Saturday, November 15, 2008

In Defense of Glendale

There's some serious Glendale self-loathing on display in the letter to the editor page of the Glendale News-Press this week.
Is it just me, or is Glendale seriously lacking in locations or businesses remotely resembling an “arts district?” With developer Rick Caruso’s latest “contribution” to our community, alongside one of the largest malls in Southern California, I couldn’t help but think “why?” when I read the ridiculous “news” about the “hundreds of shoppers, heralded by a multimedia advertising blitz” for the opening of the Marshalls Shoe MegaShop in what used to be a pretty decent and fairly priced place to go to buy film, movies and even books (“Store Marshalls in a new era,” Business Spotlight, Nov. 3).

In a city of more than 200,000 residents of all ethnicities, ages, genders, political affiliations and sexual orientations — do we really need another useless clothing retailer? Or do we deserve a place where we can connect and meet each other and learn from one another on a level that’s a little more substantial and relevant to our minds and spirits?

Someone tell me why there isn’t a non-corporate place I can go on a Friday night in Glendale to discover and experience independent music, film, performance, art or anything other than $80 “vintage” T-shirts, tasteless $500 handbags or bland, expensive dinners. Oh, that’s right, we’re talking about Marshalls here — it’s much cheaper, therefore, it’s OK. Forget the arts — bring on more stuff I don’t really need, but should buy because it’s such a bargain!


Speaking of art, why don’t we have a museum? It really wouldn’t hurt our city one bit to work a little harder to bring some of this stuff into our own community, and at least try to challenge the general consensus that Glendale is a boring city full of boring people.

So now it’s Friday night, and I want to watch something other than “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” and I really don’t want to pay $12.75 for it either. Hmmm, what’s a nearby city that can provide a “light” version of the arts/entertainment of Los Angeles, without all the hectic traffic and impossible parking?

Pasadena, here I come.

The Laemmle Theatres do show movies I want to see. Barnes & Noble and Borders in Glendale are OK, but Vroman’s in Pasadena is an outstanding bookstore. Glendale has some good restaurants, but Pasadena has a lot more.

Pasadena has several excellent museums, while Glendale has none. Even after the Embassy Suites opens, Pasadena will still have more and more varied hotels.

In short, once A Noise Within leaves, there will be nothing in Glendale I would take an out-of-town visitor to see. There’s no reason to take a visitor to the Americana. There isn’t a single store in the Americana that a visitor can’t find in his or her hometown.

Did you think I was happy in Glendale?

With this money I can get away from with your chickens and your pies and your kitchens and your everything that smells of grease. I can get away from this shack with its cheap furniture; and this town and its dollar days and women that wear uniforms and men that wear overalls!
It's Mildred Pierce all over again!

I think Stanton is a plant from the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce. The criticisms are fair enough, except for the crack about the bookstores. Vroman's is okay, but within a three block radius in downtown Glendale we have the Brand Bookshop, Bookfellows, and Abril Books. Downtown Glendale is far smaller than downtown Pasadena yet has a phenomenal variety and density of independent restaurants, particularly on Brand north of Broadway. We are certainly short on museums, although we don't exactly have none: we have the Doctors House, the wonderful Brand Library and Art Center, Casa Adobe de San Rafael, and the museum at Forest Lawn.

Glendale is walkable, safe, diverse, and relatively affordable. Beyond downtown Glendale, I can be in Atwater in 5 minutes, Silver Lake, Los Feliz or Griffith Park in 10 minutes and at the Arclight Hollywood in 20.

If nothing else, hey, at least we're not Burbank.

(Just kidding, Burbank!)

In the spirit of constructive criticism, I've written my own letter to the News-Press:
This letter is in response to Nora Mossessian and Stanton Price's letters criticizing the lack of arts and culture in downtown Glendale. While I don't yet think that downtown Glendale is cultural black hole, at least not north of Broadway, investment in the arts in downtown Glendale is clearly needed. My bit of unsolicited advice to the city would be to redevelop Maryland Avenue and the Exchange complex into an arts district. The Exchange is almost entirely devoid of retail tenants and currently Maryland is a beautifully landscaped street featuring empty boutiques, one great independent coffeehouse (Urartu Coffee) and a dated movie theater that will be closing in 2011. Before the Mann Exchange 10 closes, the city should work to attract an arthouse theater such as a Laemmle to fill the space. If an arthouse theater were to open on Maryland, it would attract a more cultured clientele that would in turn support local arts-related businesses and provide a counterweight to the crass commercialism on the western side of Brand Boulevard.



Anonymous said...

Hi Scott - Nora here. Had a feeling there'd be a blog somewhere discussing these articles. I really like your response to both our pieces and look forward to seeing it in the paper. I agree that we're not *completely* devoid of the arts (as you can tell I was bitten by the sarcasm bug while writing my particular piece), but I truly think we can do so much more. I fully support your redevelopment suggestions, and think the areas you spoke of would be absolutely perfect for them. Oh, and yes at least we're not Burbank...not kidding, LOL. Very nice blog by the way - will keep reading!

Kendyl Young said...

I am an unabashed (and entirely unapologetic) fan of crass commercialism... the entire Americana is devoted to my demographic. BUT I would LOVE a Laemmle Theater and truly local boutiques in Glendale! Your idea of moving the Exchange toward a more local and, for lack of a better term, authentic, shopping area is wonderful. However, I fear that Glendale Authentic is shinier, flashier and more Nouveau European than my particular taste. Well, when in Rome....

Scott said...

Nora, thanks for starting the dialogue. My letter was published Wednesday.

If you think about it, Glendale is ideally located to draw underserved arthouse audiences from Burbank, Atwater, Eagle Rock, Los Feliz and probably Silver Lake.