2015 in Review: Ten stories at the top for Glendale

Early start date sparks concerns

A line of arriving students make their way in to Hoover High School on the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

When students began the current school year on Aug. 10, Montrose parent Sarah Rush created an online petition to spur school officials to push back the start date for the following academic year to sometime later in August.

Eventually, there were more than 2,000 signatures on the petition, and fellow outspoken parents joined her in speaking out against the early start date during school board meetings.

They also believed the Aug. 8 start date set for the 2016-17 calendar was too early, but that calendar had already been negotiated with the Glendale Teachers Assn. and Glendale school board members decided not to open talks about the matter again. Instead, they will work to create a new calendar for 2017-18, and community meetings seeking parent input will begin next month.

Museum of Neon Art opens new doors

The Museum of Neon Art opened its doors as city officials cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the Central Park Paseo at 216 S. Brand Blvd., next to the Museum of Neon Art, in Glendale on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

After several years of preparations, the lights are finally on at the Museum of Neon Art.

Located on Brand Boulevard, across from the Americana at Brand, it took some time to relocate the museum from downtown Los Angeles to downtown Glendale, but the doors are finally open to the public.

Appropriately, the first exhibit is called “It’s About Time,” a display featuring a number of neon hanging clocks.

Another collection features photographs taken by Glenn B. Ward between the 1940s and 1970s of the neon once part of downtown Glendale’s storefronts.

There’s more to come for the museum, as a classroom for learning how to make neon art will be open to the public in the future.

Lawsuit forces voting districts

Glendale Unified officials will establish five voting districts following the terms of a lawsuit settlement mandating they abandon their current at-large voting system.

On April 7, a ballot measure asked residents whether they would support Glendale Unified changing its voting method. Election results showed that 10,349 voters were against the change, while 5,557 favored it.

Ten days after the election, though, Malibu attorney Kevin Shenkman sued Glendale Unified, alleging the school district was violating the California Voting Rights Act, which protects the voting influence of minority groups in elections.

School officials will hold community meetings and public hearings to establish the five districts next year in anticipation of having them in place for the April 2017 election.

Homicides increase this year

A Glendale Police Department forensics officer takes pictures of evidence lying on Broadway in front of the Glendale Courthouse the morning after a fatal stabbing. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

Glendale police logged six homicides this year, a sharp increase compared to last year’s number — zero.

A 21-year-old woman was fatally shot in April at a Days Inn, where she had checked in three days earlier. Housekeeping staff found her when they went in to clean the room. The case remains unsolved.

A couple of months later, a man allegedly used an ax to kill his elderly grandparents. Police found the couple after an out-of-state relative reported that she’d not heard from them and was concerned.

In September, three people were charged in connection with the death of John Michael King-Smith, who was beaten and choked to death in a Glendale apartment.

That same month, a bizarre attack outside the Glendale courthouse left two people dead.

Alex Littlejohn reportedly attacked another man, Minas Arutyunyan, unprovoked, with a knife, and Arutyunyan fought back. Littlejohn died at the scene, while Arutyunyan died from complications the following evening.

Former GUSD Superintendent Dr. Richard Sheehan (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

District loses its superintendent

In May, former Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan left the district’s top post, a role he’d held since 2010, overseeing 30 schools and 26,000 students. After taking an offer to lead the Covina-Valley Unified School District, his departure launched school board members into a lengthy search for the district’s next superintendent.

With the search still underway, the school board hired retired superintendents Marc Winger and Joel Shawn to share superintendent duties through the remainder of the current school year.

Glendale Rose float returns to parade

The skeleton of Glendale's 2016 Rose Parade float has been built and awaits flowers as fundraising continues in this Oct. 2015 photo.. (Courtesy of the Glendale Rose Float Association)

Last New Year’s Day marked the end of a century-long tradition for Glendale, as it was the first time in 100 years that the city did not have a float in the Tournament of Roses Parade.

A lack of funding led to the decision to not build a float, but the City Council agreed to front $50,000 to pay for an entry in the 2016 parade.

The only caveat is that the newly formed Glendale Rose Float Assn. has to pay back the city down the road and eventually get to the point where it can pay for future floats.

The local organization also had to raise at least $50,000 on its own this year because Rose floats typically cost well over $100,000.

But there will at least be a float for 2016. Its theme is “Find Your Adventure,” and it focuses on various modes of transportation. The float also features a reproduction of the historic Larry Zarian train station.

