Week in review

PUBLIC SAFETY

Metrolink has agreed to pay roughly $39 million to settle all but one of the lawsuits filed against the agency in the aftermath of a January 2005 derailment that killed 11 passengers on the Glendale border, an attorney for the plaintiffs said Wednesday.

Of the 186 complaints filed against the agency in the wake of the accident, all but one of the suits have been resolved, said Jerome Ringler, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. All 11 wrongful death lawsuits have been settled, and 15 of the 16 serious-injury lawsuits have been resolved.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge handling the cases vacated a Monday trial date and urged both parties to work diligently to resolve the remaining case, a six-figure serious-injury lawsuit which Ringler said he expects to be resolved in the next few months.

Angela Starr, a Metrolink spokeswoman, declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.

Ringler is also litigating on behalf of victims of the Chatsworth crash last year in which Metrolink 111 allegedly ran a red light and collided with a southbound Union Pacific freighter, killing 25 passengers and injuring 135 others.

Ringler has said the Chatsworth case will be simpler because Metrolink is clearly liable for the crash as opposed to Glendale’s accident, which had complicated liability issues.

Five motorists who were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol were arrested Saturday during a sobriety checkpoint in South Glendale as part of a countywide campaign to crack down on drunk driving, police said.

Of the 14 field sobriety tests conducted on motorists during the checkpoint at Los Feliz Road and Gardena Avenue, five drivers failed and were arrested, police said. Another 10 drivers were arrested on suspicion of driving without a valid license and two were taken into custody on suspicion of driving on a suspended license.

Police impounded 13 vehicles, recovered a stolen car and cited eight people for traffic offenses, including making illegal U-turns, officials said. Four people were arrested in connection with possessing heroin and methamphetamine.

A Tarzana man and Glendale woman were also arrested after police found credit applications and false identification cards inside their car, Glendale Police Sgt. Dennis Smith said.

Dreamworks Animation employees were allowed back to work Wednesday more than two hours after a suspicious package turned out to be a gift from overseas, police said.

Bomb investigators opened the package and discovered a gift for someone at the studio, Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.

Soon after discovering the package was not a threat, about 40 Dreamworks employees who had to stand outside in the rain were allowed to enter the building on Flower Street and Grandview Avenue.

The number of pedestrian-involved vehicle collisions are up this year despite myriad outreach efforts, according to the latest Glendale Police Department figures.

There were 89 traffic accidents involving pedestrians from January through November, up from 74 compared with the same period last year, according to the department.

The uptick could also erode what little progress Glendale made last year in improving its ranking among 55 similarly sized California cities. In 2008, Glendale improved from the third- to eighth-worst city in terms of the number of pedestrian-related vehicle collisions, according to California Office of Traffic Safety rankings released last week. The city’s ranking also improved in collisions involving pedestrians 65 and older from worst to second worst.

The higher number of pedestrian-vehicle collisions has prompted police officials to plan another round of public outreach efforts next month, Sgt. Dennis Smith said.

CITY HALL

Delays in meeting a deadline for reconstructing the Chevy Chase Country Club have pushed the city into new negotiations with the company, officials said Wednesday.

The two parties had reached an agreement for reconfiguring and then restoring the nine-hole course as part of the $21.5-million replacement of the Chevy Chase reservoir, a portion of which lies underneath the green.

The work was to be completed by today, but landscaping is incomplete, said Kyle Marshal, the golf course’s superintendent.

City officials said construction delays pushed back work on the golf course.

An overhaul of the 1920s-era, 14.5-million-gallon reservoir was deemed necessary because cracks in the concrete had significantly compromised the structure’s integrity, especially after the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Under the settlement between the city and country club, the golf course had to be in playable condition by the end of the year.

As local nonprofits cope with dwindling private donations, competition for local federal block grants next year is expected to be especially fierce, officials said.

