Glendale, Burbank Firefighters Team Up to Battle Blaze

Photo courtesy Glendale Fire Department
Firefighters from Glendale and Burbank on Sunday fought off a blaze on Alameda Drive that threatened a two-story apartment building next door.

Glendale firefighters, with assistance from their Burbank peers, successfully fought off a structure fire on Sunday that threatened a nearby apartment complex.
Four ladder trucks and seven engines responded to the fire Sunday morning in the 1100 block of Alameda Drive. Glendale Fire Chief Silvio Lanzas said a detached garage there was well-involved by the time firefighters arrived and that the blaze had begun damaging adjacent fences and buildings, including a two-story apartment building next door.
Firefighters contained the blaze within half an hour and spent another three hours on cleanup. Lanzas said investigators determined the fire was accidental and caused by electricity. One firefighter was examined on the scene for a bout of dizziness, Lanzas said, but was cleared and resumed work at the site.
Lanzas praised the work between the Glendale and Burbank fire departments.
“It was seamless,” he said. “The communication and cooperation between them, you almost wouldn’t know they were separate departments.”
The detached garage, which was destroyed, was valued at around $100,000, the fire chief said, and the response saved $3 million in potential additional damage.

City Council Deems Bike Trail Proposal Worth Studying

The proposed Verdugo Wash bike trail and linear park are a step closer to reality after the Glendale City Council this week showed enthusiasm for the idea and approved opening a bidding process for a design firm to help determine its feasibility.
This year’s budget allocates $250,000 in Measure S sales tax money to fund the visioning study, which will solicit input about the proposal from community members and identify cost estimates and potential issues to navigate. The trail would begin in Crescenta Highlands and follow the natural Verdugo Wash along 17 other Glendale neighborhoods all the way to where it meets the Los Angeles River, which itself has a bike and pedestrian trail.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to be able to connect to several neighborhoods, several communities and offer another mode of transportation,” said Bradley Calvert, assistant director of community development, at Tuesday’s council meeting.

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Council Takes Shine to Possible Mylar Balloon Ban

The City Council has asked for an ordinance to ban the sale of Mylar balloons in Glendale because of the problems they cause for electric utilities.
Photo courtesy Los Angeles Department of Water & Power

In the coming weeks, the City Council expects to take up a possible ordinance banning an innocent-looking party product that can cause nuisances that have frustrated Glendale officials for decades — the Mylar balloon.
City Attorney Michael Garcia will, at the unanimous request of the council at its Tuesday meeting, prepare an ordinance that would ban outright the sale of the metallic balloons — known to drift into power lines — in city limits. The council, for now, eschewed a ban on possession, citing enforcement issues for such a law.
“These products have unfortunately become a nuisance and we have to do the right thing by our residents and by the users of our utilities,” said Councilman Ardy Kassakhian, adding it was a “no-brainer” to enact a sale ban. “I don’t think we can do anything about the possession of them, and I think the enforcement of that becomes a little bit more difficult and troublesome. Our code enforcement is already stretched thin. Our police are now enforcing our mask guidelines and rules. I think now is not the time to add anything of this sort to their plate.”

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Coronavirus Demographics: Younger People Also Afflicted

While the tally of positive COVID-19 tests grows larger, the average age of patients has been inching lower in recent weeks as the initial wave of the pandemic has surged back with fury.
When the pandemic grew in March and April, hospitals found themselves overwhelmed and low on key supplies to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, and elderly men and women with pre-existing health conditions represented a large percentage of cases. A significant number of such patients came from skilled nursing facilities, whose residents sometimes made up a super-majority of deaths in a given community.
Now, in the weeks after Los Angeles County and state officials briefly relaxed public restrictions, it’s a different picture.

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Racism Panel Depicts ‘Painful Reality’ of City History

Acknowledgment, the group assembled by the city contended, is a strong first step for a community to address a past marred by racism and other prejudice.
However, as the panel tasked with discussing the past and present state of racism in our society and communities emphasized, it will take more than that to truly heal from prior transgressions, even though the people of today might not have had anything to do with them.
“This is a really painful and difficult reality that I think, of course, has to be acknowledged,” said Safiya Noble, one of three panelists brought together for Thursday’s “Racism: Past and Present” discussion sponsored by the city government. “There are so many ways in which these practices remain about who belongs and who doesn’t belong, like the way we don’t need the signs but we have the customs that exist.”