Four-year-old struck by car and killed

A cone with a sign for passing motorists next to the site of a memorial for 4-year-old Violeta Khachaturyan in Glendale on Monday, March 9, 2015. Violeta was killed Friday by a hit-and-run driver who turned himself in over the weekend. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

City officials and residents rallied to support the family of a 4-year-old girl who was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver in March.

Violeta Khachatoorians, who was remembered as an energetic preschooler who was learning the alphabet and loved playing with her dolls, was struck one Friday evening after she was playing in her frontyard and ran in between two parked cars and into oncoming traffic.

After the fatal incident, then Mayor Zareh Sinanyan launched an online crowd-funding campaign that amassed nearly $47,000 for the girl’s family, while the Glendale Police Officers Assn. also collected donations to help the family.

Meanwhile, the driver turned himself in the morning after the crash. He was charged with one felony count of hit-and-run driving resulting in death.

Drought drives water conservation

It was a proactive battle in Glendale this year against the statewide drought as city officials upped conservation standards, while residents responded in kind.

This spring, the City Council moved to the third phase of mandatory conservation, restricting lawn watering to only twice a week for homeowners.

Most complied, as evident by dry lawn after dry lawn on any given street, and the local effort could also be backed up statistically.

Month after month, homeowners met cutback goals by using 25% less water than they did in previous years. That goal was set by the state.

There were a handful of violators, though, who were assessed penalties by Glendale Water & Power for watering when they shouldn’t have been.

Gov. Jerry Brown set a cumulative 20% goal for California cities through February, initially, but that has been extended through next fall.

Athlete dies at Pan Armenian Games

Glendale resident Levon Thomas, 20, died over the weekend in an ATV accident while visiting Armenia to play in the annual Pan Armenian Games. (Courtesy of the Thomas Family and Homenetmen Los Angeles)

One of the most tragic losses for the community this year was that of Levon Thomas, a local high school graduate, Scout leader and athlete who was killed in an ATV accident while visiting Armenia over the summer.

He was there to play soccer in the Pan Armenian Games.

Born and raised in Glendale, Thomas graduated from Glendale High School two years ago and was attending Glendale Community College at the time of his death.

He was also a working as a lifeguard at the Pacific Community Center pool.

An active member in the Armenian organization Homenetmen since childhood, Thomas was a Scout leader and played basketball with the organization.

His mentors remembered him as an example of what a Homenetmen member should be, someone who was an active participant and went out of their way to help others.

Construction begins on developments

Construction workers work on a site at the corner of Central Ave. and California St. on Tuesday, December 30, 2014. (Roger Wilson / Staff Photographer)

Last year was the final round of approvals for several downtown mixed-use developments, but 2015 was when several of them started to take shape.

The 228-unit Modera development opened at the corner of Central Avenue and Sanchez Drive as did the Brand Wilson project, which has 235 units.

Also getting underway were two Carmel Partner projects across the street from each other on Central near Sanchez. Two medical office buildings were torn down to make way for one 315-unit development, while the other will have 192 units.

Overall, the City Council during the past several years has approved 3,100 units. Of that, 700 are constructed. Some city officials think the remaining projects, including the 475-unit mixed-use Citibank project, will be completed by 2018.

Concerns from the community and officials, such as Mayor Ara Najarian, include additional traffic and subsequent congestion.

Man killed in freeway collision

Southbound traffic on The Golden State (5) Freeway was diverted to the 134 freeway while Los Angeles City Fire Dept. personnel removed a body from a freeway sign in Glendale on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. The body of the male driver was ejected from his vehicle during a traffic accident and thrown up onto the freeway sign. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

The day before Halloween, a 20-year-old Burbank man was killed in a freeway collision after he was ejected from his car and landed on an overhead freeway sign.

In an incident that spread widely on social media, Richard Pananian was speeding down the Golden State (5) freeway approaching the Ventura (134) Freeway transition when his Ford Fiesta rear-ended a pickup truck.

The impact caused his vehicle to flip multiple times up an embankment, while he was thrown out of the vehicle and landed on the overhang sign. A car enthusiast, Pananian had a five-point seat-belt harness installed in his driver’s seat, but he wasn’t wearing it at the time of the crash.

After the incident, donors contributed nearly $20,000 to an online crowd-funding campaign launched by Pananian’s cousin to help the man’s family through the loss.

Just five days before Pananian’s death, his family had hosted an Armenian matagh, or offering, to protect him from harm after he had overcome a serious health issue.

The family used salt that was blessed at a church to later cook a lamb meal, which was shared with several families.