Local nonprofit service providers, strapped for cash, have also had to deal with increased demand as the recession continues to drive more clients through their doors. The situation has led many administrators to seek out any and all possible revenue.

Of the 25 applications received from social service providers, seven are for programs that were not funded in the current fiscal year’s funding cycle, said Jess Duran, assistant director of the city’s Community Services and Parks Department.

Most of the new proposals are from organizations that have received block grant dollars in previous years, but did not take part in last year’s funding process, Duran said.

Commissioners are scheduled to begin reviewing the funding proposals in February, Duran said.

POLITICS

At least three candidates have publicly stated their intents to replace Assemblyman Paul Krekorian (D-Los Angeles), with a fourth weighing a decision to jump into the race.

Democrat Andrew Westall, a Toluca Lake resident who serves as a senior deputy for L.A. Councilman Herb Wesson and is an adjunct professor at Pasadena City College, kicked off his campaigning this month.

Democrat Mike Gatto, an attorney and former district director for Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), had previously stated his intent to run. Republican Sunder Ramani, a business consultant, leader of various community organizations and previous president of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, had also entered the fray.

A fourth potential candidate, Adrin Nazarian, who serves as Krekorian’s chief of staff, has not declared his intent to run for the seat, but has registered a campaign committee with the Secretary of State’s office, leaving the door open for the move.

Krekorian, who won an election for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council, will vacate his Assembly post Monday and will be sworn in at L.A. City Hall on Tuesday.

BUSINESS

Sales of the Americana at Brand’s Excelsior condominiums have steadily grown since owner Caruso Affiliated dropped unit prices by as much as 40% this summer, with more than half of the project now sold, company officials said this week.

Fifteen of the 100 units were sold before Caruso Affiliated launched an aggressive ad campaign in May, plastering banners on the walls of the Americana that promoted condos as “priced below cost.”

Some units sold at a discount of more than $100,000, executives said.

Now, with 55 units sold, Excelsior residents will be able to start moving in this week.

Federal restrictions had prevented the move-ins before the project was at least 50% sold, said Paul Kurzawa, executive vice president for operations for Caruso Affiliated.

Kurzawa hoped that the ability to move into escrow immediately would inspire more buyers to pursue units at the Excelsior, he said.

The move-ins will also bring life to two condominium towers that had been empty for nearly two years.

Notable Quotables

“All of those involved that were injured or who lost loved ones are very pleased to have this resolution behind them to move forward with their lives.”

Jerome Ringler, lead attorney for plaintiffs who sued Metrolink after a January 2005 derailment that killed 11 passengers on the Glendale border. Metrolink has agreed to pay roughly $39 million to settle all but one of the lawsuits filed against the agency.

“It’s not playable. It kind of looks like it is, but in reality it’s not up to the green speed and the condition it needs to be.”

Kyle Marshal, Chevy Chase Country Club course superintendent, on the city failing to meet its agreement to reconfigure the course by the end of the year after replacing Chevy Chase Reservoir.

“We’ve been applying for grants left and right.”

Sandy Doughty, executive director of the Glendale Assn. for the Retarded, on the harsh funding environment.

“There is going to be one place where seniors can go to get the resources they need. They won’t have to hunt for it.”

Robbyn Battles, vice president of the board of directors of Senior Resources of the Foothills, a nonprofit that is expected to become official early next year.

“Those 1,400 drivers could have killed so many families. There is no way of knowing how many lives you save. That’s the tough part.”

Wendy Soos, the Avoid the 100 campaign’s coordinator for the county, on the 1,424 motorists recently arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“It was not a bomb. It was not a practical joke.”

— Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz on a suspicious package that arrived at Dreamworks Animation Wednesday afternoon. Employees were evacuated from the building while police investigated the package, which turned out to be a gift.

“They don’t have to be hungry now. And now they have a warm heart.”

Kimberly Crosby on serving food to more than 200 underprivileged people Sunday afternoon at Salem Lutheran Church.


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