By Julie BUTCHER
After a holiday hiatus, the Glendale City Council started its Tuesday evening meeting hearing a COVID-19 update from Glendale Memorial Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. William Wang. He noted that two years into this pandemic the country is experiencing the fifth wave of the virus. Glendale hospitals report 51 COVID patients per day in a spike that started in early December, up from the 33 patients per day experienced at the peak of the pandemic.
“At the beginning, we asked for help to ‘flatten the curve.’ We had no real treatment and feared the number of patients would overwhelm the medical system. Now we’re also experiencing staffing shortages as well as a high number of patients. We have the space; we don’t have the staff,” Dr. Wang said, urging everyone to “up your mask game, get vaccinated and boosted, and recognize that this is cyclical.”
Specifically, Dr. Wang advocated for the use of KN95 or N95 masks, as these provide tighter seals around a person’s mouth and nose, or the use of two surgical masks as “the next best thing.”
“Please get vaccinated and wear your mask, especially inside. It’s still better for your health not to get COVID,” the doctor concluded.
Next, city staff announced a virtual dog park meeting set for Wednesday, Jan. 19 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Two possible sites for a potential dog park are being considered: Pelanconi Park, 1000 Grandview Ave., and the Lot 11 portion of the National Guard Armory site, near the Elks Lodge, at 220 E. Colorado St.
To participate in the meeting, visit www.glendaleca.gov/dogpark. The WebEx meeting number is 2489 837 2249 and the password is K23pWNEM4gG – participants can also join by phone by calling (408) 418-9388.
Staff also announced a planned celebration of the opening of a newly renovated T-ball field at Brand Park on Saturday, Jan. 22 at 10 a.m.
Councilmember Dan Brotman asked for an update on concerns about the roofs at Rockhaven, adding that he was pleased to see that “staff got on it quickly, tarping roofs in the pouring rain.” Community Services and Parks Director Onnig Bulanikian assured the council that “no additional damage” was done to the roofs as the Public Works Dept. works to issue bids to fix all the roofs needing repair at the historic site.
The council authorized $5,951,587 in Measure M sub-regional funds to complete the Victory Boulevard project, improvements along approximately one mile of Victory Boulevard focused on improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety, modernizing aging infrastructure and creating multi-modal connectivity between two Class 1 bikeways: the Chandler Bikeway in Burbank and the River Bike Path in Los Angeles.
“This project has everything a true transportation project should have. It is a complete street project,” principal civil engineer and project manager Sarkis Oganesyan shared, detailing anticipated sidewalk improvements, new ADA-compliant curb ramps, new transit stops with upgraded amenities, reflective pavement where possible to address the heat island effect, and consideration of safety routes around Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, the local public school.
“It’s a really good project, and that’s why Metro is providing funds because it’s a regional project, one that will make Riverside Rancho an even nicer neighborhood than it is now,” Councilmember Ara Najarian observed.
Councilmember Brotman added his concerns about the space dedicated to bike lanes.
“They’re pretty narrow. If a car door opens and there’s a car next to you, you’re history,” he said, describing new bicycle lanes on Glenwood Road.
Mayor Paula Devine asked for a brief update on the city’s progress in rolling out plans that require the collection of organic food scraps. Public Works Director Yazdan Emrani reported that city staff has been preparing for the new program that went into effect on Jan. 1 following the passage of SB 1383. Small pails have been ordered for distribution and plans are in the works for public outreach and engagement to start within the next three months. In the meantime, Mayor Devine emphasized, all kitchen scraps can be put into the green yard trimmings bin.
Last, the council finalized its approval of two new overlay zones for the South Cumberland Heights and Casa Verdugo historic districts.
At a special council meeting held earlier on Tuesday afternoon, members okayed budgets and annual plans for the downtown business district and the Montrose Shopping Park areas. City administrator Tamar Sadd provided an overview of the downtown area as “it continues to grow and thrive with new businesses and a low vacancy rate, even during these past few years.”
Greater Downtown Glendale Association executive committee chair Rick Lemmo acknowledged the organization’s staff for its exceptional work.
“We made the decision to help existing merchants,” Lemmo said, explaining the organization’s actions at the beginning of the pandemic. “We distributed tons of hand sanitizer and 8,783 masks for employees and customers. The maintenance crew stayed on for daily trash pickups and sanitizing crosswalk buttons; we worked closely with city staff to reconfigure parking areas for outdoor eating and did everything we could to ensure businesses stayed open.”
Continuing, Lemmo added that “People want to eat outside,” then urged the council to speed up its approvals of plans to make al fresco dining a permanent fixture, suggested the fees charged to offset parking meter collections might be phased in over three years rather than starting immediately. He added that the area has seen 41 new businesses and “no net loss of tenants,” primarily attributable to the success of the outdoor dining experiment.
Councilmember Najarian said, “I’m always happy to walk down Brand Boulevard and see how clean it is. I’d put our downtown up against any other city’s.”
Homelessness is the biggest challenge facing the downtown area, Lemmo told the council.
“The police feel powerless to deal with homeless people,” he said. “In all fairness, it’s not like LA. Our aim is to make it less comfortable to be homeless here so they’ll go somewhere else.”
Dale Dawson represented the Montrose Shopping Park Association and reported that the business area has stayed despite six vacancies among its 190 businesses with three expected to return shortly.
“We had no events in 2020 and we’re an event-driven business district,” he said. “After changing the date four times, we were finally able to hold a successful Arts & Crafts Festival – for some vendors, it was their best show ever. Now if we could get some parking meters that don’t require coins, we’d be very happy.”