City’s Dilemma: Who Should Manage Landmark?

The Glendale City Council seems poised to move in a different direction on Tuesday regarding the management of the Alex Theatre, unless it does an about-face on the sole agenda item for a special meeting that afternoon.

For now, the action recommended by the municipal staff is for the council to terminate exclusive negotiations with Glendale Arts, which has managed and operated the venue since 2008, and engage a different operator in a contract. Although the city and Glendale Arts have been in negotiations since April, the council itself earlier this month decided that talks had stalled, hence the possible change.

The city and Glendale Arts have agreed to a series of contract extensions since June 2020, when their pact was to have expired, as they attempted to reach a new long-term agreement. In December, the city launched a formal bidding process for management of the iconic theater, with council members emphasizing publicly that this was not a reflection of their opinion of Glendale Arts — rather, it was the city’s attempt at better governance, they said.

In any case, Glendale Arts’ bid prevailed over two others — filed by General Admission and SAS Entertainment — and the council resumed talks with the nonprofit in April.

It remains unclear exactly what the impasse is — as is typical of governing bodies, negotiations have taken place in closed-session meetings. There was no reported action from the most recent closed session on Tuesday, June 15.

Glendale Arts’ current operations extension is slated to expire on Wednesday, June 30, and the city staff is recommending the council agree to another short-term extension so as not to have a management void during the presumed negotiations with a different prospective operator. Glendale Arts itself is also going through a transitional period — Nina Crowe and Maria Sahakian, both managing directors, were recently promoted to chief executive officer and chief operating officer, respectively, while longtime CEO Elissa Glickman will voluntarily step aside.

A social media campaign that began late this week advocates that the city keep Glendale Arts at the table, with supporters generally lauding what the nonprofit has done to transform the venue into the performing arts, filming and events center that it was prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Using the hashtag #ActNow4TheAlex, Glendale Arts has asked supporters to write or call council members in support of the organization ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.

Other local groups that have shared or liked these social media posts include the Glendale Sunrise Rotary Club, GlendaleOUT, the YWCA Glendale and Pasadena and the Downtown Glendale Association. Glendale Arts has created a petition, located at glendalearts.org/actnow, asking signers to support the organization.

The special City Council meeting, which will be shown live at GTV-6 and the city’s website, begins at 2 p.m. Tuesday, June 29.