HomeCity Government NewsGlendale Again Delays Districts Ballot Measure

Glendale Again Delays Districts Ballot Measure

The Glendale City Council voted once again to delay putting forth a ballot measure to change its election system to by-district from the at-large method at its Tuesday meeting.
A by-district system would divide the city into six districts with one councilmember elected to represent each district and one directly elected mayor at large.
After originally planning to bring this concept to voters in the March 2024 election, councilmembers decided in November 2023 to instead aim for the November 2024 election. However, due to increased concerns over the level of community engagement surrounding the districts system, the council has further postponed the matter.
At a May 7 City Council meeting, Doug Johnson, a demographer with National Demographics Corp. who has been working with the city on its districting plan, provided an overview of recent community outreach efforts, including hosting stakeholder meetings with various community organizations. Thirteen community organizations participated in stakeholder meetings, in which the concept of districting was discussed along with several proposed district maps of the city.
Johnson also said that more than 50 other local organizations that were contacted regarding stakeholder meetings either declined to participate or did not respond to communication efforts. These included the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, Glendale Historical Society, a number of homeowner associations, Glendale Tenants Union, League of Women Voters of Burbank/Glendale, the Glendale chapter of the Armenian National Committee and many more.
The news shocked councilmembers, with Mayor Elen Asatryan saying she has “grave concerns about the community outreach.”
Councilman Dan Brotman too expressed concerns, suggesting that direct communication from city staff rather than an outside organization may have yielded better results in hindsight.
“I do share some of the concerns about outreach,” Brotman said at Tuesday’s meeting. “It is surprising that that long list of people didn’t respond. I think had we done it differently and had some of us contacted some of these groups, because we all have relationships, we might have had a better outcome.”
In addition to concerns raised over the community outreach, the council also thought the newly formed Charter Review Committee should consider the issue. At the May 7 council meeting, councilmembers decided that measures placed on the November ballot should not be considered by the committee.
Ballot measure language must be finalized by early August to make it onto the November ballot and council believed this would not give committee members enough time to dive into complex charter issues. Thus, postponing the districts ballot measure gives the Charter Review Committee the opportunity to examine a by-district system.
Newly appointed committee member Paul Karapetian agreed that the committee should have the opportunity to provide input.
“As a member of the newly designated Charter Review Committee, I would love to see this discussed,” Karapetian said at this week’s meeting. “I think it’s consequential enough, it’s important enough and it is appropriate for this group to discuss it if it is going to move forward.”
Another factor that led to delaying the ballot measure is the significant cost associated with it. City Attorney Mike Garcia explained that because it’s an off election year for Glendale, the starting cost for putting a measure on the November ballot is $415,000, compared with about $15,000 to $20,000 for a regular cycle election.
On top of the outreach and Charter Review Committee considerations, Asatryan said she does not believe putting the measure on the November ballot is worth the price tag.
Councilman Ara Najarian also said he would like to wait for developments regarding lawsuits centered on the California Voting Rights Act — which works to protect minority voices from being diluted in at-large election systems — such as the Pico Neighborhood Association et al. vs. the City of Santa Monica.
Although changing to a by-district system has been on the radar of some councilmembers as simply a policy preference, another leading factor in switching was to avoid vulnerability to a CVRA-based lawsuit. Najarian, who has been outspoken in opposing a by-district system, would like to see if decisions in current lawsuits related to CVRA violations set some sort of precedent that could protect Glendale from being sued.
“I do think it’ll be helpful for us if we wait and see how the law is finally settled with the dilution issues. Not that the threat of lawsuit was the only reason that this came up … but I think to guide us in the future, let’s see and keep a close look as to any developments in the legal discussion of this issue, and act accordingly,” Najarian said, adding that he also supports the idea of the Charter Review Committee reviewing the matter.
Councilman Vartan Gharpetian too stated that he is against districts in Glendale but noted that if more extensive outreach reveals that this is something the community truly wants and something the Charter Review Committee approves of, he is willing to reconsider his stance. He also expressed interest in hearing from other cities that have switched to a by-district system to learn about how each has been affected.
Aside from CVRA violation concerns, Brotman identified creating a better constituency, breaking down barriers to entry for running in elections and bringing in diverse voices as reasons he supports districting. Although Brotman was not entirely keen on the idea of pushing back the ballot measure, he said he is “willing to go with the consensus.”
Despite the delay, Councilman Ardy Kassakhian said the city’s efforts thus far were not a waste.
“I don’t think that this exercise and the funds and the time spent on it was completely futile,” Kassakhian said. “… Every mistake is a learning opportunity, especially in terms of how we do outreach, how we talk to different groups and how persistent we are in communicating with certain groups.”
Depending on the findings of the Charter Review Committee and the input of more community stakeholders, the council is still considering adding a district ballot measure, possibly in the June 2026 election.

First published in the May 25 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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