Trio of Issues Tackled by Council


At the most recent Glendale City Council meeting, held on Aug. 23, the council addressed three issues of substance. First, the council acted to update its processing of business licenses by fixing what it calls “Title 5.” Staff summarized the intent of the update “to improve customer service for businesses, to streamline the process and to clean up obsolete, unenforceable, redundant or insufficient processes.”

For instance, by collecting information on one master application, business customers could provide the city the information it needs without completing multiple, often duplicative, applications for specific subcategories of industry. Staff recommended combining the processes to create more of a “one-stop shop.”

“People would have to come in for an application fee followed by a permit fee, and then a license fee and the same process repeated year after year after year – it was a lot of steps for businesses to get through; it was not business friendly,” Assistant City Attorney David Ligtenberg briefed the council.

Similarly, staff recommended streamlining the appeals process so that it is the same process for all appeals and follows a uniform code of procedures – tweaks that may result in financial savings for businesses as well.

“Licenses are intended to be fee neutral,” Ligtenberg explained. This means that the city should be collecting enough to cover costs but not so much as to “profit” from the transactions.

Councilmember Ardy Kassakhian agreed to changes proposed regarding the sale of food from a motor vehicle.

“When the city, when everyone in the country pretty much, went through a food truck revolution, we halted active enforcement of a lot of our regulations regarding food trucks so as not to be the city that dampens a trend; however, that has led to some individuals taking advantage. I know of one instance up in the Montrose Shopping Park where there are issues with a food truck; a vendor [who] is selling right next to a brick-and-mortar that pays taxes, pays its dues to the shopping park. So I would like to have staff look into that.”

“Any time I hear ‘more efficient’ and ‘business friendly,’ I’m on board and I love the idea of incentivizing by discounting renewal fees that come in early – that’s a great idea,” said Mayor Paula Devine on the overall review and revamping of the process.

Next, the council reviewed laws and procedures governing the use of “animated” or digital signs. Principal Assistant City Attorney Christine Godinez defined the signs at issue as those that “give a message through a sequence of progressive changes of parts by either action or motion, flashing or color changes,” and include electronic, digital, LED and animated signs, whether static, flashing or colorful. Currently, she reported, all of these signs are prohibited in the city. Exceptions are allowed for “public service” messages: time and temperature, barber poles, gas station prices, and a category called “creative signs” the city has taken out of the normal process to allow for more interesting signage in certain business areas, primarily in the downtown area and along Honolulu Avenue in Montrose.

“I asked for this issue to be looked at after we got a request from a church that wanted to replace its ‘old school’ marquee sign with a digital display and was told it wasn’t allowable under that law when just up the street there are digital signs – ‘carve-outs’ council approved at the time for specific signs for specific reasons. There’s our own digital sign at the Civic Auditorium and across the street on the corner of Mountain, you have the community college with its own digital sign. In addition to that, you have a number of schools in Glendale that have their own digital signs, including Glendale High, my alma mater, and Jefferson, which I noticed on the first day of drop off,” said Kassakhian. “It [raises] the question: how are all these signs allowable? I think we ought to keep up with the times ant at least in our commercial areas set standards and hold people to them but allow people to have signs that comply with the law. It only makes sense.”

Councilmember Dan Brotman countered.

“I asked us to consider a Dark Sky ordinance,” he said, “so I’m not generally predisposed to more light and visual clutter.”

Councilmember Vrej Agajanian asked about schools: public schools are exempt from the city’s land use regulations, the city attorney replied. Agajanian opined that signs should not be taller than 10 feet and lit signs should be turned off from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Councilmember Ara Najarian favored action by variance as was done for local establishments BevMo and the Neon Museum.

“I’m a little hesitant to permit blanket usage of signs,” said Najarian. “If you open the door, you’re going to have a very bright city with content that we can’t regulate.”

Mayor Devine expressed her preference to deal “on a case-by-case basis.”

“I’m not in favor of opening up this can of worms either,” she said. “I don’t want to see clutter in our city. I think our ordinance is working.”

The council agreed to review rule changes that would allow digital signs in areas zoned C3, commercial service, with restrictions on illumination, time and place.

“All we’re looking for is the fair application of the law and for it be simple to follow,” Kassakhian said.

Finally, the council debated a report following up discussion on July 13 regarding a potential “matching funds” program to encourage candidates to run for local office.

Principal Assistant City Attorney Dorine Martirosian thanked Los Angeles Ethics Commission Executive Director David Tristan for advice to begin this type of program: start simple. Then she outlined a program that would provide a 1:1 match for all dollars raised from Glendale residents, up to $10,000, provided the candidate were qualified to appear on the ballot and agreed to limit campaign expenditures to $50,000.

“I was in favor of this but now that I see how much work is involved for the city attorney,” Councilmember Agajanian offered. He suggested the city cover the initial costs of council campaigns instead.

“I’m still not sold on the idea, mainly because I look to neighboring LA – it’s incredibly filled with corruption in this public finance campaign program that they have – it’s an incredible amount of verification that must be done. I’d be willing to waive the $2,500 initial filing fee,” Najarian said, then asked, “What’s the goal here? I’m not sure this is going to help.”

Mayor Devine opposed the idea.

“As a taxpayer, I don’t want to see money going to any candidate. I think that’s the onus on the candidate to earn their money; that’s the way they learn the community, meet people, learn about different areas by fundraising, getting out there and learning about our city. This is an opt-in program so those people who are running for office who can raise $250K or $150K, they’re not going to be involved in this,’ said Devine. “I’m against this whole thing. I think the reason people don’t run is because they don’t want to run, they don’t want to do all the work, or they don’t have the time, they have a family, etcetera – it’s not because of the funding because I think everybody knows there is funding out there, if you have supporters. Here, in other states, wherever. And it also can be done for $500.”

Devine voted no on the compromise to review proposals to match the first $10,000 amended by Councilmember Brotman to match the first $20 on a 5:1 basis.

The Glendale City Council will next meet on Tuesday, Sept. 14.