FROM THE MARGINS:

After being published in the Saturday edition of the News-Press for more than five years, my column will now run on Tuesdays.

This is an exciting change for me. It has given me an opportunity to reflect on what direction I want to head with this space. One thing is certain: Change can be very good. And in some cases, without evolution, extinction can be right around the corner. It’s good to evolve.

The fact that Tuesday is the day when the City Council meets opens itself up to a slew of possibilities. I will be the first to admit that it is not always easy to be on top of all issues concerning our city and residents. My future columns will be more focused in this direction.

To augment my knowledge in this area, I attended a full open session of the City Council meeting and the oral communications last Tuesday. This was not my first, but it was the only time I sat through the entire meeting.

It was quite an understated session. There were no fireworks.

The highlight on the agenda was an appeal from a resident on an already approved project by the Design Review Board. The appeal pitted the neighbor, Mark Cynn, against the applicant, Alen Malekian, the architect of the residence in question.

The project consisted of upgrading an existing residence and giving it a more contemporary look. It also proposed to demolish two existing balconies as well as adding 10 square feet to the front of the house. By far, this was not a case of a humble residence becoming a palace overnight.

The appeal and the deliberations in the City Council highlighted a couple of disconcerting characteristics of how we choose to conduct business in our city.

The appeal itself was unusual. From the little I know from attending small-claims court sessions when I had my small business, an appeal is heard when there are new findings from the time of the original ruling. This was not a legal case, but nevertheless, it was difficult to see how a new conclusion was going to come about when not only no new facts were present, but the real experts on the issue had already ruled on the architectural designs.

The approach of taking neighborly disputes to a third party highlights our over-dependence on city government to legislate and guide human relations. To their credit, the two neighbors had some contact before and had made some concessions, but sadly, there had been a breakdown in private negotiations.

Regardless of the council’s ruling, the process of the appeal will not do much to thaw the relations between the two neighbors.

And guess what, neighbors? The City Council will not be there every morning and every weekend to resolve your neighborly disagreements. There is always the alternative of calling the police on your neighbor. I can already visualize the aftermath of this not-so-neighborly relationship. I hope I am wrong, and common sense and human qualities will prevail at last.

I don’t necessarily blame the residents and residents for this mode of operation. This seems to be the unfortunate and accepted way of resolving neighborly issues for some.

This may be a consequence of lack of leadership on behalf of the City Council.

While City Council members were busy paying attention to the minor details of the design of the house, there was a larger issue that was left unattended.

Not a single council member highlighted the fact that you never know when you are going to need your neighbors. A friendly piece of advice such as: “Hey guys, you are going to be neighbors for a long time. Start acting like it!” would have been in order.

This was a great opportunity for the City Council to bring neighbors together. The neighbors may have walked into the council chambers as adversaries, but perhaps, with the right guidance, they could have walked out seeing the bigger picture.

Former President George W. Bush had the right concept when he said: “I have a different vision of leadership. A leadership is someone who brings people together.” Or better yet, “a leader” is someone who brings people together.

Both neighbors live in a great city, in beautiful houses with their respective families. What could even make this picture even better? One option is having a sour face whenever they pass by the neighbor on the street. The second is inviting the neighbors in question for a nice Sunday brunch on the newly remodeled deck. What will it be?

Quality of life is more about human and neighborly relations than the size of a window or a balcony.

All is not lost; there will be future opportunities for the City Council to bring residents together.


 PATRICK AZADIAN is a writer, Glendale resident and the director of admissions at Mt. Sierra College in Monrovia. He may be reached at respond@fromthemargins.net.

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