Looking Ahead: Ongoing stories may crest in 2015

As a new year begins in Glendale, several changes may be on the horizon.

Officials with the city of Glendale, Glendale Unified school district and Glendale Community College are all eyeing to shift their voting systems from an at-large structure to one based on districts in response to possible litigation under state legislation.

The possible transfer of an area called Sagebrush from Glendale Unified to the La Cañada Unified school district is still up in the air. Glendale Unified officials estimate it would cost their school district more than $20 million if the transfer goes through. La Cañada school officials have countered that the estimate is too high, but have said they’re willing to continue to talk about a possible transfer.

Other changes are set in stone. A major renovation is slated for the Glendale Central Library and the new Museum of Neon Art, which will be connected with the library via a new pathway, is scheduled to open this year.

Also, the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide will be commemorated in April as local residents join people around the world in remembering the 1.5 million Armenians who died at the hands of the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1918.

Upcoming elections

The next City Council election will be held in April and two seats will be on the ballot.

Councilwoman Paula Devine and Councilman Dave Weaver are both making reelection bids, while three challengers have already emerged — some of them are familiar faces.

Former Planning Administrator Edith Fuentes and business owner and Historic Preservation Commissioner Vartan Gharpetian both ran unsuccessfully in the past and plan to run again.

Planning Commissioner Erik Yesayan has announced he’s making his first bid for a spot on the council.

All three challengers have formed campaign-fundraising committees, while the window to pull and file papers to be eligible for the April 7 election is between Jan. 8 and Jan. 29.

Weaver is seeking his sixth term on the council, while Devine will be seeking her first full term. In a special election, she won a 14-month term previously occupied by former Councilman Frank Quintero, who was appointed to fill the remainder of Councilman Rafi Manoukian’s term after he was elected city treasurer.

Also, two seats will come up for election on the Glendale Community College Board of Trustees, and they are currently occupied by Tony Tartaglia and Vahe Peroomian.

The Glendale Unified school board will have two seats up on the ballot. One is currently occupied by Nayiri Nahabedian and the other by Sandy Russell, who is serving as an interim board member through April, filling in for Mary Boger, who resigned several months before her term was finished.

Voting system changes

Glendale’s three major governing bodies are in various stages of possibly adopting a new district-based voting system, each in the effort to dodge the potential for costly litigation and scrutiny under the California Voting Rights Act.

In response to a lawyer’s email stating his intent to sue Glendale Community College, the city of Glendale and the Glendale Unified school district, officials from all three bodies have made headway in switching from an at-large system to a district-based one.

In April, residents will be asked whether the city should switch from its at-large voting system to individual districts. If voters approve moving ahead, city officials would gather public input, draw up draft districts and, finally, bring the proposed districting plan back to voters.

Voters will also be asked in April to allow Glendale Unified officials to conduct elections as they wish, ultimately letting them switch from a current at-large voting system to one based on districts.

While the voting change wouldn’t occur until the 2017 voting season, college officials may spend a good part of 2015 plotting new voting boundaries, weighing community input and deciding whether to have seven people represent seven parts of Glendale, or five, the number of trustees currently who can come from throughout the college’s district.

Glendale Community College’s switch from an at-large voting system is expected to be the most automatic change of all three bodies, because the college is likely to receive approval by the state community college’s chancellor’s office, and college officials don’t have to take the issue to voters.

Sagebrush territory transfer

The future of 385 acres of La Cañada territory that historically belonged to the Glendale Unified school district will continue to be discussed by La Cañada and Glendale school officials this year, possibly through negotiations.

While much of 2014 was dedicated to town hall meetings and school board meetings over a potential transfer of the Sagebrush area, 2015 could mean real action.

Tom Smith, a Sagebrush resident who reignited the effort to transfer the territory to La Cañada Unified in 2013, told the La Cañada Valley Sun in November that if talks break down between the two school districts, he may file a petition late this month or early next month with the Los Angeles County Office of School District Organization.

That petition would kick-start a formal effort to have county school officials investigate whether the transfer makes sense.

Glendale Unified officials estimated that under a negotiated transfer, it could cost the district $23 million if the territory is transferred to La Cañada.

The proposal asks La Cañada Unified to pay Glendale Unified a little more than $16 million over a 12-year period to make up for the loss of per-student revenue. It assumes a 3% increase in state per-pupil funding each year and asks for half the amount that Glendale officials calculate would have been paid by the state to serve the Sagebrush students.

