Week In Review

Two controversial nominations to the city’s Design Review boards failed to gain the needed votes for reappointment Tuesday night after the majority of the City Council refused encore terms for the two men.

Current Design Review Board No. 2 member Michael James and Vartan Gharpetian, who was not reappointed to his seat as chairman of Design Review Board No. 1 on Nov. 27, failed to gain enough support on the dais for reappointment to their respective seats, despite support from Councilman Bob Yousefian and Mayor Ara Najarian.

James drew criticism in November when during a Design Review Board hearing he admonished opponents of a proposed project for not living near enough to submit their opinions. Gharpetian was not reappointed amid public criticism over his co-management of a private property owners association, which some residents alleged was a conflict of interest.

The most vocal opponents of the two nominations — homeowners associations — came out in force Tuesday night, calling on the council to rebuff the appointment of two “inappropriate candidates” who have received the lion’s share of recent public criticism.

Yousefian defended his picks Tuesday night as having served the city well during their tenure, and that his intentions were not to cause further contention.

Najarian offered his support for the two men, arguing nothing they had done was extreme enough to warrant blocking their appointments.

 Property owners can keep their frontyard fences for a while longer after the City Council on Tuesday voted to maintain a moratorium on enforcing the city’s fence prohibition until staff members study the issue further.

Fences erected before June 2005 will be allowed to remain standing, but those built after the fence ordinance took effect June 2, 2005, are illegal and continue to be subject to code enforcement, city officials said.

The City Council also put off making a decision on several options — which ranged from reinstating the ban to allowing current fences to exist until they reach the end of their life span — until they see a series of Planning Department reports on the potential impacts of fence removal in various areas of the city.

Council members responded in part to residents who on Tuesday defended frontyard fencing as the only way for them to protect small children and pets in more rural areas and maintain security in urban neighborhoods.

The issue was brought back to the City Council on Tuesday over fears that continued inaction on a standing ordinance might throw the city’s future ability to enforce the ban into question.

While the council’s decision to maintain the moratorium continues the status quo, plans to apply — and possibly amend — the ordinance to fit community-specific needs is a welcome development, Howard told the council.

City officials said they expected most of the current fence violations to be in north Glendale and its annex, where canyons and hills could present their own unique set of challenges to enforcement.

 The Planning Commission voiced tentative approval Wednesday for a proposed 287-unit condominium tower, but urged the City Council to require the developer to apply green building standards.

Slated to replace the Crocodile Cafe and a nearby medical office at the corner of Central and Sanchez avenues, the project — known as Verdugo Gardens — has been making its way through the planning approval pipeline since January 2005.

Developer Mapleton Partners is looking to take advantage of incentives laid out in the city’s Downtown Specific Plan — a set of design guidelines that aims to create a more vibrant, dense urban core — to build 24 stories instead of the 18 stories allowed by right in that area.

The plan makes exceptions on height and density regulations for developers who incorporate amenities like publicly accessible open space and hotel use. According to a city staff report, Mapleton Partners’ plan to commit more than 8,000 square feet of its 68,198-square-foot lot to publicly accessible open space entitles the project to an extra four stories.

And the project’s so-called “sky gardens” — open-air compartments viewable from the street but not publicly accessible — contribute to a signature design that, under the downtown specific plan, triggers additional height allowances.

A judge on Wednesday ordered attorneys to escort a former Grand View Memorial Park employee onto the cemetery grounds today so he can collect personal belongings that have been locked up at the site for more than a year.

Burbank resident Richard Beaudoin had been storing a collection of personal items at the site, including his 1963 Chevrolet Corvair convertible, when former cemetery owner Marsha Lee Howard died in November 2006. An evidence-preservation order related to lawsuits now targeting the cemetery has since barred Beaudoin from retrieving his belongings, which he said also include his general equivalency diploma, tools and pictures of his children.

The park has been tangled in a series of lawsuits ever since a state inspector in October 2005 discovered some 4,000 bodies that were not properly interred.

Cemetery co-owner and operator Moshe Goldsman, who took over for Howard, closed the park in June 2006, citing financial woes, but in response to a public outcry, the city of Glendale stepped in within months and opened the site for limited visitations.

But in June 2007 the city fire officials deemed the unwatered, overgrown park a fire safety hazard, and the city canceled the visits.

