Upon learning there was community-wide opposition to a proposal
approved in June, last week, Glendale’s City Council members
overturned their own decision. No, they didn’t change their minds
about the 60% council pay raise. They celebrated the one-month
anniversary of an ordinance providing for inspection of rental units
every three years by repealing the ordinance providing for inspection
of rental units every three years.
A council majority reversing itself is rare. The last example I
can remember was in 1997, when the council reversed an approval for a
plan to remodel City Hall offices. That turnaround came when a
council member belatedly discovered there was some truth to
allegations about the remodel feathering official nests.
With the inspection ordinance, no new facts were uncovered.
Instead, the opponents simply didn’t give up, doubtless setting a
precedent for all future council actions. They multiplied, kept
howling long after the fat lady had sung, and applied particular
pressure to two councilmen believed to aspire to higher office, or at
least to reelection in early 2003.
I remain puzzled by contradictions in the proclivities of Glendale
landowners, and this episode provides yet another example. That
“government” dared to inspect apartments every three years to assure
they meet minimum standards of habitability was characterized by
opponents as a treasonous intrusion, including comparisons to storm
troopers kicking in doors. But add a bathroom to your own house, and
many of the same defenders of freedom don’t mind that a
council-appointed panel can tell you what color to paint the exterior
walls, or forbid your use of a square window where government
arbiters believe only a rectangle is acceptable.
Assuring that exposed wiring is rendered safe to protect a tenant
who fears being evicted if they complain is an outrageous
infringement on American principles. But if a panel of appointees
rejects your plan for a Craftsman-style home because a majority
prefers a Spanish style, that’s the city taking steps to protect
sacred “property values” from the dreaded ravages of personal choice.
I don’t claim one of these perspectives is pure and the other is
evil incarnate. But how both extreme attitudes live, thrive and even
multiply in the same community baffles me.
In a refreshing change, the repeal of the rental inspection
ordinance is something of a vindication for Councilman Dave Weaver.
When the ordinance was approved in a 4-1 vote, he was the holdout.
Some hope to milk the appearance created by the fact that Weaver is
the one who introduced the ordinance he later opposed, but it makes
more sense when you know the whole story.
“All the years I’ve been on the council, there has always been
talk about creating a rental inspection ordinance,” Weaver told me.
“I’ve never heard anyone suggest we shouldn’t have one of some kind.”
So, when city staff finally reached the point of proposing an
ordinance, “I was glad to be the one to introduce it” Weaver said.
It wasn’t until deliberations began that Weaver found cause for
concern. He asked city staff which groups had been given an
opportunity to review the plan while it was being developed.
At least in its most recent incarnation, City Hall wouldn’t
consider a sweeping policy for hillside development without urgently
asking the opinions of homeowner groups. The list of business groups
and business people consulted before a change in downtown parking
rules is considered is a long one. And, as seen in recent months, the
city doesn’t consider traffic-calming measures without at least
notifying residents of the affected areas that the issue is being
So, obviously, a program compelling landlords to submit their
units to an inspection every three years was developed only after
hearing input from landlords.
Well, not exactly.
“I couldn’t believe it when I asked staff if the ordinance had
been looked at by different landlord and business groups, and the
answer on every one was no,” Weaver said. “That’s what made up my
Agents for some of the groups did attend the June meeting, but
Weaver’s colleagues weren’t swayed by their arguments.
Those groups kept up the pressure even after the vote, perhaps
emboldened by their success months earlier in quashing the council’s
rent mediation program. In that case, a newly formed group of
landlords rushed in a plan to have landlords police themselves, and
the program has faded away into a meaningless fog.
Council members were deluged with complaints from landlord and
business groups after the inspection ordinance was approved, and the
pressure finally produced results.
Councilman Frank Quintero and Mayor Rafi Manoukian went along with
killing the ordinance, this while insisting inspections will not fade
away like rent mediation. “We are going to pass something to get
units inspected regularly,” Quintero told me. “And it’s not going to
take months or years to do it.” Councilman Bob Yousefian stood by his
support for the ordinance, and this time he was the lone holdout in a
Council discussion of the need for inspections leads to some odd
conclusions. That is, it almost appears a council majority would
approve of an ordinance that applies only to properties south of
Broadway, because one after another made references to the need being
in “south Glendale.”
Some truly ludicrous ideas were given more respect than they
deserved, such as allowing landlords to decide which unit in a
multi-unit building would be inspected, a representation of what
every unit in the building is like. That’s no more goofy than the
handful of tenants who worried that inspections are a government
scheme to invade private property and snoop.
Considering this city’s history, I won’t be surprised if the
inspection program ends up being voluntary, with landlords who allow
inspection of one unit being “rewarded” with shiny plaques for their
buildings. They’d announce every unit is a “100% Glendale Choice
Property.” Or, perhaps officials could arrange a trade in city
restrictions -- that is, allow inspectors to occasionally make sure
tenants don’t have to live with threats to health and safety that are
the landlord’s responsibility.
In exchange, the landlords could be allowed to paint a remodeled
structure whatever color they choose, or to build a home with a
Colonial design, even if some council appointees like English Tudor a
* WILL ROGERS’ column appears Tuesdays and Fridays in the
News-Press. He can be reached 24 hours a day at 637-3200, voice mail
ext. 906, or by e-mail at WillColumn@aol.com.