Cumulative impact on freeways isn't being taken into account, official says.
By Brittany Levine, January 9, 2014
A construction project between Brand Blvd. and Orange Street in downtown
Glendale where several properties are under development, many of them
for apartments, on Wednesday, November 27, 2013.
Officials with the California Department of Transportation
are worried that the massive development boom in Glendale may have
significant impacts to nearby freeways that aren’t being addressed in
environmental reviews for new projects.
The reviews tend to focus
on traffic generated by an individual building, but don’t fully take
into account the cumulative impact of other projects, said Elmer
Alvarez, a project coordinator at Caltrans, which is responsible for
highway planning, construction and maintenance.
For example, an environmental
review of a 142-unit, mixed-use complex called the Link approved last
month by the City Council stated that the 11,600-square-foot project
wouldn’t have a significant traffic impact on the nearby Golden State
(5) Freeway or Glendale (2) Freeway, but that analysis didn’t take into
account the 21 other projects either recently built, under construction
or in the planning stages in Glendale, Alvarez said.
project, by itself, the traffic impact seems to be minimal, but when you
add up what’s planned, then it might be significant, then it might be
different,” he said. “Here, it’s already bad. Anything you add is
Many nearby projects in the pipeline, including the
$25-million Link planned for the corner of Central Avenue and San
Fernando Road, don’t meet the 150-trip minimum required by state law for
freeway impact analysis, according to a letter that Caltrans Branch
Chief Dianna Watson sent to the city regarding the Link.
But if the projects were considered together, they may hit the threshold, Alvarez said.
are roughly 3,800 units either constructed or in the pipeline for south
Glendale, a development boom that followed a massive revamp of the
city’s zoning in 2006 with the goal to move development from the city’s
hillsides to downtown.
The plan was to transform a downtown blanketed with commercial properties into an area where people could live and work.
rezoning, known as the Downtown Specific Plan, along with city impact
fees that were purposefully set low to encourage development, worked,
but now Caltrans officials are concerned about the potential
transportation effects from future developments.
handful of perennial City Hall critics have complained about traffic
during the approval hearings for numerous projects, traffic concerns
haven’t dominated City Council discussion.
Council debate has
tended to focus on project design, with just one council member, Ara
Najarian, calling to put the brakes on new development because of
traffic and other quality-of-life concerns.
that the new developments in Glendale, as well as others in the region,
could strain traffic on the freeways and it could take decades for state
agencies to get enough money to fix the problems.
scenario, he said, would have Caltrans and city officials working
together to pinpoint which areas will have the most severe problems and
start planning ways to pay for projects to mitigate traffic congestion —
anything from ramp widening to streetlight synchronization — in
Some ways to pay for the transportation projects could
include government grants or new fees paid by developers, Alvarez said.
Glendale already charges developers park and library impact fees and
officials are considering hiking the cost of those per-unit charges —
from $7,000 to $15,645 — due to the high number of developments
If developers don’t pitch in, then it’s taxpayers who
will be footing the bill for necessary improvements prompted by rapid
development, Alvarez said.
Hassan Haghani, Glendale’s community
development director, said the city takes the state agency’s comments
seriously, but the project-level environmental review traditionally only
considers a single project’s impact.
Haghani added that in 2006,
when the city paved the way for the development boom, a traffic impact
study through 2030 was conducted.
That report labels portions of local streets and freeways at levels A through F, with F signifying jammed conditions.
to the report, which doesn’t provide solutions for the increased
traffic, freeway segments in the downtown area were set to operate at
level D or worse in both directions during morning peak hours, 7 to 9
a.m., by 2030.
Most of the segments were forecast to operate at level F in the afternoon peak hours, 4 to 6 p.m.
rezoning tied to the specific plan was estimated to generate a maximum
of roughly 27,000 daily trips — more than 2,000 of those taking place
during each of the peak-hour periods, according to the report.
said the city plans to release another cumulative study of traffic
conditions in south Glendale when it completes the South Glendale
Community Plan. However, he said, a draft of that development guide may
take two years to complete.