HomeCity NewsYear In Review: City Tackles New Challenges in 2023

Year In Review: City Tackles New Challenges in 2023

The year 2023 was full of new beginnings, community resilience and a commitment to creativity, as well as some ideological division.
The city welcomed a new superintendent for the Glendale Unified School District, appointed its first ever poet laureate and saw the revitalization of the iconic Montrose Bowl.
Glendale came together in the face of tragedies both close to home and abroad, exemplifying community strength and support.
Here are some of the biggest news stories of the year.

Glendale, along with the rest of the region, rang in 2023 with significant relief from extreme drought conditions as a result of what the National Weather Service called a “seemingly never-ending parade” of powerful atmospheric storms last winter.
This year, Los Angeles County reported its 11th wettest year dating back 129 years, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System, with a 9.5 inch increase in rain compared to “normal” years.
As of Dec. 19, 0% of Los Angeles County was experiencing moderate levels of drought or even abnormal dryness, compared to the end of 2022, when Glendale and neighboring cities were under severe drought conditions.
In 2022, reservoir levels had reached catastrophic lows, but January and February storms more than doubled key water reserves like Lake Oroville, which sat at 27% of its capacity. That same reservoir now sits at almost 91% full.
State groundwater supplies currently sit at 59%, about twice last year’s level, and are benefitting from a replenished snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Slow melting of snowpack creates runoff that feeds the water supply throughout the year. In March, snowpack in the mountain range was measured at 286% of normal levels— smashing records.
Still, experts warn that this relief wouldn’t last and say that conservation efforts will be vital in keeping Glendale’s supply from the Colorado river stable. Failing to do so could mean that supply could reach “dead pool” in the coming years, meaning levels would be too low to feed the flow of the river.
Now, with the climate phenomenon — El Niño — intensifying, scientists predict that this coming winter could once again be a record breaker for precipitation.

Snow and frost encased Deukmejian Wilderness Park in February, just as a powerful winter storm was gearing up to blanket Southern California with heavy rain and hail, strong winds and snowfall. — Photo courtesy Grace Du

Hoover High School alumni Roger Greenlaw Jr. and Christi McCauley commemorated their one-year anniversary — after spending 45 years apart since dating as Hoover students in 1977 — by becoming engaged on Valentine’s Day at the place where it all began: their alma mater.
After flying into town and going on a scheduled tour of the campus with Principal Jennifer Earl, the couple, who were dressed in Hoover purple, walked with Earl to the athletic field. Overhead, a banner message expressing Greenlaw’s affection for his valentine, prompted the emotional proposal that brought McCauley to tears.
“When we got out to the track, the kids were all pointing up to the sky, and there was an airplane with a banner attached to it,” McCauley said. “I thought to myself, ‘That’s so cool!’ and then I really looked at it and realized my name was on it. I began to cry and when I turned around, Roger got down on one knee, took off his hat and asked me to marry him. I felt like a queen. I was so touched, and I still am.”
Student athletes, who happened to be on the field, cheered them on, alongside an excited Earl, who exclaimed, “She said yes!”
The engagement ring, placed on McCauley’s finger, was adorned with purple stones, one of the school’s colors — the detail being a testament to Greenlaw’s thoughtfulness.
“Unlike some guys, I knew Christi would say ‘yes,’ because we had talked about getting married before. … But even so, in that moment, when you get down on your knee and look up at the woman of your dreams and ask her to marry you, you just become giddy with emotions and that’s just the way I felt — like a kid in high school all over again.”
The two tied the knot on Aug. 12 in Tigard, Oregon.
“It has felt like a honeymoon every day since,” McCauley recently told the News-Press. “We are very happy and integrating our families has been seamless. We’re even going to be grandparents again in June.”

