Doubting Residents and Small Business Owners Catch Council Ears


“This is all such nonsense. It’s not any worse that the common flu,” longtime Glendale resident and regular council commentator Tony Passarella called in to Tuesday evening’s Glendale City Council meeting. “What’s really going on here? Did you all get orders from headquarters? All of a sudden, we’re hearing words we never heard before: ‘flattening the curve’ and ‘socially distancing.’ Please, open up the city.”

Other callers read from the script emailed by the Glendale Tenants Union: “I am calling because I am extremely concerned about the immense toll that COVID-19 has had on renters and will continue to have for the unforeseeable future. We need immediate rent cancellation in response to this pandemic. [tell personal story here, if feeling comfortable to do so].”

“Gabriela” called in representing small local businesses.

“When I signed my lease a year ago, none of us could have predicted we’d be in this position.
When I saw that the council had approved a reduction in the repayment period from what had been equivalent to residential tenants down to three months, I was deeply concerned. My first legal obligation is to cover my payroll. I have three employees. Fifty to sixty percent of Glendale’s businesses have 10 employees or less. We’re struggling to keep our doors open.”

The council began its evening meeting by recognizing public works, EMT workers, and PRIDE Week and viewed a short YouTube video ( recognizing the work done by public works workers.

Councilmember Daniel Brotman proposed that the council join the Glendale Unified School District in supporting the Schools & Communities First ballot measure slated for the November election. The initiative is aimed at closing corporate tax loopholes, adding protections for residential taxpayers and generating approximately $12 billion in additional revenue for schools and local government. The council voted to consider a future endorsement of the initiative.

Brotman reported on efforts to protect both renters and landlords that have been taken up by the state legislature, potentially creating a funding mechanism at the statewide level.

“It’s exciting to see an idea that came from a Glendale resident,” Brotman noted.

Councilmember Ardashes “Ardy” Kassakhian urged action to protect local restaurants from usurious extra fees, hoping to cap those fees as other cities have done. Kassakhian also reported that local cable and internet providers will be appearing at the June 2 council meeting to explain their efforts to support increased demands for continuous, reliable service.

Councilmembers quibbled back and forth regarding the current number of COVID-19 cases in Glendale and its import: Brotman insisted that Glendale is not in the top third in Los Angeles County cases; Mayor Vrej Agajanian responded, “Nine hundred people? In a city of two hundred thousand? This is a serious disease and we need to communicate the seriousness of it.”

Councilmember Ara Najarian discounted the notion of “age-adjusted” statistics used to balance the numbers to better compare rates among local cities.

“The numbers are the numbers. We’re the fourth largest city in the county and we’re a city with a relatively large elderly population and a high level of testing,” he said.

After hearing from all the callers, Najarian asked for a recap of actions the council had taken and those that were pending to clarify and to counter misinformation. Last week the council voted to extend the residential eviction moratorium but amended the requirement for rent repayment. Renters are now required to pay at least 25% of the back rent owed on a quarterly basis, across the 12-month repayment period allowed by the law. Council also voted to extend the same provisions for commercial businesses that are not publicly traded companies until June 3 and voted to shorten the repayment period to three months.

Kassakhian said that the actions the council contemplated at the earlier budget study session show that the council is willing to take proactive steps.

“We’re not trying to put the squeeze on anyone; we’re trying to do right by everyone,” he said. “These proactive measures will turn the heads of the other 87 cities in the county, providing real material assistance – and they passed 5-0.

“When we looked over how council wants to allocate Measure S funds in the coming year, council unanimously decided that during this pandemic when people are out of work and struggling the most important thing we can do is support our residents and our businesses. That’s why almost all of the funds are going to be allocated to assistance programs to help people during this emergency. We are going to meet again to review the details and how people can qualify for the help, but the point here is that we are using city resources to help those in greatest need.”