Noble and her peers were brought onto the virtual panel — a sign of our coronavirus-affected times, which themselves have had an outsize impact on black Los Angeles County residents — as part of the city’s commitment to facing its past-but-not-forgotten racial discrimination, whether formal or passive. That engagement was prompted by protests and advocacy that crystallized in May, when George Floyd, a black man, died while in Minneapolis police custody after an officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
Locally, Glendale’s past reputation as a sundown town — in which black men and women faced potential violence if they remained within city limits after work hours — re-entered the public conversation, as did the fact that the American Nazi Party maintained its West Coast headquarters here for a couple of decades and that a prominent Ku Klux Klan leader lived and purveyed his rhetoric here.
“With respect to sundown towns and communities that have this tortured history, certainly acknowledging that is a first step. Apologizing for it is another step,” said panelist Hannibal Johnson, a lawyer and historian with expertise on the 1921 riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a white mob attacked a black district and its residents and businesses. “I guess the really meddlesome part is the atonement, making reparations, making amends: What do we do to repair the damage imposed by those systems? Acknowledgement is not enough. Apology is not enough. You need all three steps.”
Panelist Gary Keyes, an author of local history books who previously taught at Glendale Community College, said Glendale police officers were actively enforcing a sundown town mentality as recently as the 1960s. That mentality was something he said he personally observed when, as a teacher at Crescenta Valley High School, he would drive along Foothill Boulevard through La Cañada Flintridge and see scores of black men and women waiting at bus stops.
On occasion, he said, he would see local law enforcement stopping black motorists to redirect them as they journeyed to what were then African-American communities, such as Pacoima or Altadena.
“That’s where it gets really ridiculous,” Keyes said. “Some sundown cities did not allow African-Americans in the community at all, and therefore if you were going someplace you would have to detour around town.”
Noble, a UCLA professor specializing in technological and data redlining, outlined that the difference between “not racist” and “anti-racist” is that the former is a passive stance whereas the latter describes people who “actively work” to dismantle institutional racist practices. “Not racist” white people’s acknowledgment of the inherent social benefits they are afforded is not enough, she said. Noble also pushed back against the “half-and-half” designation she said she sometimes gets because her mother is white and her father black.
“Of course this is completely absurd because no place in my life have I been misunderstood or misclassified as a white person,” she said. “Every dimension of modern life is governed by racial categories …We live in systems, and it doesn’t matter if you signed up for the system or not. It doesn’t matter if you declare yourself to be not racist. You’re still a beneficiary to long-term, systemic racism.”
Johnson, pointing out that the Tulsa riot remains an obscure part of the nation’s history, said enhancing education and curriculum represented a strong first move in the right direction. Indeed, as moderator Steven Nelson quipped, the harrowing opening scene of the 2019 HBO miniseries “Watchmen” has been for many the first exposure to the tragedy.
“What we are taught in our schools really feeds into systemic and structural racism that exists,” Johnson said. “We are too often taught a sanitized version of history that is exclusive of people of color and exclusive of what I call ‘hard history.’
“That’s something that people don’t forget,” he added, referring to the riot, “and it takes years and years and years of ‘affirmative action,’ if you will, to even begin to bridge the divide between the races. One concrete step, I would say, is for the community to take a look at curriculum, particularly history. There are a number of opportunities for just the ordinary citizen to make a real difference. We’re all represented by somebody on a school board. That’s influence.”
Keyes added that in 1920 the KKK hosted a major rally, which included a cross burning, that began at Verdugo Park, and that the organization would frequently participate in the city’s parades in that era. He added that the “last gasp” for overt white racism may have occurred in the 1970s, when an industrial park planned for the south side that would have pushed out the area’s Mexican community was ultimately shot down.
“I believe Glendale has made a sincere effort to change its past,” he said, having earlier noted: “People don’t always know their history and people should always look for the dark side of American history, because if we don’t know anything about our past, we can’t do anything about it in the future.”