Roger Greenlaw Jr. gets down on one knee to propose to Christi McCauley at Hoover High School on Feb. 14. The pair dated as teenagers in the 1970s, lost contact and reestablished their love connection in recent years. — Photo courtesy Bill Steeber

The Glendale community showed their solidarity to the AAPI community following the devastating mass shooting in Monterey Park, where 11 lives were cut short on the eve of the Lunar New Year and nine were injured — leaving Southern California and the AAPI community in mourning.
After consideration, the Filipino-American Business Association of Glendale chose to move forward with a Lunar New Year celebration devoted to showing the resiliency of the AAPI community on Jan. 27.
To stand in solidarity with those affected by the shooting, FABAG President Jo Solomonson said it was crucial for the association to bypass the fear surrounding the timing of the massacre by doing the opposite of hiding: congregating and connecting with the sentiment of a holiday that’s meant to be a source of joy and togetherness.
“It has made us more aware of who we are as a people — how we need to engage with the entire community and truly give our attention to people who are suffering inside,” Solomonson said. “We need to reach out to others and understand their humanity, because we are one beat from the same heart.”
In response to this tragic shooting and to many others throughout the country, the Glendale City Council voted in September to extend an existing ordinance passed in August — prohibiting new firearms retailers in the city — by 10 months and 15 days.
As we enter into the Year of the Dragon on Feb. 10, the lives of those who were taken too soon will not be forgotten.

The city selected Raffi Wartanian as its first poet laureate in March with the creation of the Glendale Library, Arts & Culture’s poet laureate program, which came about following a grassroots call from a Glendale resident, the request of then-Mayor Ardy Kassakhian and the approval of the City Council.
The poet laureate, as defined by the city, serves as an ambassador for Glendale’s rich culture and diversity, promoting the art of poetry.
Wartanian teaches at the UCLA Writing Programs, and his work has received grant and fellowship support from the Fulbright Program, Humanity in Action and the Eurasia Par tnership Foundation. He also works as a multi-instrumentalist, composer, lyricist and singer-songwriter.
“This role has really been a tremendous honor,” Wartanian said. “It’s really exciting to build something new. … One of the biggest highlights is meeting people from all walks of life, who are invested in the arts. I’ve gotten to discover a lot of things in Glendale through this experience.”
As poet laureate, Wartanian organizes poetry workshop readings in the community every three months, where he brings in a selection of featured poets to share their work and discuss their craft. Afterward, community members have the chance to share their poetry and have it workshopped. The next workshop reading will take place on Jan. 13 at the Pacific Park Library, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In addition to these workshops, Wartanian has organized readings in support of various groups such as one during Pride Month in June and another during Armenian Heritage Month in April.
The poet laureate program is also creating an anthology of community poetry, which will be finished in April. Wartanian said that anyone is invited to submit their poetry regardless of if they have attended previous events.

Raffi Wartanian became Glendale’s first poet laureate. — Photo courtesy Anastasia Italyanskaya

A string of protests and counterprotests unfolded this summer outside of Glendale Unified School District Board of Education meetings following the Board’s vote to honor Pride Month in recognition of the LGBTQ+ community.
Demonstrations on June 6 and June 20 garnered hundreds of participants and tensions ran high surrounding gender-affirming policies and sex education curriculum at GUSD, ultimately leading to four arrests related to incidents of violence from “agitators on both sides of the issue,” according to Police Chief Manny Cid.
Board President Nayiri Nahabedian started the June 20 meeting by attempting to calm the protesters, asking them not to repeat the attacks and threats from the meeting on June 6.
“Angry rhetoric has been ratcheted up and some things have been said and done that are simply not OK and they really must stop,” Nahabedian said. “Accusatory language, personal attacks, mining people’s social media to publicize deeply personal situations, vandalizing cars, racial and ethnic slurs, homophobic, transphobic slurs and intentional misrepresentation of what’s happening in our schools.
“These things will create long-lasting divisions in our Glendale community that may never be repaired — deep divisions that we should wonder how to come back from. No one has a right to threaten, bully, harass another person,” she added.
Also in response to Pride Month, a group of GUSD parents who call themselves “Parents’ Voices” encouraged a districtwide protest, urging parents to keep their children home from school on June 2, which led to a 29% absence rate across the district.
Two of this group’s most outspoken members, Jordan Henry and Aneta Krpekyan, are running for the upcoming School Board election in March in Trustee Areas A and E respectively.

