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City Council candidates take part in forum hosted by Armenian organization

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Taking part in the recent Glendale City Council forum were Greg Astorian, Dan Brotman, Paula Devine, Vartan Gharpetian, Ardy Kassakhian, William Keshishyan, Leonard Manoukian and Susan Wolfson.
(Mark Kellam)

All eight candidates running for three open seats on the Glendale City Council took part in a forum sponsored by the Armenian National Committee Glendale on Wednesday, answering questions covering topics such as affordable housing, traffic safety, the sale of recreational marijuana, the Armenian American Museum and the future of Scholl Canyon Landfill.

The candidates were incumbents Paula Devine and Vartan Gharpetian and challengers Greg Astorian, Dan Brotman, Ardy Kassakhian, William Keshishyan, Leonard Manoukian and Susan Wolfson.

The forum was held at the Glendale Youth Center, and the format was to have three candidates respond to each topic through random selection.

Regarding affordable housing, Astorian, who is a Glendale Planning Commissioner, said that over the past 65 years, too few homes and units have been built to keep up with demand.

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He suggested looking at existing property owners.

“You take the duplex owners, triplex owners and fourplex owners because they have the excess land,” Astorian said, and allow them to build smaller accessory-dwelling units with the stipulation that they rent them to people who make about 30% of the community’s median income.

He added that those residents usually use public transportation, so they won’t impact parking or traffic.

Currently, there are 6,000 applications for 57 affordable-housing units in Glendale, he said, adding that his suggestion could raise the number of units to 1,000 or even 2,000.

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“The folks who need it the most are the ones that are hurting,” he said.

Manoukian said when he was a planning commissioner a few years ago, city officials decided to use mixed-use developments and offer developers incentives to include affordable housing in their projects.

“That model, despite the fact that it would seem the City Council is walking away from [it], is still the best way of introducing smart development into our city,” he said.

He also called for more input from the community to address the issue.

One of the questions Devine received was about homelessness.

She pointed to the fact that officers with the Glendale Police Department will take those who are homeless to Ascencia, which provides services to the homeless, so they can take a shower. Officers will also suggest services that are available to them.

She also talked about a food-recovery program she has suggested be implemented.

“We have so much food wasted in our restaurants that I think it’s time that we have a food-recovery program in our city, which will go to the restaurants every night, and, in a healthy and safe way, collect the food and take it to our homeless, Ascencia, especially, the Door of Hope, the YWCA and Glendale Community College,” she said.

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It was brought up a few times during the forum that some students at the local college have to live out of their cars and need support, such as food.

Keshishyan said there are different levels of homelessness.

“Homelessness should be stratified into a few different levels,” he said, adding that there are “lifestyle” homeless people, who are used to their condition but don’t have the drive to change their situation, and those who are mentally ill.

He said the city should look at holding job fairs and clinics, where everyone is welcome, even if they have personal problems, and look at ways to help each person.

Regarding traffic safety, Wolfson said it has been “far too long” since the city has conducted a comprehensive traffic-circulation study to improve the flow of vehicles throughout the city.

She also referred specifically to pedestrian safety.

“I personally think that we need to improve the lighting [on certain streets] to protect pedestrians. There are many intersections where the lighting could be tweaked or redesigned to improve the safety in the crosswalks,” she said.

She also said more can be done to improve traffic-signal timing to reduce congestion.

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Brotman received a question about the Scholl Canyon Landfill. He said he’s looked at that issue as founder of the Glendale Environmental Coalition, which has held protests about a plan to continue burning fossil fuels at the Grayson Power Plant.

There is a proposal to put a power plant at the Scholl Canyon to process the methane that’s coming off the landfill.

“I think that’s very problematic,” he said. “This is a high-fire-prone area. And to put a power plant up there to deal with the methane is something that I think we should try to avoid.”

He suggested city officials look at alternatives such “cleaning it up” and selling the methane to SoCal Gas or using it in municipal vehicles.

While the landfill has about eight years of life left, Brotman said the sooner it can be closed and capped, the better for the health of residents in Glenoaks Canyon.

When asked about support for the Armenian American Museum, which is slated to be built in Central Park in Glendale, current City Clerk Kassakhian said he will do whatever needs to be done to see the project is completed.

“That museum is essential to this community, and I want to see it built not my son’s lifetime, but in my lifetime,” he said.

“We have a community here that has been waiting for a long time and has contributed in many ways to the success, safety, security, vibrancy and growth of this city, that has asked for just one thing. It started off as a memorial and the city promised land and then did the shuffle on us and switched it around. And then did a bait and switch with property. And now, it’s forced into a lease agreement,” he said.

He then referred to the Neon Museum in Glendale, which he said was funded with city money.

“I don’t know how many Neon Americans live in this city, but I know how many Armenian Americans live in this city. And they deserve this museum as much as every non-Armenian does as well,” he said.

Regarding the sale of marijuana tied to state Proposition 64 for recreational sales, Gharpetian said he does not support marijuana dispensaries in the city, where there is a ban on all cannabis sales activities.

Gharpetian, who is the father of three daughters, said he thinks cannabis is a gateway drug.

“As a father, if I approve ... the sale of cannabis in Glendale, I’m telling my children it’s OK to smoke marijuana. I can’t do that. I would never do that. So, my vote is not going to change. I’m passionate about it.”

He said the issue has come before City Council twice and been declined.

“And the biggest reason is me,” he said.

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