Hit-and-Run Severely Injures Girl, 13

The Glendale Police Department is eager for any possible leads as it investigates a hit-and-run incident last week that left a 13-year-old girl in critical condition at a local hospital.
Police are searching for a black 2019 or 2020 Lexus GX460 SUV with damage to the passenger-side headlight and right front bumper, a department spokesman said. Investigators did not have a description of the driver as of press deadline.
The vehicle struck the teenager at 3:12 p.m. Friday, July 24, in the 800 block of East Garfield Avenue, dragging her at least 30 feet before stopping and almost immediately fleeing east on Garfield toward Chevy Chase Drive, according to a police report. It remains unclear how the vehicle came to collide with the girl; that section of Garfield is an unusually long residential corridor with just one crosswalk in the half-mile between intersections.
It’s also unclear how fast the motorist was driving, but the vehicle collided with the girl with such force that it damaged the SUV. Investigators were able to determine the make and model of the vehicle based on damaged pieces of the SUV that were left at the scene. The girl was listed as severely injured and remained in critical condition this week, according to police.
The GPD urges anyone who may have seen that type of vehicle speeding through the area at that time to call the department.
“Maybe if someone in the neighborhood has a Ring camera, we can get some better information on the vehicle,” said Sgt. Christian Hauptmann, public information officer for the GPD.
Those with information should contact police at (818) 548-4911. To make an anonymous tip, call the Los Angeles Regional Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477, download the P3 Mobile App on a mobile device or visit lacrimestoppers.org.

Armenian Group to Rally Today Over Foreign Conflict

The Armenian Youth Federation, through its western U.S. office in Glendale, will host a rally for unity today amid an escalation of military hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The rally will take place outside the Armenian Consulate on Central Avenue at 5 p.m.
And on Tuesday, Aug. 4, at 5:30 p.m., the local organization GlendaleOUT will host a gathering of solidarity for the Armenian community outside City Hall on Broadway. In observance of the pandemic, both events will require participants to wear face coverings and adhere to social distancing.
Similar demonstrations have occurred in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the U.S. since clashes between Armenia and Azerbajian were renewed on July 12. In the wake of the Soviet Union’s breakup, the two nations engaged in the 1994 Nagorno-Karabakh War as part of their broader ethnic conflict over territory largely occupied by Armenians but apportioned to Azerbaijan by the Soviets in their state’s early days.
The AYF plans to “celebrate our Armenian culture, heritage and strength” at today’s rally at 346 N. Central Ave.
The organization “is calling on our community to stand with us as we showcase our unity and strength and celebrate our culture and heritage in the face of Azerbaijani aggression against our homeland and Armenians around the world,” it wrote in its fliers.
This event follows a similar march, organized last week, where there were a variety of speakers and a number of signs left at the consulate. The Glendale chapter of the Armenian National Committee of America condemned the military clashes in a statement, and the House Armenian Caucus — which is co-chaired by Congressman Adam Schiff, a Burbank Democrat who also represents Glendale — called upon the Trump administration to take action to reel in Azerbaijan’s aggression.

For information about the youth federation, visit ayfwest.org.

Police to Impose Fines for Ignoring Face-Mask Law

Glendale police officers, shown here at last week’s Cruise 2020 event, are expected to begin fining residents and businesses for not complying with the public face-mask mandate, at their discretion.
Photo courtesy city of Glendale

Facing an increasing coroavirus case rate among its residents, the City Council has tasked the Glendale Police Department with imposing fines against residents and businesses that are flouting the city’s face-mask mandate.
First offenders are subject to a $400 fine, with a second offense rising to $1,000 and a third ticket coming out to $2,000. Though Glendale was among the first Los Angeles County cities to impose a mask mandate for those in public, compliance issues have repeatedly been aired to city officials. Continuing spikes in local COVID-19 cases have only added urgency to the issue.
“None of us want to do this,” Councilman Ardy Kassakhian said. “We’re all looking down at a potential other shutdown. I don’t think any of us want another shutdown. Nobody wants us to go under lockdown again, yet if you read the news articles and look at statistics, that’s where we’re headed. So, if it takes a little bit of tough love — and, quite honestly, I’ll trust our law enforcement and the police chief to do whatever they need to do and however they need to do it — then that’s what will be needed.”