Several hundred people gathered, many waving American flags and LGBTQ+ Pride flags, outside the Glendale Unified School Board meeting on June 6, shortly before violent clashes ensued between opposing groups. — Photo by Eliza Partika / Glendale News-Press

In other GUSD news, the Board of Education unanimously confirmed Darneika Watson as the new superintendent in October, after she had been acting as interim superintendent since late June following the retirement of Vivian Ekchian.
Having served a number of school districts in the Los Angeles area in a variety of roles, Watson most recently worked as GUSD’s chief human resources and operations officer beginning in 2020.
A few weeks into her position, Watson spoke at the Glendale Educational Foundation’s annual State of the Schools event and identified the district’s priorities as: educator collaboration and support; support for every student; family engagement and commitment to transparency; and student and employee safety.
Watson emphasized the importance of caring for both students’ and faculty’s mental and physical health. Expanded counseling services including telehealth options, the addition of wellness rooms throughout every high school and some middle schools, and collaboration with law enforcement on safety measures will work to nurture students’ needs, said Watson.
“We have also updated our policies and procedures to address hate speech and promote kindness, empathy and cultural understanding to ensure every individual on our campus feels safe and welcomed,” Watson said at the event. “We have a long way to go and we need your help and support.”

With a significant Armenian population in Glendale, the community mourned the lives of those lost in late September — including 34-year-old Aznavour Saghyan, the mayor of Glendale’s sister city, Martuni in Armenia — after the artillery fire on Armenian people in Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan’s forces.
The attack came during the ninth month of the blockade of the Lachin corridor, which left the people of Artsakh without essential resources such as food, water and medical supplies.
Community protesters blocked the northbound Hollywood (101) Freeway at Glendale Boulevard to bring attention to and call upon leaders to act on the dire state of the conflict, following the news of the attack. This came a month after the City Council approved the Glendale Aid for Artsakh Initiative, prompting residents to donate to the cause and spread the word.
Days after the artillery fire, it was reported that Azerbaijan and Armenian forces came to a cease-fire agreement, according to officials from both sides.
On Tuesday, the Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, and the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, met in St. Petersburg to discuss peace negotiations, though an official agreement has not yet been reached.

Glendale’s Americana at Brand was the target of a “flash mob” burglary, as this sort of crime was spreading throughout the state.
“Flash mob” burglaries involve a large, coordinated group of individuals simultaneously rushing into the store, overwhelming staff and taking it over. The suspects grab as much merchandise as possible before fleeing in multiple vehicles.
At least 30 individuals rushed into the Americana’s Yves Saint Laurent store in August, resulting in losses of approximately $400,000 in stolen merchandise.
In response to this incident, the Glendale Police Department joined the Organized Retail Crime Task Force, which was formed by the Los Angeles Police Department after seeing a number of these types of crimes throughout the region. The task force works to proactively put an end to these crimes, develop leads and make arrests, utilizing technologies such as automated license plate readers.
In the weeks following the incident at The Americana, the Glendale Police Department made seven arrests in connection with the burglary and charged suspects with organized retail theft, burglary, grand theft and conspiracy. Through collaboration with the Organized Retail Crime Task Force, one additional arrest was made by a neighboring police department relating to the Yves Saint Laurent robbery.
Generally speaking, Glendale saw an overall increase of 11% in burglaries in 2023 and more recently, an increase specifically in residential burglaries throughout October and November, according to Cid.
Throughout 2023, there was an average of around 50 burglaries per month with about a dozen of those being residential, Cid said. During October and November, the number of residential burglaries spiked to about 18-20 per month.
The chief said this is a regionwide trend, and in the Glendale community it is particularly affecting neighborhoods in North Glendale such as Greenbriar, Royal, the Verdugo Woodlands and Brockmont.
To mitigate this increase, the GPD created the Residential Burglary Task Force which, among other things, implemented extra patrol in the neighborhoods most affected.
GPD reported the arrests of three suspects tied to residential burglaries last week. Zero residential burglaries have been reported in North Glendale neighborhoods since those arrests, however, two burglaries were reported in other parts of the city.

