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City Officials Draft Project List for 1990-91 : Retreat: The council travels to Oxnard to tackle such issues as traffic congestion and neighborhood blight.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

While tourists frolicked in an Oxnard hotel swimming pool and strolled the beach last week, Glendale city officials huddled nearby in a windowless conference room to chart a civic course for the coming year.

Meeting for the third annual City Council retreat, held at Mandalay Beach Resort on Friday and Saturday, officials took aim at such volatile issues as traffic congestion, neighborhood blight, hillside preservation, brush fire prevention, waste management and water conservation.

Council members told their staff members to expedite a commuter shuttle service, crack down on graffiti vandals and slumlords, clear hillside brush, review a hillside acquisition bond program, and expand the city’s refuse recycling and reclaimed water programs.

“Overall, I think we have accomplished a whole lot,” Mayor Larry Zarian said. “Not only did we plan a year ahead, but in some instances many years ahead.”

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City Manager David Ramsay, who had been criticized by the council for an increase in expenses in the recently adopted 1990-91 city budget, told the council that the new programs would pay for themselves through new fees, property assessments and utility rate increases.

But Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg said that even self-supporting programs put a financial strain on residents and property owners. “I think we’ve got to face the fact that we spent today and yesterday discussing things that cost a lot of money,” she said Saturday. “We’re going to have to set priorities.”

Reporters and a handful of civic activists made the 140-mile round trip to watch the sessions. But some critics have complained that retreats allow the officials to decide important policy issues at a site inconvenient to many Glendale residents.

Ramsay defended the event. “By its very nature, at a retreat, you focus on long-range issues,” he said. “One needs to take a step back, physically as well as mentally. There’s just something about getting away from the day-to-day pressures, where you’re not right next to a phone, and you’re not going in and out of meetings. It gives you more of a perspective so that you can take a look at the big picture.”

Following are some of the key projects addressed at the retreat:

Commuter Shuttle

Council members made it clear during the retreat that one of the city’s urgent priorities is to start an intercity commuter shuttle service to reduce the number of downtown employees who drive to work alone.

A report released this month recommended that the city launch such a service on three routes: from Sunland-Tujunga through Montrose and La Crescenta, from Burbank and through a central loop in Glendale.

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The study, conducted by private consultants, found that 6,000 downtown workers live in Glendale or adjoining neighborhoods and could, potentially, ride buses to their offices. The program would require 11 vehicles and cost about $619,200 in capital expenditures, according to the report.

Council members at the retreat urged city officials to start the program quickly on at least a portion of one of the routes. “Let’s just do one,” Councilman Jerold Milner said. “We can study it to death and still not be sure it’s going to work.”

Ramsay said Monday that a start-up proposal will be brought to the council within two weeks. The council’s action would require further approval by the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission. Service could begin within two months, Ramsay said.

Neighborhood Blight

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To force landlords to repair leaky roofs, plumbing problems and other building code violations, the council asked for mandatory inspection of all rental housing units every two years. The city has about 43,000 apartments, and council members said many are not maintained properly.

“I think the sense you are getting is one of frustration that we have more than our share of substandard housing here,” Zarian told city staff members.

Under the present system, the city’s three building inspectors respond to complaints and conduct limited drive-by checks. Under the new proposal, landlords would pay an inspection fee to cover the cost of hiring more city employees to do a more rigorous check of each unit.

The council was less enthusiastic about requiring inspections of single-family residences whenever one is sold. The plan is opposed by the Glendale Board of Realtors, and city staff members said this will not be considered until after the rental inspection plan is in place, possibly by July.

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The staff is also expected to bring the council a graffiti abatement ordinance in October. This may require store owners to keep spray paint and wide markers locked up to curtail shoplifting. The city will also seek stronger court punishment for graffiti vandals.

The proposal is also expected to require Glendale building owners to clean up graffiti on their walls in 10 to 20 days. If the markings are not erased, the city would do the work, then bill the property owner.

Some council members said they were concerned that this might pose a hardship to owners of buildings that are repeatedly sprayed. But Madalyn Blake, the city’s community development director, said the ordinance would provide relief in such cases.

“Our job is really to seek compliance and to get graffiti cleaned up--not to make criminals out of property owners,” Blake said.

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Brush Fire Hazards

To prevent a recurrence of the city’s devastating June 27 fire, Glendale Fire Chief John Montenero proposed an aggressive inspection plan aimed at clearing flammable brush, landscaping and tree limbs that could contribute to the spread of a hillside fire. About 13,000 lots in high-risk areas would be checked.

Council members supported the idea but warned that firefighters could face strong resistance from homeowners if they seek to cut down virtually all vegetation surrounding hillside residences. “If you wanted to live in an open prairie, you’d move to Kansas,” Bremberg said.

Councilman Carl Raggio and fire officials lobbied again for a law that would force homeowners to replace existing wood-shingle roofs. But no other council member supported that plan, citing the high expense that the city would be imposing.

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Council members did, however, say they would support a plan to require installation of less expensive rooftop sprinklers.

Waste Management

A 1989 state law mandates that cities find a way to reduce by 25% the amount of solid waste they dump in landfills by 1995.

Council members were told at the retreat that they will receive a detailed waste management plan in three weeks, showing how dumping can be reduced by new recycling, composting and public education programs.

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“This is another example of legislation that was passed with good intentions,” Ramsay said. “But no one knows what it’s going to cost.”

He said the council could raise dumping fees at its Scholl Canyon Landfill or raise refuse collection fees to offset this expense. Council members also asked Ramsay to consider whether the city should take over the running of Scholl Canyon, now managed by the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County.

Open Space

Glendale homeowner associations want the council to put a bond measure on the April municipal ballot that would allow the city to buy and preserve privately owned hillside areas. The bonds would require an increase in property tax bills.

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Parks Director Nello Iacono told the council that a previous open space bond measure failed in 1975, apparently because voters opposed the tax increase. Iacono said Glendale has 1,606 acres of privately owned hillside open space that could be considered for acquisition.

He said each homeowner would have to pay about $1 annually per $100,000 of assessed value on his property for every $1 million in bonds issued. Supporters have said a bond measure might total up to $200 million.

Milner said the city does not need to buy all this land because in some instances a developer can be required to donate hillside property to the city to gain approval to build housing.

“I’m a strong proponent of acquiring open space,” he said. “But there’s some open space that has every right to be developed.”

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Reclaimed Water

Council members expressed impatience that the city has made little progress in piping reclaimed waste water to major industrial and irrigation customers as a way to conserve drinking water. The first major commercial project--serving Forest Lawn Memorial Park--is expected to be finished next summer.

Ramsay said the city staff will proceed with design work on other reclaimed water pipelines and will return to the council with financing proposals, including a possible water bill hike.

Fiscal Planning

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After the heated debate that preceded approval of this year’s city budget, Zarian asked the city manager for a five-year estimate of revenue and spending.

Figures unveiled at the retreat showed that the city will end each year with a general fund surplus through 1996, when revenues will exceed spending by more than $2.4 million. These estimates, however, assume that service levels will remain the same, and that the city’s work force will not be expanded. Some council members were skeptical.

“I don’t really believe it’s going to happen this way,” Bremberg said.


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