Year in Review: Glendale experienced highs and lows in 2013
Year included the City Council welcoming a new member, and GCC bringing aboard a new leader.
What might be the last Glendale Gun Show attracted a large crowd to the Glendale Civic Auditorium on Saturday, March 2, 2013. Besides guns and ammunition, a wide variety of accessories were being purchased by customers. The Glendale City Council will vote whether to ban these types of shows on city property soon. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / March 2, 2013)
The year saw tragedy as well. Pedestrian deaths continued despite efforts by police officials, the city saw its first homicide since 2009, and one of Glendale’s more famous natives — actor Paul Walker — died in a car crash with friend and Hoover High alum Roger Rodas.
The City Council in March banned gun shows from city property, effectively ending a long-running event at the Civic Auditorium. A ban on the show had been attempted before, but it did not gain traction in years past. The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut partially prompted former Councilman Rafi Manoukian to suggest the prohibition.
Proponents of the ban said it’s an important symbol that shows Glendale does not support activities that can endanger public safety. Opponents, including the National Rifle Assn., said the show has operated for two decades without incident and the ban is a knee-jerk, emotional reaction to a rash of gun violence and mass shootings across the nation.
In May, the council banned smoking in new apartment and condominium units and ruled that individuals could sue a violator of the city’s smoking rules, rather than waiting for the city to enforce its own rules.
Since 2008, Glendale has implemented a variety of smoking bans in common areas, private balconies and patios in multi-unit buildings. Many wide-sweeping prohibitions have taken effect, but there have also been tweaks to the rules, making smoking restrictions a recurring topic of discussion at City Hall.
In April, the Glendale Community College trustees voted to ban smoking on the college campus. About two years prior to their vote, the board had established a handful of designated smoking areas on campus.
College trustee Tony Tartaglia said the designated areas were merely a “compromise” that didn't serve the college and that campus enforcement officials were spread too thin to continue cleaning up cigarette butts.
The full ban did not go into effect until the start of the fall semester. In the span of the fall semester, the campus police issued 15 citations in which students must pay a $100 fine.
Voters elected incumbents Laura Friedman and Ara Najarian to the City Council in April, along with newcomer Zareh Sinanyan, who won despite vulgar YouTube comments he made that swept him up in controversy during the campaign.
Sinanyan was accused of making misogynist, vulgar and racist comments on YouTube the month before the election. The accusations prompted the loss of key endorsements, such as Rep. Adam Schiff and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, but he still went on to clinch the election. After taking his seat on the dais, he admitted to writing the inappropriate comments and apologized, but a handful of residents continued to criticize him for the postings at council meetings.
Councilman Frank Quintero, who didn’t run in April as he had planned to retire, was appointed to the council after former Councilman Rafi Manoukian won the City Treasurer’s seat. City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian was also elected.
Quintero’s ability to be appointed was brought into question by two Glendale residents who filed a request with the state attorney general’s office to allow them to sue Quintero in order to remove him from his seat at the dais. The attorney general’s office rejected the request in October.
The residents’ attorney, who also represented the National Rifle Assn. during the gun show ban debates, claimed Quintero shouldn't hold office because a city provision prevents a council member from holding a compensated city office for two years after the end of the member's term.
While the provision can be read on its face as a term limit, Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Deputy Atty. Gen. Marc Nolan ruled that interpreting it that way would not be in the public interest. The provision could also be interpreted as if elected officials were exempt, their opinion read.
In order to file a lawsuit to oust a public official from an elected office he or she shouldn't hold, potential litigants must first apply for permission from the attorney general in a process known as a “quo warranto” action.
Utility rate hikes
In August, the City Council approved five years of electricity rate increases through 2018. When compounded, the increases equate to 29.1% for residential customers, 25.9% for commercial customers and 22.9% for small commercial customers.
The electricity rate increases came about a year after the city implemented five years worth of water rate hikes that would impact customers differently, depending on how much water they use as well as the size of their water and fire line meters. But due to extreme errors in a consultant’s calculation of the rate system, the council decided in December to rescind part of the new water rate program on Jan. 1 and hire a new consultant to redesign the water rates.
