By Ted AYALA
A source of contention between local residents and a private school was finally resolved last Tuesday night by the Glendale City Council. The issue that divided the community was a proposal by the Chamlian Armenian School at 4444 Lowell Ave. in La Crescenta to build a gymnasium on its property. Residents neighboring the school have pushed the city to deny the school’s project citing traffic and noise concerns.
The aisles of the council chambers swelled with citizens both in favor of and against the proposal. “Honestly, I don’t understand why we’re going through this,” said Nadine Aprahamian who was waiting outside City Hall. “This is a benefit for children.” But a La Crescenta resident who would only give his name as Bill voiced some of the concerns of the school’s neighbors. “This [gym] is going to stick out like a sore thumb. Our property values are already suffering. Plus all the extra traffic? We don’t need to add to that.”
Chamlian’s gymnasium proposal was heard by the Glendale City Planning Commission in January, when it was rejected in a 3 – 1 vote citing concerns over the building’s height and the overall floor height of the combined gymnasium and the previously existing buildings on the Chamlian property. The project consultant for Chamlian’s gymnasium, Rodney Khan, appealed the City Planning Commission’s verdict to the city council in February.
“I want to commend your Planning Commission [for the rejection of Chamlian‘s project]”, said resident Joni Larson. “They paid close attention to this project. None of the conditions that staff is recommending will change [traffic and parking concerns]. Staff continues to recommend a project that has been denied by the City Planning Commission and would be injurious to the surrounding neighborhood. I find that hard to understand.”
Glendale resident Taline Babadjanian also cited complaints about the school, which sits only 100 feet away from her home. “There are times when people block our driveway, there are times when children are playing on our front lawn, or times when traffic is impacted. But guess what? We learned to tolerate it. We learned that there are limits to our needs.” But she quickly added, “I’m also a Chamlian parent. A school gym on an existing school campus is all we’re asking for.” But resident Nan Guinner countered, “The Planning Commission is in place to make decisions such as [the one concerning Chamlian’s gymnasium]. When our city leaders elect or appoint a Planning Commission, that’s a serious job. So I think that decision by that commission should be respected and followed through on.”
Councilman Dave Weaver commented on the situation: “One of the first emails [the council] got said that the Chamlian School is in the pocket of the council and that [the gymnasium decision] was a done deal. That’s insulting to say that any of us made up our minds until we listened to all of you and read the reports. I went to the school myself Sunday before I read the report. As far as this project goes, I don’t believe the noise will be an issue. Traffic has increased tremendously over the last 50 years. No 1300 people can sit in that gym. It’s not big and can’t handle that many people. Chamlian is a great school that I’ve been hearing about for years and years [and] has my support.”
“My main concern is for the kids,” concurred Councilman Rafi Manoukian. “The school manages the traffic as best as they can and go out of their way to manage the traffic. I think they are doing enough [to mitigate concerns from their neighbors].”
The Glendale City Council, after hearing the opinions of everyone concerned, voted unanimously approve the school’s project. Upon hearing the decision, the room erupted in cheers and loud applause from the school‘s supporters.