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Welfare Office Relocation Again on Hold


A long-awaited plan to move a crowded county welfare office away from downtown Glendale hit a snag Tuesday when one City Council member vowed outright to oppose public support of the project and two others squabbled briefly over the deal.

The plan, proposed by a private developer about two months ago, calls for the city to obtain a short-term, $1.7-million bank loan to help the developer purchase a site for the welfare office.

Similar attempts to purchase other sites have fallen through because an agreement with the county was not reached quickly enough to complete the deals, said William Holderness of Brand Developers, which has been working for more than three years to find a new site for the welfare office.

This time, he has asked the city to help secure the land first and has pledged to repay the loan at no cost to the city within a year. Holderness is proposing a new welfare office for an industrial 2.5-acre site at 4666 San Fernando Road, once site of the Sea and Jungle Import Shop.

Holderness plans to purchase the site with the city's help, build a new county welfare office with some adjoining retail shops and lease the facility back to the county. He would repay the city loan once he has an agreement with the county and can get a construction loan.

Agency Chairman Larry Zarian in December postponed action on the proposal because Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg was absent from the agency meeting. However, with all members present Tuesday, Zarian again asked for a delay, saying he learned this week that the developer has revised plans for a new welfare office.

The action brought a sharp retort from Mayor Jerold Milner who asked, "What do you think is going to change in the next two weeks? I don't want to see another location fall through."

Zarian's voice rose slightly when he told Milner, "I am not comfortable with that tone of voice." Milner shot back, "Mr. Zarian, please don't lecture me."

The matter was put over to Feb. 6.

Zarian said in an interview later that he is concerned that City Council members, who sit as the agency, be aware of all the details of the transaction before they vote.

However, city officials said Holderness' plan could be the key to persuading the county Department of Public Social Services to move out of its crowded offices at 225 E. Broadway. By using city-backed funding for partial purchase of a new site, the interest costs could be kept low and the savings passed onto the county.

The architecturally mundane county building on Broadway is in the heart of a two-block area called The Exchange, which the redevelopment agency is attempting to revitalize with upscale retail shops, offices, restaurants and a movie complex. However, Bremberg on Tuesday said she is opposed to using any city money for a private development. "I will vote against this," she said.

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