By Ted AYALA
The struggle for the Chamlian School’s gymnasium project in La Crescenta spilled over into the Glendale City Council on Tuesday.
Chamlian’s project has inspired pointed debate between the school’s students and parents and local residents bordering the school. The project, a 9,345 square foot, 35-foot tall gymnasium that would be built on the northeastern portion of the school’s property, was denied approval on Jan. 26 by the city’s Design Review Board. Chamlian officials immediately appealed to the City Council.
In its denial of Chamlian’s proposal, the Design Review Board cited concerns that included the project’s inability to integrate well into the main campus and surrounding area, the boxy appearance of the gym, poor lighting, and lack of a logical point of entry.
Rodney Kahn, representing Chamlian, voiced withering scorn for the Design Review Board.
“After [City Council’s approval of the project] we thought we could finally get started – we were wrong,” said Kahn. “We had another hurdle to go through, the Design Review process.”
“The criticism we had of the gymnasium was that it was boxy,” he said before presenting a set of photos from other school gymnasiums in the city. “Nowhere else in the city of Glendale is a gymnasium an architectural focal point. ….None of [the cited gyms] had to go through the unrealistic standards, expectations, and the cost that we were required or suggested of us. We would like to do the same kind of building – one that would stay within budget.”
“All we are asking for is a gym,” said Rita Kaprielian, Chamlian’s vice-principal. “A place where our children can play.”
“For the past eight years I have attended a school without a gym,” said student Laurie Berberian. “I wonder how many of you have been to a school without a gym? I want future students at Chamlian to enjoy all the benefits a gym can offer.”
“This is about a gymnasium so our children can have the same amenities as other children do in this community have at their schools,” said Aline Babayan.
Residents, however, felt differently.
“I respectfully remind City Council that not one of your appointees on the Design Review Board approved this project,” said resident Joanie Larson. “They do their job well. Council should send back this project for review to the Design Review Board.”
“We handled the traffic considerations [last year],” Councilman Dave Weaver said. “It’s totally inappropriate to drag that all back. I’m very disappointed in our Design Review Board. I think they lost their thinking process. Off base – I don’t believe they knew what they were doing.”
Councilman Ara Najarian also had criticisms for the Design Review Board.
“What they said was inflammatory – inflammatory for the students, the parents, and community. If the [board] should tender their resignations to the council, I wouldn’t object.”