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City Plans Racial Reckoning; Panel Discussion July 30

Glendale officials plan to continue researching specific past actions that contributed to a local culture that discriminated against black residents and workers, as part of a long-term reckoning with the city’s former reputation as a sundown town.
The pledge comes after administration officials joined in a variety of outreach sessions with local civic and cultural groups to plot a course to promote racial equity in city government and healing from past practices that excluded minorities from the community. The next step of this process will be a panel discussion hosted by the city on Thursday, July 30, titled “Racism: Past and Present.” In preparation, city employees are diving into the city’s history.
Meanwhile, the city plans to join a regional coalition that works to promote racial equity practices, but City Council members — at the urging of local residents — pumped the brakes Tuesday on adopting a formal resolution acknowledging the past for now.
“Our staff is working on looking through our [past] ordinances at this time and our library staff is working on going through whatever they have in their archives of articles and whatnot and other resources we can go through,” Christine Powers, a senior executive analyst for the city, said at the council’s meeting.

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GUSD Sticks With Remote Teaching

Safety Drives School Decision, but Heavy Hearts Follow

Making the decision to start off the upcoming school year with students taking lessons through their computer screens represented a heavy moment for the officials making it.
Nevertheless, for those Glendale Unified School District leaders and likely for many parents, there is some relief in knowing what to plan for as the first day of class approaches on Aug. 19.
“I feel relieved to have clarity,” said Elizabeth Vitanza, whose son attends Franklin Elementary School. “I don’t think there’s a school district in the country that has figured this out. It seems like their response was sensitive to the concerns of some groups of parents and guardians around child care and standardizing the technology used.”
The GUSD Board of Education agreed unanimously this week to start the year with remote learning and to leave open the possibility of creating some sort of hybrid model in the future should public health guidelines allow for direct on-campus instruction. The decision nevertheless drew emotions from school board members who clearly were dreading it.
“Our precious kids, they won’t be able to see their schools on the first day of school,” said board President Armina Gharpetian, who fought tears, “especially our kindergartners who have never been to the school sites, our first-year middle school students and first-year high school students. Some of them, they’ve never been to the schools they’re going to go to. They don’t know what the school looks like.”
Some elementary school students may end up seeing what their school looks like, in a sense. Under a pod system, the district expects to provide child care for certain families by grouping a small group of students in one classroom, spaced out, where they can perform their remote learning work under the supervision and watch of an employee, likely a classified staffer or substitute teacher.
“That’s going to be a big issue,” said Leslie Dickson, a parent of four GUSD kids, on the need for child care. “We have a lot of kids who are fortunate to have a parent who stays home, but obviously we have kids who don’t or don’t have parents who can facilitate instruction.”
I think it’s a really good solution for people who have to go out,” she added. “No one wants this. We all want our kids in schools. I’m a teacher and I know what school is supposed to feel like, and knowing that none of that can happen in any form is really hard. I think GUSD is doing a really good job.”
Vitanza, who herself teaches at a private school in Los Angeles, agreed that the child-care portion will be a key relief for parents and district employees otherwise faced with having to monitor their own kids at home while working. She added that practices adopted in light of the pandemic might continue use with the district, depending on how effective they are.
“I think the situation has changed for a lot of parents who had a job and were laid off or furloughed in the spring,” Vitanza said. “I think they’re probably thinking creatively about that piece and, eventually when we do go back to school, maybe some of that will be retained.”
Still, it’s clear that the school year is going to have a big asterisk next to it. Typical on-campus experiences and events obviously aren’t going to be happening. The California Interscholastic Federation is expected to announce a plan for fall sports at a Monday press conference, after which individual districts have the final authority on which sports they will offer in any given season.
“Believe me,” said board member Greg Krikorian at Tuesday’s meeting. “I love watching CIF tournaments, the Battle of the Bell, cross-country matches, the marching bands — we have the best marching bands in the state — and now this pandemic is shutting them down. But we can’t shut down the educational system.”
“When we say ‘school,’ school is not just academics,” Gharpetian added. “It’s the experiences. It’s making new friends. It’s hanging out with your friends. It’s sharing funny moments, joining clubs, playing sports, learning a musical instrument, creating art, singing in a choir, going to assemblies, going to school dances, having pizza parties with your teachers, participating in classroom competitions and so many other things.
“For me, school is that,” the board president continued, “and unfortunately, we will not be able to provide all these experiences for our kids with 100% remote learning, but we are only doing this for the safety and health of our students, our teachers and our community as a whole. We’re not making this decision lightly.”
Dickson, whose eldest graduated from Crescenta Valley High School in June and has four other children in three GUSD schools, pointed out that other districts, like Burbank, Pasadena and Los Angeles unified school districts, also have gone with fully remote starts to the year.
“All of our neighboring districts are doing the same thing,” she said. “Doing anything different would be really irresponsible.”
Added Vitanza, who has served on the world languages advisory committee and superintendent’s parent advisory committee: “I’m cautiously optimistic that this could be a unifying moment in the history of GUSD. You’re always going to have the anti-mask contingent and others like that, but for those of us who have been invested in GUSD, it really seems like the school board members and Dr. Ekchian are working and acting in good faith.”

