Budget Challenges Among Council Agenda Items


On Tuesday, the Glendale City Council met first thing in the morning, again in the afternoon, then late into the early hours of the following morning, addressing imminent budget challenges, long-sought changes to the city’s historic preservation procedures and extensions to emergency orders issued in response to the global novel coronavirus pandemic.

Councilmember Paula Devine took time at the beginning of the council’s evening meeting to acknowledge local high schools recently recognized in U.S. News & World Report.

“Clark Magnet is in the top 2%; Crescenta Valley High School is in the top 4%. I want to recognize and appreciate the students, teachers, faculty and administrators,” she said, adding, “Clark Magnet graduates 100% of its seniors.”

Two contracts were awarded for park construction: up to $357,500 for Lower Scholl Canyon Park and $280,500 for Nibley Park restroom restoration. Devine asked that Nibley Park be considered for historic designation based on its age and history.

Councilmember Ardashes “Ardy” Kassakhian asked that the primary provider of local cable and internet services report to the council on its efforts to address increased demand, reported repeated outages and criticisms of its overall service delivery.

The council deliberated at length over several “slow streets” proposals aimed at enhancing walking and bicycling opportunities on streets that could be made safer by closing them to most vehicular traffic. City staff also proposed to test future pedestrian and cyclist improvements now, using inexpensive materials that may be readily available. Numerous cities are experimenting with innovations like these to add venues for safe exercise and outdoor activities, particularly in dense and park-poor neighborhoods. Oakland has “slowed” approximately 10% of its streets equaling about 74 miles; Portland is using signs at each end of its selected streets that remind people to exercise social distance. Pasadena has a comprehensive plan for slowing 100 miles of its streets, complete with a media campaign and walking tours that highlight local businesses that are open.

“I don’t like the idea of ‘slow streets,’” Mayor Vrej Agajanian opined at the beginning of the discussion. Councilmember Ara Najarian opposed the experiment based on contrary advice from the County of Los Angeles Public Health officials concerned with increased crowding. Callers spoke mostly in support of the pilots.

“People are walking so much more – to do it in a safe way, this is a great way to walk and stay safe – happily, a positive addition to a beautiful city,” one said.

The council voted 4-1 to move forward. Najarian voted no.

Next the council voted to award a six-year contract to West Coast Arborists for $7,056,000 for the trimming and maintenance of the city’s 50,000 trees. Mayor Agajanian questioned the lack of competition. A representative of the company called in to explain that the company takes care of the trees in 220 cities including doing current line clearance work for Glendale Water and Power and that it has more than 1,000 workers who are represented by the laborers union and get good wages, benefits and pensions.

Fire Chief Silvio Lanzas briefed the council on updated COVID-19 numbers: more than 1.3 million cases in the U.S., more than 32,000 cases confirmed in Los Angeles County, 768 cases in Glendale with “sadly, 62 deaths.”

Councilmembers debated extending emergency measures previously implemented opting to continue the requirement to wear facial coverings when outside, at least through the end of June, but were unable to reach a consensus on extending protections for renters.

It voted to support pending federal legislation H.R. 6515, “The Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act of 2020,” sponsored by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN-5), which Councilmember Daniel Brotman described as including “some weird stuff.”

“I like the concept of socializing the problem, but this is a little out there, very strange and regressive,” Brotman said.

Arguing in favor of the measure, Councilmember Najarian explained that “It’s not going anywhere and it’s not the hill I want to die on – this is symbolic; the banks were bailed out 10 years ago and this represents support for equity.”

Finally, the council considered corrections and updates to the city’s historic preservation processes remaining from past consideration of the demolition deterrence measures the city adopted last year. No final action was taken on the proposed amendments.