A police task force was created after The Americana at Brand was the target of a “flash mob” robbery. — Photo by Kennedy Zak / Glendale News-Press

The Montrose Bowl reopened to the public in August after a three-year renovation process.
Keeping intact the classic look of the original bowling alley, which opened in 1936, and incorporating a new fully vegan and kosher restaurant Never Caged, the new Montrose Bowl embodies the merging of the past and the present.
Robert Grigoryan, owner of Never Caged, partnered with the Montrose Bowl about three years ago for this renovation process and emphasized his desire to maintain the original vibe of the alley by keeping the same pink and teal color scheme, similar vintage decor and timeless black-and-white checkered tile.
“Just the amount of history that’s in this place, we wanted to preserve it,” Grigoryan told the News-Press. “We wanted to keep that old, nostalgic look while giving it a facelift because it was kind of in a rough condition.”
Calling the Montrose Bowl “a gem to this community,” Grigoryan remembers having his own 8th birthday party at the iconic establishment. In addition to being well known in the Glendale community, the Montrose Bowl has garnered national attention being used as a set for films and TV shows such as “Pleasantville,” “Teen Wolf” and “The Ellen Show.”
Over the last 20 or so years, the Montrose Bowl has only been open for private events, but this revamp has brought back the chance for community members to rent a lane throughout the week — as long as the venue hasn’t been pre-booked for an event.
With a 2 a.m. closing time from Thursday through Saturday, the Montrose Bowl is designed to draw in a younger nightlife crowd on weekends, serving a rotating selection of beer and wine, while still remaining a family friendly venue throughout the day and early evening.

Originally opened in 1936, the Montrose Bowl resumed operation after being closed for renovations for 18 months. — Photo by Kennedy Zak / Glendale News-Press

The new year will be ringing in the first of three rate increases to Glendale Water and Power bills, averaging 14.8% for 2024 across various customer classes. Rates for residents and small businesses will be hit the hardest with increases of 18.7% and 18.8%, respectively, for 2024.
These increases are meant to cover the deficits in the city’s budget for completing the Grayson Repowering Project, the Scholl Canyon Biogas Renewable Generation Project, city solar projects and Glendale’s commitment to building and fleet electrification.
City Manager Roubik Golanian said the causes of these deficits are the increasing costs of wholesale purchase power, materials, equipment, labor, variable fuel prices, decline in revenues and factors such as higher interest rates for debt services.
“We know that this is going to be a hardship for many people. We don’t relish doing this. We never like increasing rates, but we need to keep the utility solvent,” Mayor Dan Brotman said during a Nov. 28 meeting. “With a heavy heart, I think we are all approaching this as something we really cannot see any alternative to doing.”
The increases for 2025 and 2026 both average to 11.3% for a cumulative increase of 42.2% over the next three years.

The Glendale High School girls’ volleyball team went all the way this season, earning them the title of state champions at the CIF State Division IV Championship match in late November and living up to their status as the No. 1-seeded team.
Glendale secured the title by defeating Marin Academy of San Rafael in four games, 25-17, 25-22, 19-25, 25-19, at Santiago Canyon College on Nov. 18.
“I don’t think we’ve had time to process this whole journey,” Glendale coach Marji Keyfauver said. “It’s been just continuous since we started playoffs over a month ago. I didn’t want to focus on the winning streak, I didn’t want to focus on the wins at all — that was not part of our dialogue ever.
“I think it is going to take a little bit of time for us to process all of this and truly appreciate everything that these young women achieved because it is remarkable what they’ve done,” Keyfauver added.
The championship victory marked Glendale’s first 40-win season in program history and concluded an impressive 33-match win streak that began in mid-September following a Pacific League loss against Crescenta Valley High.

he Glendale High School varsity girls’ volleyball team storms on to the court to celebrate following its four-game victory over Marin Academy in the CIF Division IV State Championship at Santiago Canyon College on Nov. 18. –Photo by Sebastian Moore / Glendale News-Press

First published in the December 30 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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