COMMUNITY COMMENTARY:

For many years, residents who lived south of the 134 Freeway and wanted to move up the residential ladder voted with their feet. They moved north where the parks are plentiful and the traffic congestion is rare.

For decades, the increased density of southern Glendale, with tens of thousands of new residents, has been encouraged despite the lack of capital investments for corresponding parkland. Despite my years of advocacy to have the City Council address these problems head on, they, and the city management, have been resistant to making sufficient investments toward addressing that shortage. The answer they’ve come up with has been by providing tiny one-third-acre lots that fail to address the need to provide open space for all residents of the area.

This issue was at the heart of my lawsuit challenging the environmental impact report that the city approved for the Downtown Specific Plan. That report granted zoning changes that would result in thousands of new residents without a corresponding increase or preservation of parkland.

For years the city has raised the salaries and benefits of its employee associations so high that any parkland that takes up any potential revenue source is anathema to them — less money for pay raises.

My main concern was the preservation and enhancement of at least two acres of green open space that the city already owns at Central Park.

The goals and objectives of the 1996 strategic plan were lost in at least three other separate opportunities. Now the last green space located in Central Park needed to be preserved.

But the city manager insisted in a model for the Adult Recreation Center that took up most of the green space and paves large areas with more parking and concrete driveways.

Several options that would have maximized the open space were ignored, even after years of discussions about its future, and even after firm commitments during the elections of 2005 by four of the sitting councilmen to preserve them.

So the city, instead of fulfilling its own written objectives, to which I was holding them accountable, decided instead to fight me in court. Never mind the lost property tax revenue, never mind the lost hotel occupancy tax, never mind the lost sales tax revenue.

Clearly my intention was a moral one. My actions were not intended to do harm. The legal expenses the city incurred were not intended outcomes on my part. They were not even foreseen. But the city’s huge legal expenses were approved by the City Council.

A good case can be made that management was motivated by it. By racking up huge attorney fees, then intimidating me in public through the words of Councilman Dave Weaver, they would go after me to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The City Council and the city manager were, in effect, giving a forewarning to all residents not to attempt another challenge to the city’s approved environmental impact reports no matter how unjust they may seem.

By what reasoning would the city attempt to go after me for their legal bills? There is no causal relationship between my actions and the city’s huge legal bills. It can’t possibly stand scrutiny as doing harm or of having an expectation of harm.

But the city’s own actions are circumspect — intimidation to those who would use laws granted to them by the state of California to challenge their failed mitigation assurances.

In the meantime, the City Council and management could challenge the environmental impact report for the proposed Verdugo Hills Golf Course development in the name of preserving green open spaces.

I wonder how a wise judge would hold the city in regard to this double standard. Would a sufficient number of Glendale residents appreciate these distinctions? It’s a moral exercise that those who moved north and silently left behind those problems should ponder.


 HERBERT MOLANO is a Tujunga resident.

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