Week In Review

CITY HALL

With city finances tight, fire and police are the latest city departments to introduce new fees as a way to recover the costs of providing services.

The City Council on Tuesday voted 4 to 0, with Mayor Frank Quintero absent, to approve a new $135 police booking fee and a $30 charge for fire inspections, which officials said would help the two departments recoup the costs of staff time spent on the tasks.

In an age of citywide budget cuts, public safety officials say, the additional fees should help departments bolster their budgets as demand for services remains high. That has meant going after every penny.

Other city departments have made similar moves in recent months.

During the budgeting process, several fees were increased to be more in line with the city’s actual costs. Most notably, the City Council approved a Planning Department proposal that doubled all fees incurred during the legalization process for illegal structures — a process that planners said took significant extra staff time.

The Fire Department is required to provide inspections for businesses and multifamily resident units, but has not previously charged for the inspections.

Recently, the department learned most local cities charge inspection fees, officials said.

Under the new system, the Fire Department would charge $30 per every half hour.

Fire companies perform an estimated 2,500 inspections each year. If that number holds, the new fee could generate an additional $75,000 or more, officials said.

For the Police Department, anyone convicted of a crime within the city will be billed for the booking fee under the new system approved by the council Tuesday. The City Jail conducts more than 8,000 bookings per year, officials said.

But the department expects a low percentage of the fees to be recovered due to the typically poor financial situation of inmates, according to a city report.

The few cities in Los Angeles County that administer similar fees indicate that they recover fees from less than 5% of the arrestees.

Still, officials say recovering even some fees would be worthwhile.

 The City Council on Tuesday voted to join a coalition of cities nationwide to pressure the Federal Communications Commission to maintain local jurisdictional control of micro-cellular towers.

The move comes as the wireless industry also pressures the federal government to exempt carriers from local zoning ordinances, a key source of contention in cities where residents have complained of the aesthetic impacts and possible ill-health effects of cellular antennas in their neighborhoods.

Last year, north Glendale residents mobilized against T-Mobile after the company tried to install a micro-cell site in the city right-of-way of an upscale neighborhood.

The wireless company eventually withdrew the project, but only after the City Council enacted a moratorium until attorneys could draft regulations for the equipment in residential zones.

The City Council voted 3 to 0 Tuesday, with Mayor Frank Quintero and Councilman Ara Najarian absent, to retain consulting services in opposing the wireless industry’s attempt to limit local zoning authority on the positioning of cell towers.

Wireless providers have argued that as more households drop their land lines in favor of cell phones — especially bandwidth-hungry smart phones — demand for more reliable service in residential neighborhoods has risen, spurring the need to build the micro-cell sites.

City officials say they should have the ability to review applications for cellular sites in their right-of-way in order to address public concerns, but federal laws trump their authority to do so.

In response to more cities’ trying to keep them out of residential areas, the Wireless Assn., an industry organization, recently petitioned the FCC for a declaration preempting local zoning control of cell tower sites.

Cell towers have been a contentious issue in Glendale since a group of north Glendale residents successfully organized last winter against a proposed T-Mobile antenna on the 500 block of Cumberland Road.

To quell the residential protests, the City Council passed a moratorium on applications for micro cell-sites in residential areas in order to craft a citywide policy for dealing with the equipment.

The community organization, Glendale Organized Against Cell Towers, has stayed active on wireless issues in the city.

A draft of the wireless ordinance is scheduled to be presented to industry representatives and community members at the end of this month before reaching the City Council dais, officials said.

PUBLIC SAFETY

A rash of vehicle burglaries has hit west Glendale, Montrose and La Crescenta in the past two weeks, with thieves targeting underground parking garages in apartment buildings, police said.

Police haven’t been able to pinpoint an exact pattern for the vehicle burglaries, Glendale police Det. Mauricio Barba said.

Thieves have been breaking into subterranean garages for apartment buildings and town homes and performed smash-and-grab burglaries on multiple vehicles at each location, according to a Police Department-issued crime bulletin.

