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Glendale's arcade problem: A glitch in the city's game room

Officials are unable to sell arcade video games because of a state law.

October 17, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • Disconnected arcade machines line one of three storage units rented by the City of Glendale on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. The city received the machines when they cleared a building on Brand Boulevard to make room for The Museum of Neon Art.
Disconnected arcade machines line one of three storage… (Roger Wilson / Staff…)

The storage units look like arcade graveyards. The machines are unplugged, lined up against the wall and the marquees that once flashed, inviting people to play Ms. Pacman or Galaga, now look more like gravestone inscriptions, dusty and scratched.

The city of Glendale has owned the roughly 50 arcade machines for nearly three years and officials want to get rid of them. The problem is, they can't because of a state law.

When Glendale bought the building that housed Video West Arcade across from the Americana at Brand three years ago for the proposed Museum of Neon Art, the former owner sold them everything for about $1 million — the building, the arcade machines, cashier equipment, even a gumball machine and a microwave oven.

“He just wanted a clean break,” said Mark Berry, a project manager for the city who has been keeping tabs on the machines.

The former owner, Andranik Shahinian, initially didn't want to sell the building to the city, preferring to close the arcade and bring in a retail chain, but those plans never came to fruition. There were talks of eminent domain and actor Zachary Quinto, known for portraying Spock in “Star Trek” movies in 2009 and 2013, hosted a Save the Arcade event there in 2009.

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In the end, however, Shahinian handed over the keys.

At first, city officials left all of the equipment inside the arcade building in the 200 block of Brand Boulevard. However, about two months ago, movers hauled them to a storage facility as construction began on the Museum of Neon Art, which is set to move in next year.

City officials had played with the idea of selling the arcade machines as a fundraiser for local youth service organizations, but about a year after taking ownership of the machines, talk started brewing about a new state law that would put a wrinkle in Glendale's plan to get rid of them.

The machines — and the arcade — were bought at the end of 2010 with money from the city's former redevelopment agency, which was formed by a state law that redirected property taxes to spur economic development and build affordable housing in blighted areas.

In 2011, though, state lawmakers dissolved California's roughly 400 redevelopment agencies and after a series of legal battles, the agencies were officially closed the next year.

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