By Brian CHERNICK
Tuesday’s joint meeting between Glendale City Council and Housing Authority focused on the streamlining of the city’s planning and permitting process.
Streamlining began in 2013 with the goals of simplifying the application process, reducing its processing time and efficient decision- making while retaining public review and comment opportunities.
The streamlining allowed established businesses with a clean record from the previous year to skip public hearings and public notification for certain permits, such as alcohol permits, and have them be approved administratively.
According to Grant Michals, who sits on the committee for the streamlining task force, the committee believes streamlined permits like alcohol permits for businesses with good behavior is beneficial, but that he and others still advocate for a full analysis of what has worked best in streamlining procedures.
Checks on the process were scheduled sometime after its initial adoption; however, it appears that has yet to happen.
“As part of the ordinance it was required that in 18 months after the initial ordinance was adopted the task force would be re-formed,” Michals said. The task force would then review “the applications that came through and look at the results and make a decision on how things were working.”
“That review didn’t happen and it’s been about three years,” he said.
The report presented by the Community Development Dept. at Tuesday’s meeting suggested that the system had been working as planned and made recommendations for greater streamlining.
According to the report, many of the property lots in Adams Hill are smaller than the current minimum size due to many of the houses being built prior to the established regulations.Because of this, many of the houses in Adams Hill have a unique character in Glendale and any modification to the property, such as expansions, requires a variance.
The proposed streamlining would revise the zoning standards to create a unique zoning for the area to allow residents to make modifications fitting the character of the neighborhood.
An apparent lack in informing the public of this meeting and certain recommendations appeared to be a sore point for community members, especially those changes to Adams
Council member Zareh Sinanyan recognized these public comments and stressed the need to go “overboard” when informing the public and also addressed the question why Adams Hill appeared to be a particular target for changes in the streamlining process.
City Manager Scott Ochoa explained the report could be misunderstood because the word “development” could be taken out of context, but that this was a first step in addressing the streamlining. The issue will be sent back to the task force and returned to council before being sent to the Planning Commission.
The council voted to file the report with no changes or recommendations approved.
The general meeting covered a series of topics ranging from amendments to the city’s Quiet Zone Project to an adoption of the 2016-17 city investment policy after an impressive report from the prior year to extending pensions and health benefits to a group of Glendale City employees.
City Treasurer Rafi Manoukian, presented the yearly city investment portfolio review. Among the notable revelations included a substantial increase in quality of long-term investments and a maturation of past investments allowing the city to take advantage of these earnings.
The city’s investment portfolio has increased more than $200 million over the past three years with interest earnings increasing $3 million over the same time period.
Manoukian addressed questions regarding whether the interest earnings have only increased due to an increase of the portfolio size.
“If the portfolio had remained at $372 [million] our interest earnings would have still increased over $2 million,” Manoukian said.
“Is this you or is this the market?” council member Zareh Sinanyan asked Manoukian.
“It’s partly me and partly you,” Manoukian responded. “Your sound policy that I am following, it is the policy you have voted for and approved.”
Manoukian also noted the increase in the portfolio size with the increase in return on investments, which has risen from 0.7% to 1.3% since 2013.
Before unanimously approving an appropriation of $23,040 to Public Works to pay the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA), council member Laura Friedman commended the previous and ongoing efforts to establish quiet zones along the San Fernando Corridor.
The payment to the SCRRA will go toward annual railroad exit gate maintenance and testing fees for the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Mayor Paula Devine made mention that the project has been going on 10 years to establish quiet zones, which prohibit passing trains from sounding their horns.
Pedestrian back flashers will be incorporated at the Flower Street, Grandview Avenue and Sonora Avenue intersections.
During public comment segment, community member Mike Mohill claimed that former city manager Jim Starbird was filing a lawsuit against the city in regarding the death of his wife. According to Mohill, Starbird’s wheelchair-bound wife hit a broken sidewalk causing her to fall out and suffer injuries which led to her death.
While there does not appear to be a lawsuit filed, City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian was able to confirm that there was a claim filed with the city by Starbird.