By Garen Yegparian
With apologies to the Jackson 5–and those who don’t live in Glendale–I’ll be addressing the three ballot measures citizens of that fair city will vote for or against on Tuesday–September 14.
Measures A–B–and C address different aspects of enabling the construction of a major downtown development including retail–office–and residential space. It would be similar to and built by the same company that developed The Grove at Fairfax and Second in Los Angeles.
Those opposing the measures cite increased traffic and crime–use of redevelopment funds–housing/environmental issues–and competition to the Glendale Galleria.
Regarding traffic issues–naturally more cars will enter the area when such a large project is built. This is understandably distasteful for those who already sit in their cars while crawling at a snail’s pace.
Conversely–traffic engineers do come up with solutions.
An example from neighboring city–Burbank–might be illuminating. Many who live–work–and shop in the area know "five points," which was a five-way intersection with hellish traffic. A very large development of stores was built adjacent to it. The intersection was reconfigured with grand promises of improved traffic flow. In fact–ramps from I-5 are also to be built to serve this area. Everybody seems to wait–idling behind red lights–for just as long as ever. So–frustrated city staff did a traffic count. Pleasantly surprised–they discovered that the number of cars going through that intersection had increased from about 4000 to about 40,000. Not bad–ten times the flow–with no increased waiting. The moral of the story is–there are solutions to traffic problems.
Some $77 million dollars of Glendale Redevelopment Agency money will be allocated to this project. Some rightly argue–"Why give a rich guy more of the public’s money to make even more money for himself?" Unfortunately–redevelopment funds can only be used in certain–restricted ways. One way or the other–some "rich guy" will end up with it as local government strives to improve pre-designated areas of the city–in accordance with state law. While I too find it disturbing that public money is privatized in this manner–it hardly makes a difference to which "rich guy" it goes.
For me–the housing/environmental issue is the most salient. More than seventy residential units are part of this project. This kind of high-density living is absolutely necessary if Southern California is to remain livable. Sprawling endlessly like some deformed fungal growth across the landscape is not something that is sustainable. SCAG (Southern California Association of Governmen’s) recently issued a report predicting dire consequences–tremendous congestion and pollution–if the region continues growing in the same fashion as in the recent past. Sprawl destroys virgin wildlands–causes extinction–and reduces space available for people to recreate–a necessary part of remaining sane. High-density developmen’s–with attendant public transportation and open space–must become the largest portion of new residential construction. People–over the years–will overcome their aversion to this approach. It will take time–but we must start somewhere.
Fear of increased crime following increased numbers of people is also likely misplaced because of the types of people this kind of "lifestyle" attracts. Does the Glendale Galleria–adjacent to the site of the proposed project–invite increased crime? People will be working–living–and playing in an open-air setting.
One of the biggest opponents of this project is the Galleria. This mall’s owners–rightly–fear the competition from a near-by complex of stores. This is accentuated by the growing appeal of un-enclosed settings throughout the United States. The era of the enclosed mall seems to be ending. Those who own such properties are understandably worried. Some people argue that the redevelopment funds would be better spent on improving the existing mall.
It seems both those who support and oppose this project have resorted to hyperbole in advocating their position. This has engendered cynicism among voters–an unhealthy and undesirable outcome regardless of the ultimate vote tallies for these ballot measures. In addition–the sheer volume of mail and telephone contact has fatigued voters.
Glendale citizens will have to consider these and many others issues and risks. To go forward with the new project portends some of the ills–attenuated or not–mentioned above. To deny this project could mean the long-term loss of sales tax revenue–a very important source of municipal income for California cities–if enclosed malls go the way of bell-bottoms and afros.