San Marino Defends 'High' Solar Panel Fees

The Sierra Club called the city's fees the third highest in L.A. County

By Justin Chapman, San Marino Patch, 6/28/2011

The city of San Marino defended the fees it assesses to install residential solar panels, which a Sierra Club survey found were the third-highest in Los Angeles County.
Following a , Dave Saldaña, the Director of the San Marino Planning and Building Department, told Patch on Tuesday that the fees had not changed in 15 to 20 years. 
"The fees are set by a rate table that was adopted by the City Council," Saldaña said. He added that the city has not lowered its fees, even though the Sierra Club has been sending him emails for more than a year with the goal of encouraging San Marino and other cities to lower permit fees to provide more of an incentive to residents and business owners to install solar panels.
"The reason we have not lowered our rates is because for many, many years we have been basing our fees on individual project evaluations," he said. "When someone wants a building permit from City Hall, we send out a permit technician to take a look at the proposed project and collect a fee. We have a table that tells us that an evaluation of x number of dollars will cost this amount of fees. The fees are proportionate to the value of the project."
"High fees can discourage businesses and residences from making good, long-term, high-yield investments in solar power," the Sierra Club report noted.
Saldaña explained that he believes one reason why San Marino has higher permit fees than other cities is that San Marino also requires a fire marshal to be part of the process of inspecting solar panel projects.
"The reason for that is to ensure that the panels are installed in a manner so they won't suppress access for fire suppression purposes," he said. "A certain amount of any roof needs to be clear in case there's a fire and a firefighter has to axe in the roof. There is a need for the Fire Department to be involved to make sure there is adequate space on a roof, as opposed to solar panels covering an entire roof. That separates San Marino from other cities, because I don't think other cities include that as part of the fees. Therefore we don't feel it would be appropriate to lower the fees."
That raises the question of where the money goes. The Sierra Club report listed San Marino's average residential permit fee at $1,088, and the city's average commercial permit fee at $13,081. Saldaña said that the fees collected by the city offset the city's costs.
"The money the city receives is for cost recovery expenses on each of these requests, not only for the inspections that would be required but also the city's administrative costs," he said.
The same evaluation process applies to commercial permits as residential, except maybe more so because there are a greater number of people in a commercial  building, Saldaña continued.
"There's going be more time spent so the inspection will take longer as well," he said about commercial installations. "You're going to have a higher cost evaluation. Proportionally it should be an increased fee."

Burbank Elementary Neighbors On Tonight's Meeting

PUSD officials are hosting one more community meeting about the future of the Burbank Elementary site just one night before the school board votes on the reconfiguration plan

