Armenian Society of Los Angeles will meet to discuss a building project denied by the city.
By Fred Ortega, News-Press and Leader

Glendale News Press
Published June 1, 2005

GLENDALE -- The Armenian Society of Los Angeles will meet Friday to discuss
its options following a denial by the Glendale Redevelopment Agency of a
proposed 53,000-square-foot center on South Louise Street.

In response to the Glendale Redevelopment Agency's denial of a plan to build
a 53,000-square-foot center on South Louise Street, the Armenian Society of
Los Angeles plans to meet to discuss its options.

Under a 2003 agreement, the Redevelopment Agency agreed to a $5-million land
swap with the society, giving it city-owned land on Louise Street in
exchange for its current 11,000-square-foot building on South Brand
Boulevard. The city needed the Brand property to make way for the Americana
at Brand project. The city also agreed to give the group $250,000 to pay for
temporary office space at 320 Wilson Ave. while the new center is built.

The Redevelopment Agency, comprised of City Council members, voted 3-2 last
week to deny the society's proposal, which would have included a theater, a
banquet hall and a library within a modern, glass and steel structure. The
proposed building received preliminary approval from the city's Design
Review Board and Redevelopment Agency staff members.

Councilmen Bob Yousefian and Dave Weaver, as well as Mayor Rafi Manoukian,
felt the building would be out of place in the neighborhood and wanted the
size reduced substantially.

"I spent a long time going through the project floor by floor, trying to
understand what they were trying to accomplish," Yousefian said. "We
envisioned them having a building that was similar size or a little bigger,
or even twice as big, so it could provide the same kind of services it had
provided in the past. Our responsibility is to make them whole, not five
times larger."

The society's proposal also lacked the necessary parking for a building of
that scale, Yousefian said.

"The building they are proposing will require 5,000 parking spaces. They
have provided zero," he said.

But Vrej Agajanian, chairman of the society's board of trustees, countered
that an initial memorandum of understanding between the society and the city
did not require more than 300 parking spaces.

"In addition, this was stage one of the process, dealing with the concept of
the building," said Agajanian, who made an unsuccessful bid for the council
in April. "In stages two and three, you do an environmental report and
parking assessment, but we are not there yet, so I do not know why they were
talking about parking."

The society has already hired Linscott, Law and Greenspan, the
Pasadena-based traffic-engineering firm used for the Town Center, as its
parking consultant, Agajanian said.

Yousefian also questioned the size of the proposed center, saying that the
50-year-old society only has about 300 members.

The group has 1,000 members in its database, Armenian Society of Los Angeles
President Tomik Alexanian said, and he estimates that there as many as 2,000
members that are not registered but that are involved in everyday
activities, such as Sunday school and dance classes.

"We are not trying to inflate or overestimate what we have," said Alexanian.

"We need this space."

The group also worked with a city architect for seven months and
incorporated its suggested changes, including dropping the proposed
square-footage to 53,000 from over 60,000, he said.

Glendale staff members and the city architect went as far as they could in
helping the society adapt its project to the city's design guidelines, said
Philip Lanzafame, the city's interim director of development services.

"But the agency felt the project was not headed in the right direction, that
it was too big," said Lanzafame. "So next time, we will have the benefit of
the agency's comments to help them redesign."

The society's next meeting will be held Friday at 7 p.m. at its current
location, 221 S. Brand Blvd.

* FRED ORTEGA covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by
e-mail at [email protected]