Glendale/28″/mike1st/mark2nd By CHRISTOPHER WOODARD Staff Reporter Glendale, one of the most ardent pro-growth local cities for years, is poised for a dramatic shift toward slow growth. The leading candidates for both open seats on its five-member City Council are in favor of instituting stricter growth controls and a more arm’s-length approach in the city’s dealings with business. The election is April 6. Fed up with what they see as rampant development that has left Glendale’s hillsides scarred with housing and its streets clogged with traffic, the city’s powerful homeowner groups are laying siege to City Hall. “This is an absolutely critical election in terms of where Glendale is going as a city,” said Bud Ovrom, from his vantage point as city manager of neighboring Burbank. “There is a huge negative reaction in Glendale to the amount of growth taking place, and the homeowner groups are flexing their muscles.” Indeed. The homeowners helped elect two of their own to the five-member City Council in 1997, upsetting two incumbents and nearly knocking off Mayor Sheldon Baker. Now, with two other incumbents deciding not to seek re-election April 6, the homeowners are widely expected to consolidate their grip on City Hall, as 14 residents vie for the two vacant seats. “All the candidates that have any chance of winning this time are part of the homeowners organization agenda,” said Nat Read, a political consultant who managed the campaigns of many of the city’s old-guard leadership. “There’s the perception that (the city’s pro-business attitude) went too far. And that there’s a need to take it in a direction that is more neighbor- and resident-friendly.” While no one can speak for all 14 contenders, Read and others expect the council newcomers to take a much more skeptical approach toward development, preventing what they see as a further erosion of the city’s hillside-preservation law and placing a bigger burden on developers to make expensive traffic and other improvements for new projects. Councilman David Weaver, who led the homeowner groups’ charge into City Hall with his election in 1997, is even pushing for the city’s first business license tax, a move Weaver sees as essential to weaning Glendale off its development jag. “This city has had the attitude that we have to have more redevelopment and more businesses because we need more property and sales taxes,” he said. “Everything we’ve gotten has given us congestion, but it hasn’t given us the dollars.” Peter Hillman, a partner with PacTen Partners LLC, which developed a luxury high-rise in Glendale, said Weaver’s call for a business tax is the same “bureaucratic, liberal thinking” that has made a mess of Washington. Developers already pay substantial fees to “mitigate” the impacts of their developments, such as paying for traffic and other improvements, and there is only so much the market will bear. “They’re going to find out people aren’t going to pay these mitigation fees. They’re basically going to shut down the city,” he said. In years past, control of the city rested in the hands of a power elite consisting of company executives and chamber of commerce types. Business leaders would often get together over lunch and martinis at the Verdugo Club, a Glendale businessmen’s club. “There was the perception that city government and elected officials didn’t care at all about residents, that they were only receptive to what the existing power base wanted,” said Weaver. But a couple of things happened that caused a turnaround. As Glendale matured, a younger, more ethnically diverse crowd began moving into the city, and they became active in the business community. Meanwhile, as the former power brokers died or faded into retirement, they weren’t replaced. Then in 1996, the Verdugo Club the business community’s symbolic stronghold closed, the victim of declining membership and a changing city. “The only group with the citywide organization and energy to step into the void was the homeowners,” said Read. “They are the power, and they are the only power.” The “new establishment,” as Read describes it, is made up of two dozen homeowner groups linked by the Glendale Homeowners Coordinating Council. Weaver is a former president of the council, and City Council candidates Gus Gomez, Mike Smith and Bob Yousefian all came up through the ranks of the homeowner groups, said Weaver. In 1997, Weaver, and Ginger Bremberg, a former council member who was able to remake her image from that of old guard to homeowner advocate, handily beat incumbents Rick Reyes and Mary Ann Plumley, garnering more votes even than Mayor Sheldon Baker. “There’s definitely been a major shift in the power structure of Glendale. It signals the death of what I’ve labeled ‘In-Dale’ (meaning the city’s political in-crowd),” said Read. Thomas Greer, executive director of the Burbank Glendale Pasadena Airport Authority, characterized the movement taking hold in Glendale as a “political cancer,” the same disease that has infected Burbank. “Some people may see it as a good ol’ boy network, but Glendale has enjoyed a stable environment,” said Greer. The airport director believes that the majority of Glendale residents have been lulled into a sense of complacency by the city’s prosperity, giving the homeowners a free hand that ultimately may hamper the airport authority’s plan for a new air terminal. But Gomez, a council candidate who works as a prosecutor for the state Attorney General’s Office, said the slow-growth movement is more broad-based than critics would like to believe. “With people all over the city, there’s a broad consensus that we need to preserve what little open space there is,” he said. “And that goes beyond just the homeowner groups.” While Gomez doesn’t go so far as to support a business tax, he does believe the city must take a hard look at any new growth. Nick Doom, a candidate and political science teacher at Glendale’s Hoover High School, said while he is not a member of the homeowners’ clique, he shares their thinking. Doom doesn’t support a business license tax, but he does believe it’s time for the City Council to crack down on hillside homes and high-rise office buildings. “The City Council can say ‘We’ve had enough. It’s gone a little too far,’ ” he said. “It’s up to the City Council to reign it in.” While Read concedes that the city may have swung too far in accommodating business, he asserts that the pendulum inevitably will swing too far in the other direction. Weaver agreed there is that danger, but he said he hopes to act as an elder statesman for the homeowners in an effort to find a balance between the needs of business and residents. “The homeowners do have the upper hand, but if they stay too introverted and ignore the business community, there’s going to be a backlash in the other direction,” he said.