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“I will not turn a blind eye to corruption in my city”

Why are Glendale’s leaders pushing through questionable projects without public input?

On August 29th, Glendale City Council considered entitlements for a new hotel project on the southwest corner of Wilson and Louise, which is currently a surface parking lot owned by the First Baptist Church of Glendale. The hotel is going to be 6 stories (83’) high with 147 “extended stay” guest rooms. Glendale is currently experiencing a wave of commercial and retail development, including new hotels and market-rate housing.

This article is co-authored by Isabel Valencia, who has been a banquet server at the Glendale Hilton for 17 years.

Rendering of Hotel Louise (courtesy of the City of Glendale)

I sat in the back of the council chambers with my coworkers from the Glendale Hilton. We were opposing a new hotel project, proposed by R.D. Olson, who was asking for City Council’s approval to build bigger than they were allowed to, higher than they were allowed to, and with cooking facilities in each room to resemble mini-apartments.

I voiced my concerns about traffic and the impact of the mini-apartments on the rental housing supply during the public comment portion of the meeting. I am a 27-year resident of Glendale. I work here, my kids have attended Glendale public schools, and I love this city. I felt that this was a bad development. I was elated when Councilmembers Devine and Najarian began echoing the concerns of mine and fellow residents from the dais. But as deliberation proceeded, it became apparent to all of us that something was not quite right here.

The vote was tied, 2–2. I understood that Councilman Sinanyan was recused from the hearing because he had a conflict of interest, a bias of some sort. Mayor Gharpetian, City Manager Scott Ochoa, and City Attorney Michael Garcia, insisted that Sinanyan be brought back into the room to break the tie. I was shocked; how could a councilmember with a bias be expected to break a tie? The Mayor then called for a recess, and when the meeting resumed, Ochoa, Gharpetian, and Garcia seemed to do anything in their power to get Sinanyan back into the room.

It was then that the opportunity to create a project that would benefit the community was stolen from us and our allies on Council. Threatened with Sinanyan’s return, Devine and Najarian were forced to compromise. The project was approved 4–0.

Again, something is not right here. Why did the Mayor push so hard for Sinanyan to vote on the project? Why did Ochoa and Garcia back him up? Community members objected to the project’s approval, and it passed anyways. What interest do the Mayor, the City Manager and the City Attorney have in pushing this project through in such an anti-democratic way?

I am sick of the corruption and the continued exclusion of workers from the planning process. My coworkers and I spent hours at City Hall that evening expecting our voices to be heard. Instead, they fell upon deaf ears, set on executing a deal that had clearly been made prior to the meeting. This was fixed and unfair, and I will not rest until this issue is brought back before council to be voted on democratically. I will not turn a blind eye to corruption in my city.