New trails and parks
New trails opened and work on some old and new parks started this year.
The roughly 1.5 mile Catalina Verdugo and .75 mile Mountain Do trails opened in June. Both the Catalina Verdugo and Mountain Do trails begin near the soccer fields in the Glendale Sports Complex at 2200 Fern Road. The Catalina Verdugo Trail leads to a fire road that connects to other trails in Glendale, Pasadena and La Cañada Flintridge.
Planning for $1.2 million-worth of improvements, including adding 10 more tables, 12 more parking spaces and sprucing up the tennis court, at the roughly 3.9-acre Maple Park moved forward this year. The park is bounded by East Maple Street on the north, Raleigh Street on the south and South Cedar Street on the east. Also, Glendale politicos broke ground on a 3/4-acre mini park at 812 S. Maryland Ave., which is set to include outdoor exercise equipment, open lawn area, public art and community garden space and be complete by spring 2014.
In addition, Los Angeles County officials approved a roughly $800,000 skate park at Crescenta Valley Park, which currently is in the design stages. Officials expect it could take at least two years to complete.
This year was a sad year for traffic safety in Glendale as it marked multiple pedestrian fatalities on city streets.
The deaths sparked a police crackdown later that year on motorists who failed to yield to pedestrians and residents who didn’t obey traffic signs and are jaywalking.
City officials also called on UC Berkeley for help to reinvigorate a 2009 community training seminar focused on pedestrian safety issues in Glendale. Details about when the free workshop will occur haven’t been released.
The first death occurred March 5 when 81-year-old Burbank resident Kenarik Thomassian Shamlian was reportedly jaywalking in the 1100 block of North Central Avenue, when 19-year-old motorist, Armen Avanesian, struck her. But police arrested him after they said he was allegedly driving under the influence of drugs.
That same month, 55-year-old Stepan Vardanyan was waiting for a cup of coffee inside Oledina’s Cake Factory in the 1100 block of East Broadway, when a Lexus driven by 71-year-old Glendale motorist Wanda Wong plowed through the shop and killed him. Police were investigating into whether she suffered a seizure during the crash.
Months later, Roosevelt Middle School student Jonathan Hernandez, 13, was also killed in May after he was struck by a school bus while he was riding his bicycle. Prosecutors declined to file charges against the bus driver due to a lack of evidence.
In September, 88-year-old Glendale resident, Balasan Mirzabegianliwasgan, was struck and fatally injured by a Ford Focus after stepping out from between two parked cars on Doran Street near Glendale Avenue.
A few weeks later, three women — Leleh Issakhanian, 75, Serpouhi Gharapetian, 74, and Bekzad Shahbazian, 69 — were struck by motorists in two separate hit-and-run collisions that occurred a day apart.
Leleh Issakhanian was struck on Oct. 2 by a fleeing white, utility van in the 1100 block of Western Avenue as she exited her parked car. Police said she began to recover slowly from her critical injuries.
The following day, Gharapetian and Shahbazian were struck by a car as they walked in a crosswalk at about 8 p.m. at Central and California avenues.
Days later, Gharapetian died from injuries and Shahbazian was released from the hospital.
The hit-and-run drivers have not been found.
First murder since 2009
The brutal beating death of 84-year-old Ruben Sanchez in November became the city’s first murder since 2009.
A family member found him on Nov. 18 severely beaten in his apartment in the 1800 block of West Glenoaks Boulevard, where he lived alone. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The next day, Glendale police detectives and the U.S. Marshal's Task Force arrested 22-year-old James Sanchez, in El Cajon in connection with the elder Sanchez’s death.
James Sanchez was reportedly the grandson of a man who the elder Sanchez’s daughter married.
He pleaded not guilty to one count of murder in early December.
Police did not release details about a motive for the homicide.
Ruben Sanchez moved from Cuba to the United States in 1980. He is survived by seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, a relative said.
The Glendale Unified School District hired Geo Listening
Glendale Unified made national headlines after hiring a Hermosa Beach company to monitor the public social media posts of its middle school and high school students.
