You may hear it when a new couple is expecting their first baby, or when searching for the ninth studio album by the English rock band Genesis. But in Glendale government, it describes the number of Board members remaining at last week’s Design Review Board meeting.
After finding out he’s being replaced, Caro Minas jumped ship and neglected to attend his last Design Review Board meeting. We saw the same behavior from the Council member who appointed him, Vrej Agajanian, who skipped out on his final meetings after realizing he lost the 2022 municipal election to Ara Najarian by a mere 146 votes. Birds of a feather, who couldn’t be bothered to fulfill their public service till their duty was complete, make their final comments, and wish the best to their successors.
Next MIA on the Board was Chair, Art Simonian. Last week it was revealed that he had been serving on the Design Review Board beyond his term limit since June 2022, while in violation of our term limits ordinance. Though some believed that he was exploiting a term limit extension loophole in our City Charter that existed until 2019, he was not protected by the provision which was removed from the ordinance three years ago. How this affects cases he presided over while in violation is unknown. However, he was nowhere to be seen on the DRB after the revelation was made public at the August 9, 2022 City Council meeting. Dan Brotman brought up the subject during Council comments and the City Attorney confirmed that the term-extension clause was no longer applicable.
On July 14, 2022, I appeared before the Design Review Board in opposition of the proposed Victory Hotel project. Art Simonian sat on that Board as its Chair while in violation of our term limit ordinance. Mr. Simonian took the time to tell my family that we should have thought about this development possibility 30 years ago when we bought our home next to “a commercial product.” And that we should have expected it to be “busy” because we live near an elementary school. He also assumed we purchased it due to a cheap price. What that has to do with the review of a design, he did not explain.
What Mr. Simonian also did not explain – to the developer – is that he should have thought about alley congestion, neighborhood safety, and respect to neighbors according to Glendale’s design guidelines. He failed to tell the developer that he should have done his research before buying a lot too small to place a branded hotel upon while abutting a single family Glendale neighborhood. Simonian also failed to tell the developer that Glendale wants quality hotels in their appropriate areas. And, we’re not looking for single bed rooms packed like sardines in an area adjacent to the Riverside Rancho equestrian community, which is contrary to City Council discussions related to our Community Development 3-year projection plan.
No, Mr. Simonian’s specialty is handing approvals to commercial developers, like himself, with as little effort as possible, through one of our most important governmental bodies. His 12-year term (appointed in 2008 by Council member, Ara Najarian) has been about the selection of profit over quality of life. And, it appears he’s been been doing it illegally since July 14, 2022.
It’s hard to have a lot of respect for Glendale’s Design Review Board which is highly politicized and fails to perform its intended function. Appointments are sometimes not the quality of people who are necessary for such an important board. In January, 2019, I appeared at my second DRB hearing for a previous hotel development proposal involving the same Applicant. However, the Design Review Board had to unexpectedly select a new Chair since then-Chair, Arthur Charchian, had recently been arrested for financial crimes.
Looking forward: At the August 9, 2022 City Council meeting, Mayor, Ardy Kassakhian, suggested reexamining Glendale’s appointments process for boards and commissions. He cited the politicization to which the current one-to-one appointment process is prone, and asked for staff to deliver a report on how other cities make their selections. In light of my experience with the Design Review Board, I’d say Mayor Kassakhian’s request was long overdue, and a tremendous step in the right direction. Done correctly, it could cure some of the government conditions which have contributed to a deteriorating quality of life in Glendale.