Planning Board approves Burbank hillside home despite protests from neighbors

The Burbank Planning Board approved a seven-bedroom, single-family home in the city's hillside area on Monday much to the disapproval of several residents.

Board members voted 4-0 during a meeting to allow resident Araik Tonoyan to build a 4,000-square-foot house with an attached 610-square-foot, three-car garage at 3147 Mesa Verde Drive, despite several neighbors and other residents speaking out against the project, which they believe is too big for the area and does not conform with surrounding houses.

Board member Diane Eaton recused herself from the discussion because she lives less than 500 feet from the project.

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The home was initially approved by Burbank Community Development staff, but was appealed by five residents to the Planning Board.

Because the house is located in Burbank's hillside, homes built in that area are subject to the city's Hillside Development Permit, which is a set of eight requirements homeowners must meet in order to receive a permit.

Resident Jim Casey, a member of the community group Preserve Burbank who was one of the appellants, said that Tonoyan's project failed to meet four of the eight criteria that pertained to character, scale, privacy and the views of the surrounding neighbors.

Casey said that the proposed house does not have the same characteristics of the other houses in the neighborhood and that its 4,000-square-foot footprint was about 60% more than the surrounding homes.

Additionally, Casey said the proposed house's second-story windows would allow people to peer into the backyards of houses next to it and that the height of the new house would block the views of the adjacent homes.

However, board members agreed with planning staff's research and said that they could confirm all the findings for each of the eight criteria in the Hillside Development Permit.

"I don't believe we left a stone unturned in making sure that all the concerns raised by all parties were addressed," board member Apraham Atteukenian said.

Atteukenian added that he was disheartened by the neighbors "trying to give an aura of this great injustice that is being carried out."

It was not Tonoyan's first attempt to submit plans for a new house on his property on Mesa Verde Drive. In April 2016, the Planning Board denied Tonoyan's plans to build a 4,255-square-foot house due to the bulky nature of the design.

Since then, Tonoyan has been working with city staff and a third-party architect to design a house that would better conform to those in the neighborhood.

Tonoyan said that he would agree to build whatever home was compatible with the area and was confused to as why his neighbors would appeal his project.

Though board member Christopher Rizzotti said he thought it was a good idea to bring in a third-party architect to assist in Tonoyan's project, resident Sue Cleereman thought otherwise.

Cleereman, a member of Preserve Burbank who was also among the five appellants, said that the Planning Board needs to reconsider allowing the city to pay for an outside source to help with someone's project.

"If you're using public funds, then this is going to open the floodgates," Cleereman said. "Every project, every applicant that comes to the planning counter should be able to say, 'Where are my free architectural drawings and 3D renderings?'"

Although the Planning Board gave Tonoyan the green light on his project, Casey said on Tuesday that he will be appealing the decision to the City Council.

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Anthony Clark Carpio, anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio

Copyright © 2017, Burbank Leader

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