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Glendale City Council candidates address fate of Sears building, pension reform at forum

The Rossmoyne Homeowners Assn. hosted the latest City Council candidate forum Thursday where eight of the 10 hopefuls once again debated Glendale's issues less than a month from the April 4 election.

Many familiar citywide topics led the discussion such as whether the candidates would temporarily halt major development and how each would retain or amend the current interim-ordinance on Accessory Dwelling Units, known as Granny Flats.

Candidates Mike Van Gorder and Onnik Mehrabian were absent. Van Gorder said he was recovering from an illness.

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In what was roughly a two-hour event, candidates were given 90 seconds to respond to questions, with most directed toward all candidates and some individually addressed.

Asked if they would approve new development on the site of the current Sears building on Central Avenue — which is rumored to be set for demolition in the future — challenger Mike Mohill said he would like to see a regional park replace the structure, while incumbent Ara Najarian said he'd like to register the property as a historic site for later adaptive reuse.

Sears officials could not be reached Friday regarding possible closure of the Glendale store, and no word has been announced about its closure by the company.

Rick Dinger said he thinks the Sears building is part of the city and should be saved.

"It would be a tragedy to tear that one down," he said.

Regarding pension reform for city employees, all of the candidates conceded not to renege promised benefits for past and current workers. They all said they would instead address the rise of current California Public Employees Retirement System rates through new hires.

"It's not right to take a pension away from somebody who has made ... a commitment to service. On the other hand, what you have to look at is with new hires — that's an entirely different ballgame," said challenger Mark MacCarley.

Each candidate answered whether they would consider selling some of the city's major assets, including the former Rockhaven sanitarium site and Glendale Water & Power's Grayson Power Plant. All eight candidates opposed selling either of them, citing current plans to convert Rockhaven into a boutique commercial center and park and the independence provided to the city by owning the power plant.

Reactions to the potential sale of the Glendale Civic Auditorium, however, were mixed, with incumbent Zareh Sinanyan saying it would be ideal to renovate the site, but he added that the city might have trouble finding enough resources.

"Civic has been bleeding money for the last probably two decades. Ten years ago, when I was [Parks, Recreation and Community Services] commissioner, we were losing about $400,000 [annually] on the [auditorium]," Sinanyan said. "We were able to take that down to the bone, and we're still [taking a loss] every year."

The next candidate forum will be a "meet-and-greet" format sponsored by the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Sparr Heights Community Center, 1613 Glencoe Way, Glendale.

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Jeff Landa, jeff.landa@latimes.com

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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