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Glendale City Council debates local artists’ priority for affordable-housing complex

Artist rendering of the new Glendale Arts Colony being built on the Glendale YMCA campus. The $30 million, 70-unit is expected to open in 2016.

Artist rendering of the new Glendale Arts Colony being built on the Glendale YMCA campus. The $30 million, 70-unit is expected to open in 2016.

(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Debate erupted this week in Glendale City Hall over the selection process for tenants of the new downtown Glendale Arts Colony, an affordable-housing complex that is an under construction.

Factions of the Housing Authority, including Councilman Ara Najarian, contended on Tuesday that the apartments in the 70-unit complex at 121 N. Kenwood St. should first and foremost be prioritized for current Glendale artist-residents, not artists who may happen to work in Glendale but don’t live there.

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“I personally have a conscience problem with that,” Najarian said.

“I want to make it fair for the residents first,” added Councilman Zareh Sinanyan. “If that’s selfish, so be it.”

Najarian and Sinanyan were critical of a proposed point system that would help rank the tenant applicants and give equal credence to artists living or working in Glendale, according to city officials.

City staff, including City Atty. Michael Garcia, said the point system was designed to be nondiscriminatory and in accordance with federal fair-housing laws.

Councilwoman Laura Friedman disagreed with Najarian’s assertions, saying that taxpayers everywhere, not just Glendale residents, paid for the grant funding going into the project.

She added that the council has approved other housing developments that targeted specific populations — such as seniors or veterans — and that the artist colony is no different in that respect.

“I think it’s time to move on with this project and get these [units] open, rather than take us down the road toward a possible lawsuit,” Friedman said.

City Manager Scott Ochoa noted that changing the point system could jeopardize the project’s partners, such as the Meta Housing Corp. and YMCA, which may disagree with the Housing Authority changing it.

After more than an hour of discussion, six of the Housing Authority members, with Friedman dissenting, decided to explore a slightly different point system that gives more preference to Glendale residents. They voted to have city staff do further legal research on the matter and talk to the Colony partners to see if they are OK with changes.

City officials broke ground on the estimated $30-million Glendale Arts Colony — a five-story complex containing one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments — in February 2015.

The complex replaced two smaller apartment buildings and is located on YMCA Glendale’s property in the downtown arts and entertainment district. Its expected completion date is in October.

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Bradley Zint, bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @BradleyZint

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