In 2013, much awaits Glendale

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The year 2013 is already shaping up to be a busy year, with several issues rooted in the past expected to come to fruition. While the year ahead will no doubt unleash its own bounty of surprises, here are some issues we can all count on happening in the months ahead.

Glendale police officers’ lawsuit to move forward

The case of four current and one former Armenian American Glendale police officers suing the city for alleged discrimination and harassment is expected to move to trial in 2013.

This year, a federal judge refused to throw out claims against the city made by police Officers Vahak Mardikian, Robert Parseghian, John Balian, Tigran Topadzhikyan and former Officer Benny Simonzad.

A settlement conference is scheduled for Feb. 1, as well as a jury trial date for March 23, according to U.S. District Court records.

The officers filed the federal lawsuit in 2010 against the city and Police Department alleging years of discrimination, retaliation and harassment because they're Armenian.

Balian, Topadzhikyan and Mardikian also filed a separate state lawsuit in March claiming that racial discrimination and retaliation continued in the Police Department even after they filed their federal case. That case was held up pending the resolution of the federal lawsuit.

School bond dollars to take shape

Following the approval of a $270 million school bond in April 2011, Glendale schools this year are expected to put a dent in the proceeds as they tackle projects that will bring improvements and technology to school facilities.

Already, hundreds of Apple laptops have been rolled out to Glendale teachers, and solar panels that were installed at several Glendale schools are expected to save $10 million over the next 30 years.

As of November, the Glendale Unified School District had approved $40 million in projects.

The board recently approved a new two-story design for College View School and held a groundbreaking ceremony for the installment of lights at Hoover High’s sports field.

The district will later expand Franklin Elementary, renovate the science lab at Crescenta Valley High School, add solar panels to Glendale High and build onto campuses where an influx in bungalows has invaded the grounds.

With $108 million more approved through the fall of 2016, officials will look to allocate the remaining $162 million in the future.

Chromium 6

For more than 10 years, Glendale has been researching ways to remove chromium 6, a cancer-causing contaminant, from the city’s water supply.

Using state, federal and private grants, Glendale researchers have spent more than $9 million testing the contaminant left behind by the aerospace industry decades ago. But in 2013, Glendale is set to complete its final report to the California Department of Public Health, although research will continue in order to refine the estimated costs involved with the removal methods.

Last year, state officials set a public health goal for chromium 6 contamination of .02 parts per billion — far below the current state limit of 50 parts per billion and the federal cap of 100 parts per billion. By law, state officials must get the final limit — planned to be released by July 2015 — as close to the public health goal as economically feasible.

Glendale’s water, which is filtered and then blended with purchased, clean water, has a chromium 6 level of 5 parts per billon, far below the state and federal standards.

Citywide elections

Three City Council seats are up for grabs in April and one long-time incumbent, Mayor Frank Quintero, doesn’t plan to run again.

Although the election is months away, council members Laura Friedman and Ara Najarian will try to keep their seats. A few others have filed paperwork at City Hall to run as well, including gadfly Mike Mohill, Edth Fuentes, a former City Hall employee who won a $200,000 legal settlement from Glendale after she alleged wrongful demotion, and Glendale attorney Roland Kedikian.

Also up for election is the City Treasurer. Incumbent Ron Borucki has declined to say whether he will run again, but his seat may not be open at all if a ballot measure making the seat an appointed rather than elected position gets enough votes.

Glendale Community College and the Glendale Unified School District will also hold elections this spring.

At Glendale Community College, three incumbents are up for reelection, including Armine Hacopian, Ann Ransford and Anita Quinonez Gabrielian.

With the election months away, the voting season will also coincide with the last days of Interim Supt. Jim Riggs, who took the helm of the college after former Supt. Dawn Lindsay departed earlier this year.

Three seats on the Glendale Unified school board are also up for takers this spring. School board president Christine Walters and member Joylene Wagner have confirmed their intent to run again.

School board member Greg Krikorian, who’s seat is also up for grabs, has not confirmed whether he will be running again.

Redevelopment fight to continue

Glendale took a huge hit when in February state lawmakers dissolved local redevelopment agencies throughout the state. Glendale used the millions in property taxes that came with redevelopment to develop such projects as the Americana at Brand, but it also used the money to pay for staff salaries.