La Cañada would also pay $6.8 million in debt service for two Glendale school bonds.

Utility transfer lawsuit

A case against the city’s transfer of money from its utility to the General Fund will continue to play out this year and a court date could be set as early as this month.

This past February, the Glendale Coalition for Better Government filed a lawsuit over the legitimacy of the transfer, calling it a “backdoor tax” and seeks that $90 million in transferred funds, dating back to 2010, be sent back to the utility fund.

A few weeks after that suit was filed, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, the union for utility workers, filed a similar complaint.

Judge James C. Chalfant has since combined the cases for the time being.

Arthur Jarvis Cohen, an attorney for the coalition, said his plaintiffs’ goal is to ensure electrical and water revenues remain with the utility.

Michael Colantuono, a lawyer hired by the city, said the claims of illegal activity are canceled out since Proposition 26 was not retroactive, and the transfer was approved by local voters decades before the law, which limits taxes, was enacted.

Neon Museum, library renovation

The Glendale Central Library will be getting a major face-lift this year and will be joined with the new Museum of Neon Art via a pedestrian walkway that’s in the works.

The $15-million, 18-month renovation will get underway in June and will entail increased study and community spaces, additional exhibition spaces and better access to technology.

Just around the corner, the long-awaited Museum of Neon Art is expected to open sometime in mid-2015, according to its Facebook page.

In existence since the early 1980s, the museum has never had a permanent home until it started moving into its new location at 216 S. Brand Blvd. in downtown Glendale.

A large neon light shaped like a jumping female diver was installed on the museum’s roof in June and more than 100 pieces are to be displayed inside.

A roughly 25-foot-wide path that starts near the museum’s entrance and leads to the library is under construction, with completion expected in the first quarter of this year.

The path will be lined with trees, planters and seating.

Armenian Genocide

The 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide will be commemorated on April 24, and memorials and vigils are planned throughout the Southland to remember the 1.5 million Armenians who lost their lives.

Locally, the city of Glendale will hold its annual commemoration event — in collaboration with the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee. The event, featuring guest speakers, is still being planned and could take place indoors or outdoors, possibly at the desired location for a proposed genocide museum and memorial.

In November, the Glendale City Council gave the committee permission to look into the feasibility of constructing such a project on a parking lot next to the Glendale Civic Auditorium.

Recently, the committee began looking for an architect to design the museum.

Talin Yacoubian, committee co-chair, said it’s possible the commemoration event could be held in conjunction with a groundbreaking for the memorial monument.

Airport terminal

Bob Hope Airport and the city of Burbank face a looming March deadline to agree on the future of a large piece of property near the airfield, known as the “B6” parcel, which was formerly occupied by Lockheed.

The airport is looking to replace its 83-year-old terminal with a modern facility on a 49-acre plot of airport-owned land. The new terminal would have 14 gates, the same as the current building, and would have the same number of parking spaces — 6,631.

The proposal for the new terminal includes plans for potential development of the neighboring 58-acre B6 parcel, currently held in trust for the airport, which would include office, hotel and light industrial buildings totaling roughly 2.35 million square feet. Proceeds from the sale of the trust property would, in part, fund construction of the new terminal.

However, before construction of a new terminal project can begin, it would require voter approval because of Measure B, passed in 2000, and a green light from the City Council. A development agreement between the city and airport, set to expire on March 15, requires that if the city and the airport cannot agree on a plan for the B6 property by that date, it must be sold to a third party.

The city has held several public meetings on the issue and the City Council has been negotiating in closed sessions with airport officials for several months.

City officials in July temporarily halted work on a report studying the environmental impacts of constructing the new terminal, following unresolved differences between the city of Burbank and the airport. Work on the report began in November 2013.

This past October, Joy Forbes, Burbank’s community development director, said the city was in a “holding pattern” as it continued discussions.

Meanwhile, the City Council is also expected to appoint a new commissioner to the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority board soon.

Just before Thanksgiving, Susan Georgino, one of Burbank’s appointed representatives on the airport board, tendered her resignation after the City Council decided that her move to a new home outside the city limits made her ineligible to serve on the airport board.

At that time, council members said they were hopeful that the city and the airport authority were close to reaching an agreement that would allow talks for the B6 property to move forward.

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