By Justin Chapman, Altadena Patch, 6/27/2011

As promised, officials are hosting a second neighborhood meeting at the school site at 7 p.m. Monday, following a very contentious and hastily put together about the district's reconfiguration plan for the site starting in August.
That plan, the latest version of which is attached to this article and so far is the only one being considered by PUSD, includes utilizing existing buildings and facilities for a multi-use educational and administrative setup, with a couple different preschools and PUSD-related offices operating there, as well as a construction project that could cost up to $200,000.
That project includes renovating some rooms and buildings, converting most of the grass field to asphalt for a parking lot that could fit 75 to 80 spaces and building a preschool playground area and equipment.
The majority of the audience members, which totaled about 100 people, at that first meeting were very upset about the way the meeting was organized, announced and carried out; the lack of public input on the plan; the lack of transparency regarding the plan; the closure of Burbank Elementary in the first place; and several of the specific recommended changes in the plan.
They had concerns about street parking, traffic, noise, the and therefore the loss of green open space, the planned access route to the proposed lot, and the hours of operation of the various administrative and educational functions that the plan calls for, among other issues.
Patch sat down with Beverly and Albert "Tootie" Heath, who are next door neighbors to the school on Minoru Street and attended the first meeting, to get their perspective on the proposed plan.
"The idea sucks, period," said Tootie, a famous jazz musician who has played with all the greats from Miles Davis to Thelonious Monk and many more. He and his wife Beverly have lived next door to the school for 30 years and have seen the neighborhood go through many stages.
"I don't know if it's a bad idea," Beverly stated.
"I do," Tootie said. "It sucks."
"But I do know that I don't trust PUSD or their plans for the school site," Beverly continued. "The whole notion of being a good neighbor has gone out the window. As for this second meeting, I absolutely do not think it will change anything. I don't think they care what we think one way or the other. The school board has already made up their minds."
"The whole thing was done without the neighborhood's input," said Tootie. "It's going to be very different."
"We are directly affected," said Beverly. "We enjoyed the school being there, but now a new group of folks will be coming and going. They could have done a much better job by being better neighbors, talking to the people who will be most affected by this. It's the way they did it that makes you not trust them."
At the first meeting, PUSD's Chief Facilities Officer David Azcarraga gave a brief presentation about which programs have been assigned space in the reconfiguration plan, while constantly being interrupted by angry Altadenans who felt left out of the process.
The programs include LA UP, a special education preschool currently located at (which was also along with Burbank Elementary last November), the existing Burbank Preschool, Hodges Children Center preschool program (which is currently located at 136 W. Peoria St. in Pasadena), office space for PUSD's Mental Health program (which is currently located at McKinley and operates at 11 schools in the area), and Professional Development offices for staff training of teachers, principals and administrative staff.
Another program, the Elementary Academy for Success, is also being considered to occupy space but has not been officially confirmed, according to Azcarraga.
"As far as I know, this will not be a stop-gap reconfiguration," said Azcarraga at the time. "This plan will not be temporary. Unless enrollment increases in PUSD, this will be a permanent setup, as far as I've been told."
The reconfiguration plan is on the school board's agenda for Tuesday night as an action item, which means the board could vote to approve the plan. Many Altadenans at the last meeting suggested that the public input meetings will do nothing to change PUSD's mind and that the plan will be approved without the Altadena community's public input.
As one woman put it during the first meeting, "This plan is just awful. Altadenans have not been treated fairly throughout this whole process."
Monica Hubbard, a long-time Altadena activist, sent out a mass email that implied there still might be a chance for public input.
"Before sending a flurry of individual e-mails to school board members, would it be helpful first to hear what the revised proposal is this Monday evening?" she wrote. "Perhaps those of us who are able could stay after the meeting at Burbank School this Monday evening to discuss what we learned at the meeting and see if we can quickly reach some common talking points we'd like to present to the board Tuesday night. The public is usually limited to two or three minutes during public comment so if we had all our points outlined, individuals could each take one point to make sure all are presented. It would also be good if we could address the board using a commendation/recommendation format."
Following the June 13 meeting Hubbard sent three general concerns to Azcarraga. She wrote:
"We look forward to seeing a revised plan for Burbank School that: 1) Is purposeful rather than just filling the available space with random programs serving pre-school, children, youth and adults; 2) Brings together like-programs so that economies and efficiencies can be realized and synergy can occur; 3) Is mindful of student safety, health and well-being (protection of green/open space; thoughtful drop-off and parking plans)."

North Shore Burgers Launch Delayed to August

The Hawaiian-style burger restaurant was supposed to open in mid-April

By Justin Chapman, La Cañada-Flintridge Patch, 6/27/2011

North Shore Burgers, a Hawaiian-style upscale sit down restaurant that was hit a few unanticipated snags, but La Cañada Flintridge City Councilmember Mike Davitt now thinks the store should be opening in the second or third week of August. Craig Bittner, Davitt and his campaign manager, Mike Powers, are co-partners on the project.
"We recently got our liquor license approved by ABC [Alcoholic Beverage Control]," Davitt told Patch during a phone interview. "One of our delays was waiting for our approval from the LA County Health Department. That took longer than anticipated. We received approval from the Health Department, but we're still
working out a few items with them. I'd call it tentative approval."
While they received a Conditional Use Permit from the city as well as the city's blessing to serve beer and wine last December, Assistant Planner Joanne Parians said that the city's Planning Department has not yet received an application for a business license.
"Typically business licenses are issued right before they're about to open," said Parians. "As of now, an application for a business license for North Star Burgers has not been submitted."
Davitt said he plans on submitting that application sometime next week. A couple weeks ago, however, he did submit plans to the Building and Safety Department for the interior work of the store, which is located in the United Artists Theatre complex on Verdugo Boulevard and was once occupied by Rice Garden. Davitt said the only exterior work plans pertain to the store's sign.
Parians explained that the city contracts with the county for Building and Safety needs and that the same staff is permanently assigned to work out of City Hall.
It's clear that the city is well in favor of the new burger joint, hoping it will attract more customers to the UA complex.
"Any time you have a new business come in with this economy, it's a good thing," Robert Stanley, the city's director of community development, . "Especially after another business leaves. We viewed it as a good fit."
Planning Commission Chairman Michael Cahill agreed, calling North Shore Burgers a "welcome addition" to the community. "It will be an easy place for family and our youth to enjoy good burgers and fries," he said. "Local eateries contribute to our community life, and we welcome this one."