So when the city began drafting this fiscal year’s budget, officials grappled with a $15.4-million gap mostly caused by the loss of redevelopment. After cutting programs and reducing staff to the lowest level since 2000, Glendale balanced its budget, but redevelopment headaches didn’t end there.

City officials are still fighting with the California Department of Finance — which is taking redevelopment money and using it close a multi-billion dollar state funding hole — over tens of millions of dollars the former agency owes to construction companies, banks and others it had made contracts with before the state axed redevelopment.

Those fights will continue in 2013, and perhaps beyond. State officials must give multiple audits of Glendale’s redevelopment assets a stamp of approval before the city can use tens of millions of dollars in bonds to complete several projects. The money is currently frozen by the state.

That puts the Central Library improvements and other projects on hold, as well as obstructs plans to build a paseo outside the planned Museum of Neon Art. It also puts the Alex Theatre at risk of being sold since Sacramento officials have the power to sell off redevelopment assets.

However, city officials have changed the zoning of the land beneath the historic venue to prevent it from being converted into a church or bowling alley if auctioned off.

Teacher layoffs

In Glendale Unified schools, where officials still need to slash millions from their budget to stay solvent, roughly 75 elementary teachers and up to 50 secondary teachers could face layoffs this spring.

The exact number of teachers who would be let go would be determined by how many teachers accept the district’s early retirement incentives by Feb. 1.

With potential teacher layoffs, class sizes would increase from 24 students per teacher to 30 students in grades kindergarten through third. That move could save $3.8 million while adding two students more per teacher in grades sixth through 12 would save $1.9 million.

These cuts and others could likely be made to further cut the district’s three-year budget plan that came up $36 million short for 2015-16 when school officials outlined the budget last June.

Retail renaissance

Two retail powerhouses will have major projects drawing to a close in the fall of 2013 — Bloomingdale’s will open a new store in the Glendale Galleria and Nordstrom will move from the Galleria to a new space in the Americana at Brand.

The 116,000-square-foot Bloomingdale’s is being constructed in the former Mervyn’s at the corner of Brand Boulevard and Broadway.

A new facade will cover the existing drab brick exterior with mosaic panels of glass, painted aluminum, black tiles and white marble that will slowly transition from all black to white from south to north along Brand.

Bloomingdale’s will occupy the second and third floors of the Galleria, which is undergoing extensive renovations of its own.

Over at the Americana at Brand, the three-story Nordstrom is being constructed on the former site of the Golden Key Hotel between Colorado Street and Caruso Avenue.

A Guess store has been relocated so that space can be part of an espresso bar at the entrance of the new 122,000-square-foot store. Above the espresso bar will be open-air seating for the Nordstrom Café.

Billionaire developer Rick Caruso, who owns the Americana at Brand, announced plans for Nordstrom’s move in 2011 — a major coup that strips his main competition of yet another huge anchor store.

Caruso, so far, hasn’t announced a replacement for the current Nordstrom building, which he also owns in what’s called Galleria II.

The section of Orange Street within the Americana will be closed and converted into a pedestrian paseo with planters, posters and festoon string lighting crisscrossing overhead.

Najarian and the MTA

With his current term on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board expiring on Jan. 1, Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian has vowed to fight to continue as a board member even though the committee that makes appointments didn’t support him because of his opposition to the 710 Freeway extension.

Najarian plans to get another nomination from the North Cities sector — which includes Glendale and Burbank — and then go before the City Selection Committee again this month, when he says he should have enough support to be appointed for another four-year term.

Representatives from Palmdale and Lancaster were not at the meeting where the vote was taken, but Najarian said he will make sure they’re there at the next committee meeting.

Representatives from cities throughout Los Angeles County voted against Najarian, but a concentration of the no votes came from cities in the San Gabriel Valley.

The MTA debacle occurred about six months after the incoming authority president — L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich — replaced Najarian on the Metrolink board of directors.

Najarian said he plans to get support from a majority of the 13-member MTA board to overturn Antonovich’s selection.

-- Times Community News staff

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