Beleaguered cemetery put on block

first_imgMeanwhile, hundreds of relatives of those buried there filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against Grand View’s owners in November seeking compensation for all the problems. And the city of Glendale also is suing the cemetery to force the owners to pay for the cemetery’s cleanup. The relatives’ lawsuit, which is expected to take at least three years, is the main obstacle to selling, attorneys for both sides said, because the new owners could be on the hook for any settlement. Paul Ayers is an attorney who defended the owners of Woodlawn, and is now one of the attorneys suing Grand View on behalf of the relatives. He doubts that Grand View will soon be sold. “You’re asking someone to buy a burning house,” Ayers said. “No one’s going to buy a burning house. They might buy it after the fire is over, but not now.” Faded glory Opened in 1884 at Glenwood Road and Sonora Avenue, Grand View is the resting place of silent film stars Harry Langdon and Edna Purviance. Sam Dreben, a Jewish American soldier who died in 1925 and was eulogized as “The Fighting Jew” by writer Damon Runyon, also is entombed there. Of the many individuals cremated at Grand View, movie star Rock Hudson is perhaps the most famous. He died in 1985 and his remains were scattered at sea. Now it takes a judge’s permission to be buried there, thanks to the lawsuit. And it’s so run down that Glendale city officials won’t even open it for weekly visits. Some families became so frustrated with the cemetery’s problems that they took matters into their own hands, getting the OK from a judge to dig up their relatives’ remains and transfer them to other sites. In one case in July, Ayers helped relatives of a man buried there dig up his grave. When they shoveled deep enough, they found the cremated remains of 10 to 20 people in the same space, he said. “Where they came from, I don’t know,” he said. “It’s a scary kind of place in the sense that, certain areas of that cemetery, if you open up a grave, you may get a big surprise.” Robyn Chandler, a homemaker from Burbank, has 14 family members buried at Grand View. “It was never a great cemetery; it was just kind of beautiful in some ways because it was so historic,” she said. “(But) it was never maintained well as far as I can remember back.” City steps in After the cemetery shut down in June 2006, with Goldsman saying he lacked the money to keep it going, the city stepped in and opened it for weekly visits. But in mid-June this year, officials ended those visits because of the fire threat on the tinder-dry property and falling branches from dried-out trees. Pruning, cutting the grass and fixing a watering system to make the cemetery suitable for visits would cost about $400,000, officials said. “We just can’t spend freely on that cemetery because we have a lot of pressing needs around the city that we still need to attend to,” said Mayor Ara Najarian. The cemetery has an endowment care fund of more than $1 million, but only the interest can be used, and that is not enough to make the necessary improvements, Baum said. Attorneys suing the cemetery on behalf of loved ones interred there say it could turn a modest profit – under new ownership. It has a crematorium, which could generate some revenues, Ayers said. The cemetery has space for an additional 4,000 burials. The buried and cremated remains of about 40,000 individuals are already interred there, Ayers said. If its owners just walked away, Grand View would become county property, said Kevin Flanagan, spokesman for the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau. But attorneys in the lawsuit say it could be acquired by relatives – should they receive a favorable settlement – who could run Grand View themselves by appointing a board and using settlement funds. Najarian said he hopes whoever ends up with it knows what they’re doing and keeps it maintained. “I want them to earn some money so that they can operate the business and remove this from being an albatross around the neck of the city,” he said. Those with relatives buried at Grand View say it has been painful to watch the cemetery turn into an eyesore, with a locked gate between them and their loved ones. Eleanor Moschetti, 64, of Castaic has her grandparents, parents, a sister and friends buried at Grand View. “It’s frustrating because we can’t go over there and visit,” she said. “What’s the purpose of burying your family in a cemetery if you can’t go over there and take flowers to them?” [email protected] (818) 546-3304160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! David Baum, attorney for principal owner Moshe Goldsman, said his client has sent out fliers and hired a real estate attorney to sell the cemetery. But so far, nothing. And if history is any indication, the cemetery will be a tough sell. In a similar case, the state in 2001 ordered the owner of Woodlawn Cemetery in Compton to sell after authorities found bone fragments and pieces of caskets on the grounds of the 140-year-old cemetery. In six years, the company has been unable to find a buyer. “No one in their straight mind would go out there and buy it,” City Councilman Bob Yousefian said of the 25-acre Grand View site. GLENDALE – For sale: 123-year-old, padlocked cemetery with overgrown weeds and the remains of 40,000. Fire Department says it’s a hazard, city says it’s a public nuisance. Fixer-upper. Owner must sell. $1 million, or best offer. Any takers? State officials are forcing the sale of embattled Grand View Memorial Park after finding that late owner Marsha Howard resold grave plots, improperly disposed of the cremated remains of thousands of people and left the once-sparkling mausoleum and its surrounding property in shambles. last_img read more