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Looking ahead at a new year in Glendale

As 2018 begins, these are some of the stories that will likely be developing during the new year:

City of Glendale awaits result of appeal in $57-million lawsuit

The city of Glendale will learn the result of its appeal of a ruling by an L.A. Superior Court judge last year that said the city was involved in an illegal energy-rate increase.

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According to the ruling, the city of Glendale must pay back nearly $57 million to residents for violating state law when it issued an energy rate hike in 2013 as well as return $1.7 million in illegally transferred funds from Glendale Water & Power’s waterworks fund to the city’s coffers.

Judge James Chalfant previously stated that Glendale had violated its charter when it transferred $85 million from the electric revenue fund to the city’s General Fund during fiscal years 2010-14.

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As a result, the electric rate increase in 2013 — which included the General Fund transfers as an operating cost — was ruled in violation of Proposition 26 because the transfer was not related to the cost of providing electric service and required approval by voters.

The lawsuit was filed by the Glendale Coalition for Better Government in 2013.

City officials are “currently engaged in briefings with the courts,” said city spokesman Tom Lorenz.

Rent control in Glendale

Last year, the city of Glendale saw a formal push for rent control for its residents when a group of tenants organized the Glendale Tenants Union.

The group collected more than 11,000 signatures in support of a rent stabilization ordinance in Glendale, but a number of filing errors deemed the effort invalid because of compliance issues with state election codes.

Despite the administrative setback, union organizer Mike Van Gorder said in October that the “rookie mistakes” were a mere bump in the road, and the group will continue to campaign for rent control in Glendale.

“We’re not taking this as a loss,” he said. “We got more signatures than any one City Council member got votes in the last election. We’ll work on fixing where we failed and try again.”

Search for permanent City Manager

A permanent choice for the Glendale city manager position has yet to be named, but the City Council is expected to decide how to fill the position this year.

Yasmin Beers, Glendale’s assistant city manager, was selected to act as interim city manager in November and replaced departing Scott Ochoa, who announced his resignation in 2017 to become city manager of the city of Ontario.

Earlier, Beers was selected as interim city manager in November 2011 after Jim Starbird retired, but it was already known then that Ochoa would become the replacement only a few months later.

The city is currently accepting applications for the position, with a Jan. 12 deadline.

Utility plans upgrade to aging power plant in the midst local dissent

Almost three years ago, the Glendale City Council directed Glendale Water & Power officials to draft plans to renovate the more than 80-year-old Grayson Power Plant.

The ongoing plant renovation is designed to update the facility into a more reliable and sustainable one, with plans to remove, rebuild and replace seven of its eight electrical-generation units. If left as is, utility officials previously said they expect the old units to fail within the next decade.

However, after a formal proposal and draft environmental impact report, utility officials, residents and city officials all seem to be at an impasse about the future of the facility over cost concerns and renewable alternatives.

Councilman Zareh Sinanyan requested last month that the City Council place an item on its Jan. 23 meeting agenda that would ask city staff to prepare a comprehensive report on “repowering” alternatives at Grayson.

Sagebrush transfer may go through this year

Four years after citizens renewed a decades-long effort to transfer the Sagebrush area of La Cañada Flintridge into the La Cañada Unified School District, the area could be stripped from Glendale Unified’s jurisdiction following a decision last May by the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization.

The committee voted to give preliminary approval to a petition to transfer the territory into La Cañada Unified’s boundaries during an hours-long meeting at the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Downey.

Following the committee’s approval to transfer the Sagebrush territory, the proposal is now undergoing a California Environmental Quality Act study to determine the environmental impacts of the transfer, which could be completed sometime this year.

If the environmental findings favor a transfer, the matter would go to local voters to decide.

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