Gov. Jerry Brown is looking to fast-track the planning process for developers to get more housing built across the state. Building taller is becoming the only option for many parts of L.A. County.
Mark Villianatos of Occidental College's Urban and Environmental Policy Institute believes a more densely developed L.A. would mean a more livable and efficient city.
“If you have an increasing population and you want people to be able to continue to move here, to continue to stay here, you need to add denser housing in more places,” he said.