In August, the Glendale school board agreed to hire Geo Listening to monitor roughly 13,000 students' public posts on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter, and provide Glendale school officials with a daily report categorizing students’ public posts by their frequency and how they relate to cyberbullying, hate, suicide, substance abuse, vandalism and truancy.
The Glendale school board approved paying the company $40,500 to monitor secondary students’ posts for the 2013-14 school year.
The district initially paid the company $5,000 to pilot the program for the 2013 spring semester at Glendale, Crescenta Valley and Hoover high schools. Principals at those sites “were overwhelmingly supportive in keeping it,” Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan said. “They see it as extremely valuable, especially to the safety of the kids.”
Since hiring the service, Sheehan said Geo Listening contacted school administrators regarding incidents of cyberbullying or situations where students had possibly considered hurting themselves.
“The administrators have been able to step in and meet with students and contact families, and provide the appropriate support needed,” he said.
Student response to the district hiring the company was mixed. After the initial report of the district hiring Geo Listening, a tweet from a mock Twitter account named GUSD, read: “In order to protect. We must invade. Understand.”
On Dec. 11, a tweet from a user named Stacey Yi wrote, “Is gusd still stalking their students[?] Ever since I heard about them doing that I’ve always [re-read] my tweets.”
Geo Listening founder and chief executive officer Chris Frydrych has said the company expects to serve 3,000 schools by the end of the year.
A decades-old dispute reignited this year by Sagebrush resident Tom Smith, who established “Unite LCF” in May in an effort to fold the La Cañada territory known as Sagebrush into La Cañada’s school district.
At issue are the hundreds of students who live in the La Cañada area who have historically been served by Glendale schools.
Glendale and La Cañada school officials entered into negotiations this year over a possible territory transfer after the La Cañada school board and city council both adopted resolutions supporting the transfer.
As the two school districts continue to negotiate, the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization also waits for an outcome.
Should the school districts fail to meet an agreement, Sagebrush residents could file a petition with the committee, according to Keith Crafton, an official with the committee.
In November, Smith pressed Glendale school officials to allow children in the La Cañada area to attend that city’s schools.
“I just wanted to say that in the event the negotiations — the discussions — don’t go anywhere, then we are certainly prepared to proceed to the county committee,” Smith said.
Three newcomers elected to the La Cañada school board in November began their official roles on the board this month.
David Viar takes helm of Glendale Community College
Veteran community college leader David Viar was tapped to be the new superintendent/president of Glendale Community College in May, following a year in which interim supt./president Jim Riggs led the campus.
Viar began his post on the Glendale campus in July after serving for eight years as president of American River College in Sacramento. He previously served for 15 years as chief executive of the Community College League of California, a statewide advocacy group for community colleges.
The national search for a new permanent superintendent/president took nearly six months. The board of trustees interviewed three finalists of more than 25 who applied for the position.
For Glendale Community College trustee President Ann Ransford, Viar’s challenge is to bring stability to the campus that has seen three leaders serve on an interim basis — or in shorter-than-expected roles — over the last several years.
“We don't just want a honeymoon with Dr. Viar,” Ransford said. “We want a partnership with Dr. Viar for the long term.”
Viar's three-year contract ends June 30, 2016 and includes a base salary of $240,000, expense allowances and health benefits.
Paul Walker and Roger Rodas, both with Glendale ties, die in car crash
Actor Paul Walker and Hoover High alum Roger Rodas, both friends, fathers and business partners, were killed in a fiery crash in December.
Rodas was a financial adviser for Bank of America in Glendale.
Former Hoover football coach Dennis Hughes remembered Rodas as a silent leader on the team. Former coach Kirt Kohlmeier remembered him for his passion for life and kindness to fellow students.
Glendale native Walker was remembered for being the heart and soul of Burbank-based charity Reach Out Worldwide, representatives said.
He and Rodas were attending a Reach Out Worldwide toy drive, through which $150,000 worth of toys and gifts were collected for local underprivileged children and victims of domestic violence, on the day of the crash.
As the event was winding down in Santa Clarita, he and Rodas took a red Porsche out for a drive when Rodas apparently lost control of the car.