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Council: Cemetery a public nuisance

Members vote to pursue abatement orders against Grand View rather than work to maintain it.

August 22, 2007|By Jason Wells

CITY HALL — The growing burden on the city to maintain Grand View Memorial Park while it sits shuttered during a long-running legal battle drew a virtual war cry from the City Council on Tuesday night when it tabled a proposed $400,000 city maintenance plan in favor of moving to invoke public nuisance orders against the property.

Faced with the realization that the maintenance plan might be the beginning of a very expensive endeavor, the City Council unanimously approved a motion directing the City Attorney’s Office to pursue public nuisance abatement orders against the cemetery.

The plan was developed to bring the cemetery and its grove of brittle, unsafe trees up to acceptable safety standards in order to re-establish a periodic public visitation schedule. But invoking a public nuisance order would allow the city to mitigate the issue without the property owner’s consent and leave open the possibility of future reimbursement, officials said.

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The Glendale Fire Department posted an “Extreme Fire Hazard” sign at the cemetery earlier this month, and city inspections found that more than 200 trees posed an immediate risk of dropping branches on visitors.

Part of the cost included in Tuesday’s maintenance proposal involved trimming 190 of those trees and removing 36 more.

“Personally, I’ve had enough,” Councilman Frank Quintero said, who advocated a more muscled approach.

Mayor Ara Najarian pushed the matter further, saying the deferred maintenance that has caused tinder-dry conditions at the cemetery was cause for invoking public nuisance orders.

“We’ve got to change the status quo,” he said. “I’m sick of all the delays.”

But even if the city, through broad nuisance-abatement action, were to mitigate the safety issue, opening the cemetery to the public would be up to the judge mediating ongoing legal action there, City Atty. Scott Howard said.

Grand View has been the center of legal battles since October 2005, when state inspectors found the remains of about 4,000 people that were never buried or properly disposed of there.

Family members filed a lawsuit against the cemetery and its owners in November 2005, alleging the cemetery mishandled the remains. Then-owner Marsha Lee Howard was also accused of embezzling $40,000 from Grand View’s Endowment Care Fund — a trust created to maintain the cemetery — in the form of a personal loan.

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