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Project foes speak first

July 10, 2004

Josh Kleinbaum

Opponents of a 15.5-acre retail and residential complex in downtown

Glendale are getting the first say in a 10-week election campaign,

and election experts believe that could affect the election's

outcome.

Funded by Glendale Galleria owner General Growth Properties,

opponents of the Americana at Brand have posted signs, launched a

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website and run television commercials urging residents to vote no on

measures A, B and C in the Sept. 14 special election.

"With a special election in [less than] 90 days, reaching out to

over 80,000 Glendale registered voters is something we felt we needed

to do quickly," General Growth spokesman Arthur Sohikian said.

The measures, forced by referendum petitions circulated by

General Growth, will determine the fate of the $264.2-million

project, which includes a $77.1-million public investment. The

measures must be approved to set the zoning required for the

Americana.

"A special election is very tough to get people sufficiently

interested to undertake the effort to learn something about the

issue," said Herbert Alexander, a political science professor at USC

and the founding director of the Citizens' Research Foundation. "If

one side is getting a head start, that may be an advantage."

Officials from Caruso Affiliated Holdings, the project developer,

insist that Glendale voters will hear plenty from both sides before

the September election.

"General Growth is definitely not going to dominate this debate,"

said Linda Berman, vice president of corporate communications and

brand strategies for Caruso Affiliated Holdings, the project

developer. "You're going to start seeing a Yes on A, B and C presence

in Glendale as early as next week."

Berman said the decision to launch its campaign after General

Growth was deliberate and strategic, but would not elaborate. Both

sides have been using extensive polling to determine the pulse of the

community, and the decision could be a response to poll results.

"When you're talking about a very well-funded organization holding

its fire and saying we'll start a week or two later, my guess is

there's some kind of very serious strategy," said Mona Fields, a

political science professor at Glendale Community College.

General Growth has already been criticized for its signs being

posted on public property, including utility poles and overpasses,

which violates city code. City workers will remove those signs, and

General Growth's campaign committee could be charged for staff time

for removal of the signs, Assistant City Clerk Rita Buchanan said.

"Our goal is to comply with all city ordinances," Sohikian said.

In a flier sent to Glendale residents this week and on its new

website, www.noonmeasures abc.com, General Growth asked residents for

permission to place lawn signs in front of their homes. Lawn signs do

not violate any city codes.

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