Fixing a 'Problem’ Intersection

The Altadena Town Council, the Altadena Sheriff's and neighbors of the intersection of Lincoln and Figueroa, where All Star Liquor is located, are all working together to help fix what they say is a problem situation

By Justin Chapman, Altadena Patch, 6/27/2011

From time to time when there has been crime in the area around the corner of Lincoln and Figueroa, concerned residents have brought up , located at the corner because of the late night loitering, public drinking, and other issues going on in the area.
Community leaders and neighbors have been complaining about those issues for years, and newly-elected Town Council member Brent Musson discussed the issue of the intersection during his campaign for office. During a phone interview with Patch, Musson laid out his plan, which is still in the works, to tackle this situation.  He said that while the location is a problem, the store's owner is not to blame.
"The area just west of that liquor store seems to be the problem," said Musson, who has lived in Altadena since 1972 when the store used to be called Miller's Liquor. "It's not the liquor store owner's fault. No one there is a problem, but we have to use a little more imagination in dealing with this problem."
That does not mean the store's owner should continue with business as usual, Musson said.  Ideally, the property should have a different use, a coffee shop for example, he said. 
The county should also be involved, Musson said, by cleaning up and repairing the sidewalks, improving the landscaping, and generally investing in the area.  For more on Musson's plan read his .
Even more attention was brought to All Star Liquor when . One was hit in the back and the other in the arm. They started running towards the liquor store, but they were not hanging out in front of the store when the shooting occurred and there were no fatalities, according to Lt. Joseph Dempsey of the Altadena Sheriff's Department.
Still, that did not stop people from associating the store with the crime: At last week's Town Council meeting, public speakers mentioned the store and the location and suggested they were all connected.
The day after the June 14 crime, a shooting occurred close to the previous night's shooting. Again there were no fatalities, and the Sheriff's Department is investigating the incident as a possible gang-retaliation shooting.
"The area around the store has been a big problem for a long time," said Dempsey. "This year we've had eight or nine calls for service at the store, but that's not excessive."
Dempsey described the store's owner as cooperative in handling issues in the area.
"We are working with the owner, and he's being extremely cooperative and assisting us to try to stop the loitering, the trespassing, the underagers trying to buy alcohol, and gang members loitering in the area," Dempsey said.
The owner of the liquor store who declined to give his last name and identified himself only as "Chyco," told Patch that he doesn't believe his store is a problem situation anymore.
"There's no more loitering around here anymore," he said. "I do my best to keep people from standing outside. As soon as I see them, I go out and tell them to leave. I call the Sheriff's station to take care of those kinds of things. It's not a problem anymore."
Still, Dempsey said a lot of work still needs to be done.
"The Sheriff's Department is working closely with the store owner and community involvement in terms of the neighbors around the store calling when people are loitering and drinking in public, calling us when they see it, that's the way we're going to take care of the situation," he said. "We're also working with the owners of the properties around the street from the store to help stop the loitering and drinking and hanging out."

Two Students Start 'Peace Team' to Combat Bullying

School may be out--but their vision will live on

By Justin Chapman, South Pasadena Patch, 6/22/2011

When recent grads Grace Aldrich and Will Hoadley-Brill noticed that the bullying at their school was "getting out of hand," the 10-year-old duo decided to stop turning a blind eye and actually do something about it.
"It was insane," said Hoadley-Brill. "We were both bullied at a point in our lives, but we saw most of it. One day we looked at someone bullying another kid and we just thought, 'That cannot happen anymore.'"
It began with a newsletter called "Bully Repellant," which they wrote and distributed to the students at their school. It explained how to stand up to bullying and—if you're a bully—how to stop being one.
They then asked Principal Brent Noyes if they could speak at an all-school assembly at the start of the year. Three hundred students immediately signed up. And they started to call themselves the "Peace Team."

Throughout the school year, Aldrich and Hoadley-Brill's vision spread to , as well as community organizations such as the Masons and even (including Superintendent Joel Shapiro). They now have 98 percent of their school and more than 1,000 students, teachers, principals, administrators and community supporters onboard and all behind a single message: Treat everyone with respect.
, Noyes praised the Peace Team for turning Arroyo Vista around. Bullying is extremely rare on Arroyo Vista's campus these days. 
"Grace Aldrich and Will Hoadley-Brill ... championed the formation of our Peace Team," Noyes said at the meeting. "These two outstanding students came forward with an idea and a passion to speak out against bullying and to meet our goal of being a safe, clean and bully-free school and school district."
Indeed the students have a plan in place to ensure the Peace Team's mission continues on while they're at . They've been training two students to take their place and hope to implement their program of peace and understanding at their new school.
"We haven't had the chance to talk to those other students from other schools that we want to be leaders and mentors for their school yet," said Hoadley-Brill. "But we're going to ask the class president and vice president to be the two mentors." 
Students have come to the Peace Team with a wide range of issues. The bullying, they said, was mostly constant teasing that snowballed into a major problem.
"There's none that's seriously physical. Throwing rocks at each other is the most serious type of bullying that we have that's physical or trying to hurt someone," said Hoadley-Brill. "But it's mostly making fun of them about how they look and their personality—so we're focusing on that."
Aldrich said anyone can join their group.
"Adults can join, grandmas can join; we even have pets signed up," she said, also mentioning that she hopes to spread the Peace Team to schools outside of South Pasadena.
Brill's mother, Leslie Brill, works in the office at Arroyo Vista. She thinks the Peace Team is more than just another school club or group.
"I am so proud of Will and Grace," she said. "It's incredible—the leadership that they have and just the personalities that it takes to start something like this. This is a movement they've started. To me it's not a club, it's a movement. I'm incredibly proud and so is Grace's mom."

