When some people talk about the neighborhoods in Glendale below Colorado Street, they are very careful about the geographic adjective they use. After all, delicate sensibilities can be offended by the use of the word "south" instead of "southern."
The point is small, but important, residents say. To say "South Glendale" may give the impression of a separate city, of a world inherently different from the more affluent and powerful neighborhoods to the north. To say "southern Glendale" connotes an area that is part of the overall community, albeit an area possibly deserving special attention, they claim.
"When people say 'South Glendale,' I tell them that I'm hoping that someday we are united," said Carol Jean Felkel, a longtime resident of southern Glendale who sometimes speaks for the neighborhood's interests at City Council meetings.
An 'Unwarranted Reputation'
"When I tell some people from the northern part of town where I live, some of them tell me that they never go down here, like they never go to Watts," she added. "They seem to think we are second-class citizens.
"Somehow we've gotten this unwarranted reputation. I'm sure there are places here that need work and need to be cleaned up, but there are so many nice homes and fine people here too."
The reputation, unwarranted or not, according to many residents and officials, is that southern Glendale is the other side of the tracks in an otherwise booming city of expensive homes and condominiums, sparkling glass office towers and an enormous shopping center.
"I sometimes sense there are two Glendales," said Lt. Rick Peacock, commanding officer of the Salvation Army mission on Windsor Road.
Among the the areas of the city, southern Glendale, particularly west of Glendale Avenue, has the greatest concentration of low-income families, new immigrants and unemployment. It also has the most crowded schools, the most pre-World War II buildings and the most housing units and utilities in need of repair, city officials say.
But, despite pockets of run-down and crowded housing, the overall area is far from being a slum. It might not even be considered a distressed area when contrasted with other parts of Los Angeles County.
Most of its pleasant, well-treed side streets are lined with modest wood-frame houses and a growing number of small apartment projects. Most of its main business avenues are healthy, with auto dealerships and repair shops, supermarkets and ethnic groceries, warehouses and light manufacturing plants.
Immigrants Consider It a Step Up
Latino, Asian and Armenian immigrants generally say they are happy they live in that part of Glendale, which they consider a step up from Hollywood or parts of south Los Angeles. And real estate developers say the area could be ripe for a boom in new apartments if the city does not go through with its plan to put new limits on density there.
Nevertheless, compared to the generally upwardly mobile, well-scrubbed environment of the rest of the city, southern Glendale, especially southwestern Glendale, has some scruffy edges. In areas near San Fernando Road, some immigrant families are packed into tiny, ramshackle bungalows and motel-like apartments, poorly maintained by absentee landlords.
Peeling paint, dirt yards, abandoned cars and homeless people--considered outrages in plusher parts of town--can be seen. Some residents complain about the noise and pollution from nearby factories and car shops. And police and educators worry about a possible resurgence of gang activity because of a lack of jobs for youths.
So, the city this year is considering using much of its expected $1.5 million federal block grant on improving what is considered the most depressed area of southern Glendale. That is the Riverdale neighborhood, bordered by Colorado Street to the north, Palmer Avenue to the south, San Fernando Road on the west and Glendale Avenue to the east.
The project may include water-main reconstruction, street resurfacing, low-interest loans for housing rehabilitation and a youth employment program in which participants would beautify the neighborhood by planting trees and flowers.
Also under study is construction of an extra permanent classroom building at the most crowded school in Glendale, Theodore Roosevelt Junior High, which is now surrounded by 17 temporary classroom bungalows considered to be fire hazards.
In the past, the block grants usually were used for projects all over town, including southern Glendale. "This year, we thought we would take a bit more directed approach," Mayor Jerold F. Milner said. "Little by little, blight can grow in the portion of the community that needs the most help. It can spread out like a cancer.