By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
And then came Manistee Ranch.
This is not the first time the Sands family has explored developing the property. Several years ago, there was a plan to turn the property into high-rise office and apartment complexes that would have essentially created a new downtown Glendale.
It didn't happen.
In 1993, John Sands, who lived in the Manistee Ranch house for half a century, died there. The various members of the Sands family were comfortable in their own homes. The market was good for development. It was time to do something with the property.
Actually, John himself was a forward thinker in terms of development. By all accounts, he was always of the mind that the property would be developed, as was his sister Flora Sands Williams, who died last year.
But Glendale's history buffs saw the value of preserving the ranch house, the neighbors saw the opportunity to surround it with a park and the Sands family must have felt like a bystander as its property became the locus of a crusade.
"My mother died in the midst of this whole thing," says Williams' daughter Marilyn Harris, who has been involved in the Manistee property negotiations. "I think she had a difficult time understanding why all of this was going on."
The Sandses had agreed to sell the house and surrounding property to a developer, but put their escrow on hold while the city's historians dug through their family records. They sat patiently while some of the more gung-ho members of the group started talking about their scrapbooks, photos and travel logs.
"We're not the Kennedy family," says Harris. "No one ever anticipated this.
"There were a few positive people who worked through this," says Harris. "But many people lost sight of the fact that this was very personal to us and that it was our decision."
It's true. Few Glendale residents have ever actually been on the property, let alone inside the house. No matter. It is a landmark the folks of Glendale have driven past for decades and, for some, that's enough to consider it their own.
Infill development is like a vitamin--it's good for you, but it doesn't taste so good. Patches of undeveloped land are costly to cities because they must run utilities across them and provide police and fire services for them, without homeowners to pay property taxes.
So people want infill development--until it's across the street from their houses. That's when it's time to wave goodbye to the trees, the cows, the sheep, the grass and whatever else has been there. It is, by definition, the end of open space.
In 1993, the Sands family approached Glendale with a plan for the entire 147-acre Manistee Ranch property that stretches from Northern to Orangewood avenues, and from 51st to 55th avenues.
In Glendale's blueprint for the future, its general plan, the property is targeted for a "mixture of residential uses, office, retail and park space."
The Sandses' plan conforms. It calls for 411 single-family homes on variously sized lots, and one parcel of apartments; a shopping center, anchored by an Albertsons grocery store, would occupy one corner of 51st Avenue and Northern--literally a stone's throw from the Manistee Ranch house.
Glendale is offering up no incentives for this infill plan. As a matter of fact, the Sandses' plan, designed by developer Mark Stapp, includes 20 acres of open space--a new park in the center of the homes and an addition to the existing Sands Park, at the southwest corner of the property.
And like any other developer, the Sandses are paying the $325-per-house fee that Glendale imposes on new-home builders to fund and maintain park land, a total of nearly $200,000.
But that doesn't mean the community has to like it.
Carol and Bill Stout have been activists for more than 15 years. They live near Manistee Ranch and led the effort to keep the Manistee house right where it is and stop development of the shopping center.
Carol Stout has taken on battles from condemnation to nitrates in the water and directed an effort to bring district elections to the Glendale City Council. And she is currently running for mayor against Scruggs.
The Manistee Ranch project was on the Stouts' agenda from the very beginning.
"When John [Sands] died, we knew that the plans were going to go in. I bugged planning and zoning regularly about it," Carol Stout says.
"We immediately called a meeting of the neighborhood," she recalls. "Usually when we call a meeting, we don't call them for no reason. The neighborhood turns out."
In this case, Stout says, there were 100 people. They sent letters to the city council and they showed up at public hearings in force.
Objections to development ranged from questionable to absurd.
Stout and her neighbors balked at the 243 apartments proposed on 12.8 acres of the property near Northern Avenue, despite that it is well within Glendale's general plan and existing zoning.
In a letter to the city, Glendale Elementary School District Superintendent Dick Terbush urged that the property be zoned only for single-family homes because of the "large volume of students" that could come with an apartment complex. But according to commonly accepted planning formulas, single-family homes actually bring more children. (The Sandses agreed to drop the apartment complex in favor of either "assisted senior adult living" or, if that couldn't be marketed, town homes.)