ARMENIAN POPULATION UP VALLEY, GLENDALE AND BURBANK SHOW BIG PERCENTAGE HIKES.
GLENDALE - This city's Armenian population has surged by 65 percent since 1990, with more than one in four of Glendale's residents now claiming Armenian descent, figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show.
Glendale, which has the highest concentration of Armenians outside Armenia, is now home to 51,854 to them, up from 31,402 in 1990.
``It shows,'' said Arthur Melkonyan, who came to Glendale 11 years ago and operates a Maryland Avenue coffee shop serving Armenian and American fare. ``There are so many more Armenian stores around - in a lot of the stores you can just speak Armenian and get by fine.''
The Armenian population boom is also reflected in the San Fernando Valley, which saw a 63 percent rise in residents of Armenian descent over the decade, from 23,571 in 1990 to 38,504 in 2000.
In next-door Burbank, the Armenian population has more than doubled, going from from 2,780 in 1990 to 7,950 in 2000.
Major Armenian immigration to Glendale started in the 1970s, and has continued in spurts until tapering off recently, said Bianca Manoukian, spokeswoman for the Armenian Cultural Foundation. Armenians from around the Middle East came to America as the political situation worsened there. Many were already immigrants in other countries after fleeing the Armenian Genocide in 1915.
``A few families settled here and it became a magnet for their families and friends,'' said Manoukian, a 17-year Glendale resident. ``They got here and built a school and a church, and then Glendale became a cultural center.''
The last influx to Glendale came in the early 1990s, Manoukian said, which is consistent with the census figures.
She attributes the growth of Armenians in the San Fernando Valley, which includes a growing Armenian presence in North Hollywood, to spill-over as Glendale starts to reach its population capacity.
``Armenians want to live as close to Glendale as possible without paying for the city's more costly real estate,'' Manoukian said. ``The number of Armenians who want to live in Glendale has outgrown the housing here.''
Ardashes Kassakhian, the director of government relations for the Armenian National Committee of America, Western Region, said Glendale has served as an anchor for Armenians nationwide.
``Once there was an Armenian community here, Glendale became a destination point,'' Kassakhian said.
The Rev. Vazken Atmajian of Glendale's St. Mary's Church said Glendale is known to Armenians around the world.
``In Armenia, Iran, and Lebanon, they know about Glendale. A lot of people have friends or relatives living here,'' Atmajian said.
Odet Morsesian, Hasmik Morsesian and Armineh Nazarian, walking with their children near Mini-Wilson Park in Glendale, are part of the boom.
They came to Glendale from Iran in 1998 and are happy to be living here.
``It's safe and clean and there are great schools,'' Odet Morsesian said. ``Armenians are everywhere around here.''
Census figures back her observation.
From 1990 to 2000, about 41,000 Armenians moved to Los Angeles County. According to the census, about 35,000 of those Armenians - about 80 percent of them - settled in the Valley or Glendale.
Glendale's Armenians make up a third of the county's Armenians, and make up more than a quarter of Glendale's 195,047 residents.
About 75 percent of Armenians in California live in Los Angeles County.
The census figures are reflected in Glendale's city leadership, with two of five council members, including the mayor, are Armenian.
And last week, the Senate approved a bill by state Sen. Jack Scott, D-Pasadena/Glendale, to create a California trade office in Armenia.
ARMENIAN POPULATION SURGE
The number of people of Armenian descent soared by 65 percent in Glendale and 63 percent in the San Fernando Valley over the past decade.
SAN FERNANDO VALLEY-23,571-38,504
LOS ANGELES COUNTY-105,333-146,476
SOURCE: U.S. CENSUS BUREAU
2 photos, box
(1) Arthur Melkonyan, owner of a Maryland Avenue coffee shop that serves both Armenian and American fare in Glendale, says there are more Armenian stores in the area. He says a person can just speak Armenian nowadays.
(2) Armenian-Americans Odet Morsesian, Voskan Zadoorian, Vanessa and Armineh Nazarian walk down North Cedar Street in Glendale. More than one in four residents is of Armenian descent in Glendale. Growth is continuing.
Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer
ARMENIAN POPULATION SURGE (see text)