By Ruth SOWBY
The Tuesday night meeting of the Glendale City Council opened with the flag salute led by Girl Scout Troop 1234. Mayor Ardy Kassakhian welcomed the girls with plenty of photo ops.
City Manager Roubik Golanian then introduced the newest member of the City staff. John Takhtalian takes over as the new assistant city manager. Takhtalian and his family, who live in Glendale, were introduced at Council. Among his successes, Takhtalian completed the recent blue ribbon pension review.
Then came the action item most in the room were waiting for. Under Community Development, the Verdugo Wash Visioning Project was introduced by City staff. There were 42 concerned citizens present who lined up to be heard, each given two minutes to make their points. Phone callers numbered 11.
“It has been an exciting and complicated 1½ years,” said Golanian who began the presentation on the Verdugo Wash Visioning Project.
The state gave the City $6 million in funding to begin the project. Those funds covered the initial planning for the eight miles of the community wash. To be considered for development as a bicycle and pedestrian pathway the wash must be able to accommodate active transportation and environmental considerations such as green space, recreation and social opportunities and the installation of public art.
Slides listed the five current areas of concern: project goals, the study of similar precedents from other cities, design concepts, public input and the next steps to be taken. In part, consideration would have to be given of the wetland environment (no massive structures would be built), incorporation of the natural inhabitants, accessibility or the building of a flood control channel along the debris basin, the establishment of bike paths and safety and privacy concerns.
Vociferous public comments began on each side of the issue – to keep the wash as it is or to drastically change it at a cost of over $1 billion. For most two-minute speakers, comment was negative.
“We don’t like a bike path through our neighborhood.”
“There is no plan to police the area.”
“There are fire hazards, especially in the Whiting Woods [area].”
“My fire insurance has already been canceled.”
“I heard nothing about this project and couldn’t give my opinion earlier.”
“Too much money is being spent.”
“There will be strangers in my backyard.”
Former Glendale Mayor Vartan Gharpetian weighed in: “I am against this project. Among my concerns is a lack of privacy.” (Gharpetian and his family live in the Verdugo Woodlands.)
There were some positive comments.
“There would be an increase in biodiversity,” said one advocate.
“I like a greener and more connected Glendale,” said another.
“The public art is a good idea,” offered another advocate.
The motion to provide Council direction regarding design concepts and next steps passed unanimously with the exception of councilmember Ara Najarian, who was absent.