Cell phones, iPods, sunglasses and portable navigation systems were some of the valuables most commonly stolen from the vehicles.

The stolen items can be sold for $50 to $100 on the street, Barba said.

The doors were left unlocked in some of the vehicles in La Crescenta, police said.

Vehicle burglaries have been occurring in spurts throughout the year, and police have tried various methods to inform residents, such as sending out crime bulletins via a citywide e-mail alert system and creating public maps of burglary locations.

So far this year, the number of vehicle burglaries in Glendale has reached 512, up from 489 last year, according to the Police Department.

Glendale police have arrested some of the thieves, Barba said.

 The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted this week to extend a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who killed 83-year-old Jean Clinton Roeschlaub in her downtown Glendale condominium more than three years ago.

Supervisors extended the reward for the second time Tuesday, which was established in January, hoping to help Glendale detectives with leads on the cold case.

But police have yet to receive any tips, said Det. Keith Soboleski, the lead investigator on the case.

Clinton Roeschlaub was the co-owner of the historical Clifton’s Brookdale Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles.

With few clues left at the scene, her death has remained a mystery, officials said.

Friends and family became concerned about Clinton Roeschlaub after she failed to show at meetings. They asked managers at her Monterey Island condominium to check on her.

The condominium manager found her stabbed to death on the floor of her home at 3:15 p.m. Aug. 2, 2006, police said.

Police found no signs of forced entry, and nothing was stolen, Soboleski added.

BUSINESS

A new Trader Joe’s and a revamped Vons here could spell trouble for the area’s only independent grocer.

Cordon’s Ranch Market, known for its low-priced conventional goods and wide selection of imported items, will inevitably lose some of its lean customer base if Trader Joe’s decides to follow through on plans to move into a lot less than a mile away, owner Gus Malouf said.

The market relies on loyal customers who buy from its distinctive stock of items like Polish pastas, Russian sodas and Armenian pastries, but has seen business drop by about 40% since the recession kicked in and may not be able to sustain another decline in activity brought on by a nearby competitor, Malouf said.

The store was once the area’s lone grocery outpost and has existed at 2931 Honolulu Ave. since 1950, although under various names and owners, Malouf said.

It regularly fills its shelves with items like Lebanese olive oil and Middle Eastern biscuits that customers special order, something that an independent store can do much more quickly and spontaneously than a corporate market, Malouf said.

But with Vons renovating to position itself as a more attractive Montrose grocery option, and as Trader Joe’s negotiates with Glendale officials for a ground lease agreement at Orangedale and Honolulu avenues, some of the business that Cordon’s Ranch now relies on could soon be moving down the street, Malouf said.

Malouf complained that the lone independent grocer in town was not notified of talks with Trader Joe’s and argued that the proposed store would only produce revenue for the city through a ground lease agreement without regard to the impact on existing businesses.

 Glendale Adventist Medical Center is one of the city’s most power-hungry facilities, with the hum of high-energy equipment audible 24-hours a day, but change is underway.

The hospital doesn’t plan to power down, but it will join other major area businesses and organizations in upgrading to energy efficient lighting, a maneuver that could save Glendale Adventist close to $250,000 annually.

A nine-man crew has already begun the process of changing out more than 5,000 light bulbs across the complex, an undertaking that is expected to take three months, said Dan Brown, director of plant operations for the hospital.

The step to improve the center’s energy efficiency, one of many taken in recent years and one that has also been taken by Glendale Memorial Hospital, will save the facility about $225,000 annually, Brown said.

That sum makes up just 5% of the center’s total energy expenditures, because of its 24-hour consumption, but it is still considerable, Brown said.

The changes will cost the hospital about $300,000, but the center was able to take advantage of an energy efficiency rebate from Glendale Water & Power for 25% of that total, he said. That rebate saved the hospital $75,000 in purchase and installation costs and made the changes well worth the expense, he said.