The city later filed a public nuisance abatement action against the cemetery, which prompted Goldsman to spend $105,400 for installation of a new irrigation system and the pruning or removal of more than 200 dead trees.

The work is nearly completed, and once it is, the city plans to drop its complaint, city attorneys said.

With that work expected to be done in the coming weeks, Mohr ordered Goldsman’s attorney, David Baum, to return to court in a month with a financial plan to reopen the park. Such a plan will have to involve assistance from other parties, like the city of Glendale or attorneys representing people who are suing the cemetery, Baum said.

Paul Ayers, who is representing families in a class-action suit against the cemetery, welcomed the idea of paying for the bathrooms but rejected the idea of paying for further costs.

Baum is scheduled to present a plan for how Goldsman could reopen the park for monthly public visitations in court on March 10.

A 44-year-old man is due to appear in U.S. District Court on Monday to be arraigned on charges of healthcare fraud after Glendale Police arrested him during a traffic stop in January.

Sarkis Militonyan, who is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles, is facing eight counts of healthcare fraud, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

Militonyan and doctor Michael Streams allegedly set up a bogus health clinic, billing Medicare to the tune of $5 million for services that were never performed, according to news reports.

All beef products have been taken off the menu at schools in the Glendale Unified School District after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it put a hold on beef supplied to the National School Lunch Program by a meat-packing company based in San Bernardino County.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Wednesday that Westland Meat Co., which is in Chino, would not be permitted to supply beef to federal food and nutrition programs such as the National School Lunch Program until an investigation into alleged violations of food safety and humane animal-handling practices was completed.

The agriculture department’s hold on Westland’s beef came after the Humane Society of the United States — an animal rights organization based in Washington, D.C. — conducted an undercover operation at Westland’s meatpacking plant and documented what the organization says are examples of unsanitary and illegal animal-handling practices.

Undercover humane society personnel saw employees at Westland shocking cows in the eyes with electricity or ramming them with the tongs of a forklift to prompt them to stand and walk into the slaughterhouse, said Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the humane society.

 Neighbors of La Crescenta Elementary School and students’ parents are relishing a victory after the Los Angeles County Highway Safety Commission on Wednesday endorsed several traffic ideas favored by parents for a major intersection in front of the school.

The commission — an advisory group that listens to public appeals on county Public Works decisions regarding traffic control measures and school crossing guards and makes recommendations to the County Board of Supervisors for a final decision — voted unanimously Wednesday to keep a marked pedestrian crosswalk at La Crescenta and Prospect avenues.

After doing studies on the intersection in the spring, the Department of Public Works recommended removing the southern crosswalk on La Crescenta Avenue in an effort to improve the flow of cars turning right from Prospect Avenue onto La Crescenta Avenue, said Hank Paz, the coordinator of student support services for the school district.

But a group of Prospect Avenue residents thought removing the crosswalk would make traffic worse, and started a petition drive to save the crosswalk, said Steve Pierce, vice president of the Crescenta Valley Town Council.

The commission agreed with parents and petitioners that the southern crosswalk should stay, and that a right-turn traffic signal should be installed on Prospect Avenue to direct traffic onto La Crescenta Avenue, said Bill Winter, assistant deputy director of the traffic and lighting division of the county Department of Public Works.

In March, the commission will review the estimated cost and schedule for the new traffic signal and look at the prospect of installing red-light cameras at the intersection. And in May, the commission will review a report detailing the feasibility of constructing a pedestrian bridge over La Crescenta Avenue, Winter said.

 School board members agreed Wednesday night that it is worth an extra $9 million to complete a modernization project at Columbus Elementary School, but they differed on which funding sources should be tapped to provide that extra money.

At the Jan. 22 board meeting, board of education members requested more details on the costs surrounding the Columbus project after learning that the cost estimate had been revised and the school district was $9 million short on money budgeted for the project.

The total cost of the project — which includes building two two-story classroom buildings, renovating the school’s library and demolishing the portable classrooms and the current school administration building — is now close to $27 million. That’s about $6 million more than the school district anticipated paying in June, when board members were informed that the school district was $3 million short on funds budgeted for the project.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Vince Petito, who oversees the Columbus project for architecture firm gkkworks, presented the board with four options on how they could scale back work to cut costs.

