With the class action lawsuit against Grand View Memorial Park settled and the resulting renovations to the grounds nearing completion, all that remains now in straightening things out is the state required sale of the cemetery.
A return to normal, the light at the end of the tunnel that everyone has looked forward to for five long years.
How soon will it be sold? Who will buy it?
“With respect to the sale of the cemetery, Grand View has been contacted by several different groups who have all expressed an interest in purchasing the cemetery. Several of these groups are in the process of putting together formal offers,” attorney David Baum, the cemetery’s representative, said this week.
“Grand View looks forward to receiving serious offers and entering into sale negotiations with bona fide purchasers. Grand View will carefully evaluate all serious offers to ensure that a future owner/operator possess the resources and experience necessary to resume full operations, properly maintain the cemetery, and continue the restoration and beautification process currently taking place,” he added.
While no one from the Grand View negotiation team is officially naming names, Homer Alba from The Alba Group readily confirms that his team has made a purchase offer and that they’re excited about the opportunity to restore Grand View to new glory.
The Alba Group is an executive team from nearby Hollywood Forever Cemetery (as well as Fernwood Forever in Mill Valley) with a proven track record of rehabilitating the once bankrupt and rundown landmark, formerly Hollywood Memorial Park, into an inviting, prosperous cemetery that has become a jewel of its community.
Alba, a long-time Glendale resident, is a soft-spoken yet earnest, accomplished 25-year veteran of the cemetery business. He is currently Senior Vice President of Hollywood Forever. His partner is Yogu Kanthiah, the cemetery’s CEO/CFO. According to Alba it’s a partnership that produces results because their strengths complement one another.
“Yogu is great with numbers so the legal and business aspects are his. He always gets us the best and does it by reasonably allocating the money,” said Alba. “I do licensing, inventory and upkeep. What I’m good at is making sure that what we have is good and correct and on the up and up. We have a good record with the state. In all my inspections [of the cemetery and crematory] here at Hollywood I’ve never had a deficiency,” he added.
Prospective new owners must hold a Cemetery Manager license that's in good standing, issued by the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Cemetery and Funeral Bureau. The Alba Group has two candidates.
Tyler Cassity, President, and the driving creative and innovative force at Hollywood Forever holds that license for Fernwood, as does Peony Wellen for Hollywood Forever. Wellen also holds a crematory manager license.
Rounding out the team is Arsen Oganesyan, director of its Memorial and Cultural Division.
“Grand View needs the kind of infusion and nurturing that Tyler brought to Hollywood 14 years ago, his style and dedication is infectious,” said Alba, who began his career at the former Hollywood Memorial Park as an administrative assistant.
Alba later found himself thrust into the position of keeping the cemetery going with no endowment care fund and a bare minimum grounds crew after executives were ousted by the state and their sales license was revoked. The park was nearly padlocked for good until Cassity purchased it from bankruptcy court in 1997 and the revitalization began.
“The bottom line is, the minute we hit the ground over there [at Grand View] we will roll up our sleeves and go to work and that doesn’t stop with a coat of paint. It never stops,” explained Alba, who divides his time between wearing a suit to tend to office duties and putting on his jeans to tackle hands-on work around the park.
“You have to get out of your office and take your measuring tools and get your hands dirty,” he said. “I do both office and field work because I think it’s important to be able to do both. It’s the only way to do it if you want to do it right. You have a product, the cemetery, and you have to know it well to sell it well and sell it correctly.”
The business model used at Hollywood, states Alba, is based on not relying on the interest from the endowment care fund alone for upkeep and embellishments, because that’s just enough to cover the basics.
“We use our own money for capital improvements. Without it, it’s not enough to make a cemetery beautiful. We plant flowers every season, we landscape and we build, that’s the way to do it and we can do that with Grand View. It deserves owners who can and will invest the time and the money,” he explained.
Another angle that’s important to The Alba Group is Grand View’s place in the Glendale community. “We should not be there just to bury people. Grand View is a wonderful, neighborhood cemetery where everyone should feel welcome and have access to the grounds,” said Alba.
He offered examples of how they’ve incorporated this philosophy in Hollywood, noting how they have developed mutually beneficial working relationships with the local police, fire department, chamber of commerce, neighbors (including Paramount Studios) as well as charitable and cultural organizations.
Alba acknowledges that running a cemetery is an emotional experience, too. “You’re in the business of people dying and people being left behind,” he said.
“You have to make a profit to stay in business but at the same time you can’t be oblivious to what you see and hear, the grieving process. I get involved. I take pride in the fact that we look at the individual, we try to be there for them,” he added.
So, why does the Alba want to take on another cemetery revitalization project at this point in his career?
“It excites me to think we can get in there and apply everything we’ve been through and learned at Hollywood and just go to work,” he enthused.
“Five years from now people will walk in and once again say ‘this is a beautiful place, you’ve done a beautiful job.’ That’s the rewarding part of it, people who have seen every phase of the rebuilding at Hollywood, they saw the worst and then the best and it pleased them. I’m convinced we can do it again with Grand View,” he said.
Will The Alba Group become Grand View’s next guardians? Stay tuned for updates as this chapter of the cemetery’s history unfolds.