Glendale Considers Investing Block Grant in Blighted Area

Times Staff Writer

The Glendale City Council is considering a plan to spend most of an expected $1.5 million in federal community development block grant funds to rejuvenate a blighted area in south Glendale.

Already faced with a 10% reduction from last year's block grant allocation, the city is operating under a sense of urgency to get the most from the money. Council members fear that the Reagan Administration will stop the block grant program altogether in its effort to cut the federal deficit.

"We know that the grant will be diminished if not completely taken away, and we feel that this is a way to go out in glory," Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg said.

The proposed beautification project is part of a new approach the city is taking this year in distributing its share of the block grant funds, which are funneled through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to local governments. The community development block grant program was begun during the second Nixon Administration.

Tentative Approval

The council last week tentatively approved using its share on a neighborhood beautification project. By doing so, council members moved a step farther toward concentrating the funds on a specified area rather than distributing the money scattershot to benefit projects throughout the city, as many local governments tend to do. The city is required to submit its plans to HUD in May.

In the past the city had used a process that virtually eliminated the involvement of council members until it was time to vote on which projects to fund. The council had relied on the recommendations of a citizen's advisory committee, which would hold public hearings to gather proposals from community groups and organizations. The advisory committee, a HUD requirement until 1981, was disbanded last December.

Mayor Carroll Parcher said the advisory committee may have been too heavily influenced by the city's Community Development Department, which oversaw the committee's operation. The committee, Parcher said, "tended to accept what the staff presented to them and that was sometimes based on how good a presentation the individual claimant made."

Another problem involved having too many proposals and not enough money. For instance, last year the council had to choose from a long list of proposed projects that added up to more than $6 million. The city only had $2.5 million, which included carry-over funds from the previous year, to work with. That imbalance, Bremberg said, meant "we had to turn a lot of people down."

Details Not Complete

The details of the beautification project have yet to be worked out, but its elements have been outlined in a report compiled by Madalyn Blake, the community development administrator who was appointed in July to head a revamped department.

The report focuses on the needs of an approximately one-square-mile area in south Glendale that is bordered by San Fernando Road, Colorado Street and Glendale and Palmer avenues. Parts of four neighborhoods on the periphery of the targeted area are also included in the beautification proposal.

The neighborhood and its immediate surroundings are described in the report as belonging to "an area with the most potential to benefit from city programs." According to the report, the targeted area was found to have "the lowest-income population, worst housing conditions and the most serious overcrowding and code-enforcement problems, as well as inadequate water mains and streets and alleys needing resurfacing."

The report cites substandard plumbing and heating facilities as two major problems that need to be addressed. Charts included in the report show that the targeted neighborhoods are among those with the highest number of city housing code complaints. The report says that the targeted area has one of the highest concentrations of renters in the city. About 80% of the residents are renters.

Most Crowded School

The most crowded school in the Glendale Unified School District also is in the targeted area. Many of the 1,025 students enrolled at Theodore Roosevelt Junior High, 1017 S. Glendale Ave., attend classes in one of 17 "temporary" wooden bungalows that have been on the school grounds since the 1970s.

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