Glendale: Mall owner bankrolling referendum

Glendale News Press
May 4 2004

Mall owner bankrolling referendum
General Growth providing ‘major funding’ for effort to overturn
council’s Americana approval.

By Josh Kleinbaum, News-Press

DOWNTOWN GLENDALE – General Growth Properties, which owns the
Glendale Galleria, is providing most of the funding for a referendum
effort to overturn the City Council’s approval of a $264.2-million
retail and residential development in downtown Glendale.

General Growth formed Glendale Citizens for a Well-Planned Town
Center on Monday. The committee is trying to gather 8,117 signatures
from local registered voters to bring the Town Center issue to a
citywide vote.

“We have been approached by numerous Glendale residents and
businesses, urging us to join their signature-gathering effort to
place the Town Center project before Glendale voters,” General Growth
spokesman Arthur Sohikian said.

Sohikian described the committee as “a coalition of Glendale
residents and downtown businesses with major funding by General
Growth Properties.”

The group has until May 27 to get the necessary signatures, which are
being collected by paid workers all over town.

General Growth has opposed the Town Center, now known as the
Americana at Brand, since buying the Galleria in October 2002,
claiming that it will lose up to $4 million per year in revenue to
the new project. The company also is considering challenging the
project’s environmental impact report, which analyzes the project’s
effect on the city.

“I am very disappointed at them,” Mayor Bob Yousefian said. “This is
going to bring a lot of ill will toward the Galleria, which is not a
good thing for the city. I think it’s pretty obvious, they’ve stepped
in it this time.”

The referendum targets three ordinances approved by the City Council
on April 27 – one allowing housing in the area, one implementing a
specific plan to create the appropriate zoning, and one stating that
the zoning cannot be changed during the construction period.

“Let the Glendalians decide whether they want the project or not,”
said Vrej Agajanian, a member of the committee and host of an
Armenian-language television show. “If they want it, it is fine.”

Agajanian said that developer Rick Caruso prevented Glendale citizens
from expressing their opinions to the City Council by bringing
members of unions to the council meetings and having his people fill
out speaker cards for Americana supporters.

At public meetings for the Americana in the past month, support for
the project has been overwhelming.

“Now we’re in a situation where we’re going to be running a
campaign,” Caruso said. “They’re running a campaign to kill the
project, we’re running a campaign to save the project. Since there
was so much support in the community and on the council, they’ve got
a tough campaign.”