None of the board members present was particularly keen on any of those options, which included eliminating site work at the school’s plaza, changing the design of a storm drainage system and scaling back the amount of renovations planned for the school’s library building.

The projected cost savings for each of the options ranged from $300,000 to $1.1 million, Petito said.

But board members said they would prefer to finish the project as planned rather than cut certain aspects to reduce cost.

School district staff members suggested that the board could allocate $5.8 million from the district’s developer fees fund and $3.15 million from a capital reserve fund to pay for the increased costs. Both of those funding sources can be used only for construction, said Eva Rae Lueck, the chief business and financial officer of the school district.

 Former Glendale Community College standout Freddy Sanchez agreed to terms Tuesday with the Pittsburgh Pirates on a new contract. Sanchez, a two-time All-Star reportedly signed a three-year deal worth about $18.4 million to return to the Pirates. According to mlb.com, the contract includes two guaranteed years plus a third-year option. He won the 2006 National League batting title.

 Veteran Glendale Community College men’s basketball Coach Brian Beauchemin won his 500th career game Wednesday night. The Vaqueros rallied for a 105-98 victory against Los Angeles Valley College in a Western State Conference Southern Division contest. He took over the program in 1979.

 Six local football players — including four from Glendale Community College — signed letters of intent with four-year schools Wednesday. Zack Williams, Shaun Kermah, Grant Valentine and Chris Marshall of GCC will move on, along with Austin Heyworth and Alex Reitnouer of St. Francis High.

Williams and Reitnouer will attend Washington State. Kermah and Marshall will move on to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Valentine will play at Kansas State, and Heyworth will compete at UC Davis.

NOTABLE QUOTABLES

“This might be the last time I ever vote.”

— Glendale resident Doris Boulware, 101, on her commitment to voting in the presidential primary election Tuesday.

“Heard of the Marlboro Man, the Jolly Green Giant, the Pillsbury Doughboy? That’s him. The book, it’s like a bible.”

Andreh Haftvani, co-owner of Glendale-based mortgage company the OCD Group, on author and marketing guru Jay Levinson and his book, “Guerilla Marketing.”

“If the council wants to do that, I would be honored. How could I say it’s not a wonderful gesture on your part?”

—Developer Rick Caruso responding Tuesday to the City Council, which eventually voted 4-1 to scrap a proposed name for an Americana at Brand side street in favor of Caruso Way.

“I hate to tell you, I don’t do this to stick my thumb in anyone’s nose or eyes, or anything else.”

— Councilman Bob Yousefian in response to critics who said his controversial nominations to reconstitute the two Design Review boards last week were made out of spite.

“Even though I’m at the age I’m at, I’m still capable, and I’m physically fit to be able to do the job. I don’t think it should be about age; I think it should be about character and if you’re physically fit.”

— Glendale resident Kinji Santiel on a U.S. Navy event Saturday, when he will attempt to meet the physical fitness standards of the Navy SEALs in hopes of joining the force.

“I don’t feel comfortable not giving Columbus what we planned to give Columbus, which is a beautiful fix.”

— Glendale board of education Vice President Joylene Wagner, on how to proceed with the modernization project at Columbus Elementary School.

“When we switch it around, it keeps it to the group of die-hards and devotees.”

Mylan Trivanovich, who is homeless, on his support of the current free meals program, which is hosted by one of five Glendale churches every month. Current participants are pushing for the meals program to be operated out of a separate, more permanent location.

“We as parents are not willing to lose a child.”

Pati Pineiro-Goodenberger, PTA president at La Crescenta Elementary School, on efforts to make the intersection in front of the school more safe.

“It’s best to err on the side of caution and not process that animal for human consumption.”

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, on the dangers of eating meat from cows that can’t walk.

“[Sarkis] Militonyan advised the officer that he was on probation for extortion and produced his identification. And when they ran a warrants check to verify his license, they found that he had a no-bail warrant from the FBI for medical fraud.”

— Glendale Police Officer John Balian on a routine traffic stop in Glendale that netted a man wanted by the FBI.

“There’s not a safety issue. It’s more a perception.”

Agnes Lally, the food services director for the Glendale Unified School District, on the school district’s beef supply.


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