 Overseas competition and the ongoing recession have combined to put many of the area’s manufacturers out of business, but some help is on the way, officials said.

Businesses that focus on manufacturing sheet metal for buildings, wheel chairs and fitness equipment, among other items, have been widespread in Glendale and Burbank since they grew around Lockheed and other aerospace companies in the 1940s.

But those manufacturers have faced increased challenges during the recession, with many cutting jobs and losing as much as 40% of their business, manufacturers said. Many metal and machine shops have closed down.

Hoping to put a stop to those struggles, the Glendale City Council gave the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board the go-ahead Tuesday to pay for consulting services for manufacturers that have become increasingly vulnerable during the economic slide, said Don Nakamoto, labor market analyst for the board.

The organization will spend $150,000 of its $3.1 million in federal stimulus money on services from California Manufacturing Technology Consulting, which will prep area businesses on how to keep their operations viable and prevent layoffs, Nakamoto said.

Manufacturing makes up for a large chunk of the regional workforce, although an exact figure was not available, he said.

POLITICS

Federal lawmakers, inspired by recent California wildfires, are hoping to put arsonists on the map.

The House of Representatives could vote this week on the plan to track arsonists in a national database that would monitor them like the state does sex offenders.

The database, which would work much like the Megan’s Law sex offender tracking system, which visually plots convicts on maps, is being pushed by Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff and Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack.

The proposed law would extend existing registries for convicted arsonists and bombers across state lines and would require the systems to be regularly updated with each criminal’s whereabouts.

It would not be viewable by the public.

The result would be more resources for law enforcement to track down repeat offenders, said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Because many arsonists are fascinated with fire and continue to start blazes, a broader source of information on prior offenders could help officials identify suspects based on previous activities or ignition techniques, said Glendale Police Det. Miguel Porras.

NOTABLE QUOTABLES

“We are doing all we can to prevent any disaster up here.”

George Chapjian, director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, on the city’s mudslide prevention efforts in the foothills.

“It’s become very difficult to offset all of our costs through general-fund budgeting.”

— Fire Chief Harold Scoggins on the new public service fee structure approved Tuesday by the City Council.

“People up there in the canyon community really use it more as a children’s library.”

— Director of Libraries Cindy Cleary on changes to Chevy Chase Branch Library that will increase its focus on children’s books and programming.

“I think we have gotten to the point where we have rounded the bend and people have accepted whether we get to stay here or not, that we are going to be about being the church.”

— The Rev. Rob Holman on his Anglican congregation’s legal battle with the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles over the St. Luke’s of the Mountains property in La Crescenta.

“You really don’t know if they are going to stop or not.”

Rita Guild, Church of the Incarnation parish coordinator, on a dangerous and curved crosswalk, which motorists often speed through.

“It just kind of happens. I wish it was something that we could predict.”

— Glendale police Det. Mauricio Barba on vehicle burglaries occurring in the city.

“It’s a cost-effective way of having our customers save money and reducing our city’s carbon footprint.”

Ned Bassin, Glendale Water & Power’s assistant general manager of customer and support services, on city-based companies moving toward becoming more green.

“Any business that comes in selling the same products is going to take some business away.”

Gus Malouf, Cordons Ranch Market’s owner, on a new Trader Joe’s and a revamped Vons that are expected to move into Montrose and cause some competition.

“I just think this is awful.”

Ruberta White, on the cutting down of mature trees along Elk Avenue as crews prepare the public right of way for extensive street repairs. The city plans to replace the trees once the work is completed.

“If you go home and don’t do that, is it the doctor’s fault? Of course not.”

Tami Carlson, president of the Glendale Teachers Assn. on proposed state legislation that would leave teachers open to being evaluated on student testing scores and other data, a move unions strongly oppose.

“It’s a sobering reality, isn’t it?”

— Glendale Unified School District Supt. Michael Escalante during the fifth annual State of the Schools address, which included a presentation on the district’s fiscal woes and projected $23-million deficit in 2012-13.

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