School Board Wants ‘100% Focus’ on Distance Learning to Start Year

By unanimous verdict, Glendale Unified School District will start the academic year at 100% remote learning, mirroring neighboring districts that are facing the realities of educating students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The selection was one of three provided to the GUSD Board of Education on Tuesday by Superintendent Vivian Ekchian, who ultimately recommended exactly what the board took up. The board also committed to bringing students back to campus in waves once it feels that the public health guidelines indicate that it’s relatively safe to do so. Ekchian’s recommendation was based on a litany of survey data from families and GUSD employees as well as guidance from Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
“I think the fall semester is a better turning point for when things might be different and I think right now we need 100% focus on one area, and that is remote and making it the best semester possible,” said Shant Sahakian, the board’s vice president. “I think we all hope that the school year and spring can end much stronger.”
This week, the Los Angeles, Burbank and Pasadena unified school districts all committed to 100% online models to kick off the school year. GUSD classes are slated to begin Wednesday, Aug. 19.
Much as school board members wished students could return to their schools on a normal schedule, they also acknowledged that simply was not an option right now, particularly as daily new cases of the coronavirus seem to set new records each day.
“Any decision we make, there’s going to be a segment that’s not going to be happy. But at the end of the day, I know from all the years that all of us have been in this community, the last thing we’d ever want is for something to happen to one of our kids,” said board member Greg Krikorian, who noted he “couldn’t be more supportive” of the remote decision. “I’m not personally willing to take the chance on a child or teacher’s life.”
Echoed board President Armina Gharpetian: “I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I knew somebody’s health is at risk because of our decision.”
Meanwhile, the district will continue to make available its free breakfasts and lunches to all children residing within the district, as it began doing in March when it, like virtually every other district in the state, closed its doors as reality dawned with respect to the pandemic. When the school year kicks off, the district plans to offer on-campus child care to families who need it. Small groups of students in child care would tentatively be assigned to a “pod” that has a dedicated classroom each day where kids can space out and do their remote learning.
This service would likely be offered strictly to elementary school students and would prioritize children who receive free or reduced-price lunch, children of essential workers and children of district employees. Ekchian said the district would make a final decision based on how many families express a need for child care and go from there. Classified employees and substitute teachers would likely be brought in to monitor these pods.
“Ultimately, our capacity has to be supplemented with family and community support, whether it’s for child care or nutrition services for medical care or employer flexibility,” the superintendent said Tuesday. “We have to be able to support our parents to reinforce the needs and guidelines around physical distancing, to ensure that children are engaged with e-learning and to make sure that parents are able to keep their sick children at home.”
Board members emphasized the need to ramp up what the remote teaching system was like in the spring and stressed that equity should be a priority among the district’s 26,000 students.
“The fact is that teaching remotely, no matter how vibrant it’s going to be, it is not the same as in-person,” said board Clerk Nayiri Nahabedian. “It’s a social justice issue, to be able to do right by our more vulnerable populations.”
Constant communication with stakeholders, the board and superintendent contended, will be key to future decisions as well.
“I know we have been working over the last several years to really increase engagement, really make sure that we are hearing from folks and that we are really taking that into account,” said board member Jennifer Freemon. “All of that has come together and up here on the dais, we have a really good pulse on where our entire GUSD community is, which helps us understand what can be done.”