Hopefuls give nod to foothills

LA CRESCENTA — The City Council election forum in the foothills above Montrose Wednesday night was not the place to be against open space, preservation or any other political hallmark of a community that has staunchly defended its small-town charm.

Unlike the council forums of central Glendale, where a confluence of political and ethnic backgrounds often converge with calamitous results, 10 candidates faced a near-homogenous voter demographic — single-family homeowners who shun the hustle of downtown in favor of mom-and-pop shops and comparatively quiet neighborhoods.

The few candidates who dared to deviate from this neighborhood script were met with raised eyebrows, chuckles and polite head-shaking.

So when first-time candidate Aramazd Stepanian, art director of the fledgling Luna Playhouse in south Glendale, took issue with the possibility of procuring the Verdugo Hills Golf Course to preserve the expanse as open green space, he met with a combination of all three.

“I want to change the way we look at things instead of worrying about the smaller things, like golf courses,” he said.

There were a couple of audible gasps from the standing-room-only crowd of about 70 people.

“I don’t care about golf courses,” he added.

The rest of the candidates took pains to stay inside the lines.

Edward Lafian hammered repeatedly on the fact that he lived just a few blocks away from the Dunsmore Community Center, where the forum was held.

“I live here, just in case in you’ve forgotten in the last 15 minutes or so,” he told the audience on his next question.

It was, for the most part, a battle among the candidates to relate and sell similar interests and proven track records to the audience.

Political pitching is not unusual for election forums, but candidates must usually walk a tight rope in balancing the interests of a diverse audience.

Not so for the foothill forum hosted by the Crescenta Valley Community Assn. and Far North Glendale Homeowners Group.

Nearly all of the 10 candidates who attended the event espoused the virtues of open space and preserving neighborhood character and lauded the Foothill Boulevard design guidelines adopted by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The virtues of community organizing was also a popular theme for an area that has successfully fought back numerous proposed developments, whether in the county portion of La Crescenta or the far north Glendale annex.

Incumbents touted their positions on regional government agencies, records on open space, historic districting and “neighborhood self-determination.” Challengers expanded on their personal experiences, either through city commissions or neighborhood associations, to fight back encroaching development or incompatible designs.

Councilman Bob Yousefian also called for broader public noticing requirements, citing the so-called incompatible projects that seem to suddenly go up, surprising and then angering neighborhood residents.

“That’s why I’m screaming and yelling,” he said. “Now you know why I’m frustrated.”

Candidate Aram Kazazian even seized on the unique nature of the community to repeat his call for City Council districts designed to meet specific needs — an idea that has virtually no support among the field.

Candidates Chahe Keuroghelian and Lenore Solis did not attend the forum. Keuroghelian said the date conflicted with a long-planned fundraiser. Solis could not be reached for comment.

The next major council forum is scheduled for between 6 and 9 p.m. March 11 at the Chevy Chase Country Club. The event is hosted by the Chevy Chase Estates Assn.

 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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