LCF Council Argues to Keep Redevelopment Agencies

Even though the City of La Cañada-Flintridge does not have a redevelopment agency, the council made it clear that it stands in solidarity with neighboring cities that do need the funds that the state is trying to eliminate

By Justin Chapman, La Cañada-Flintridge Patch, 6/22/2011

While much of meeting Monday night sailed along uneventfully, three agenda items did stand out. Last week the California state legislature, as part of its budget package, passed ABX1 26 and 27, which proposed to eliminate redevelopment agencies (RDAs).
Although La Cañada does not have a redevelopment agency--because it is one of the few cities without blight or the need for state redevelopment funds--the entire City Council expressed its sympathy for those neighboring cities and areas that do need those funds, such as .
(Gov. Jerry Brown declined to sign the bill, meaning the fate of redevelopment agencies remains up in the air. For now.)
The council also praised Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D- La Cañada) for his opposition to those bills.
During her staff report on the bills, Senior Management Analyst Ann Wilson argued that any provision to eliminate redevelopment agencies would be unconstitutional,  but that legal challenges will be difficult due to "provisions that are built into the legislation that largely prevent legal challenges."
"Although we do not have a redevelopment agency, we have been expressing our view along with our brethren cities who do have RDAs," said Councilman Donald Voss. "And for many cities RDAs have been an extremely important part of their redevelopment and their economic vitality.
"We've been astonished by some of the proposals coming out of Sacramento to kill what seems to be a very good program. Undoubtedly there have been abuses and needs for reform, but we've taken positions to support this."
After some discussion, Voss made a motion to prepare two letters, one to Portantino and the other to State Senator Carol Liu, expressing the council's view on the votes that they each took, thereby expressing the virtues of the council's case. The motion passed unanimously.

Other Meeting Highlights:
• Los Angeles County Assistant Fire Chief Bill Niccum informed the council and the community about a recent fire in the hills that occurred during night. The Fire Department dispatched a helicopter to extinguish the blaze. During the Station Fire, the U.S. Forest Service refused to use helicopters at night, which some argue allowed the fire to grow so out of control.
• Bill Watts, President of the La Cañada Flintridge Kiwanis Foundation, presented the city with a check for $2,000 to help keep the Success Through Awareness and Resistance (STAR) Program alive. Mayor Pro Tem Stephen Del Guercio, who ran the meeting because Mayor David Spence is on vacation, accepted the check on the city's behalf.
STAR is one of the programs run by the L.A. County's Sheriff's Youth Foundation that is funded through both public and private donations. It aims to provide drug, gang, and violence prevention education to students throughout the county.
• Taking up half the meeting was a consideration of an amendment to the La Cañada Flintridge Zoning Code Sections that pertain to building bulk and setbacks for fireplaces, chimneys and swimming pool equipment. The idea was to keep trees and other vegetation a mandatory distance away from any source of fire, and after almost an hour of discussion, the council directed city staff to come back with more specific language and consistent setback requirements.
• The council also unanimously passed Ordinance 397, which requires Public Health inspection grading and posting of letter grades for mobile food trucks, as well as Ordinance 399, which amended the La Cañada Flintridge's Municipal Code to allow for organized team play on Sundays at the FIS Lower and Cornishon Athletic Fields.

Targeting Former Gang Members and Improving Police-Youth Relationships

In Part Two of our coverage of a Tuesday Altadena Youth NAACP forum, we discuss a former gang member's desire to avoid police harassment as he lives his new life

By Justin Chapman, Altadena Patch, 6/17/2011

Another large component of Tuesday's Altadena NAACP Youth Council police forum, was a discussion on how to improve relations between the police and young members of the African-American community.
While a lot of the disccusion on Tuesday focused on society issues about race and imprisonment (the first part of our article covering that part of the forum can be ), there was also a lot of discussion about community relations in Northwest Pasadena and Altadena, and how to build a better relationship between police and African-American youth.
A self-described former gang member in the audience at Tuesday's forum asked if the police have permission to search him whenever they want just because they know he used to be in a gang, even though he said he's trying his best to do good.
"Everytime I'm pulled over or approached by police I get detained," he said. "Then they release me without a ticket or anything. This has happened to me a dozen times all across Pasadena. It feels like harassment to me because they never have cause to detain me in the first place and I'm out there trying to do good. I don't even hang out on the streets."
Oberon said that officers do have the right to search him for weapons if he's a known ex-gang member, prompting him to ask if he can be removed from the gang list.
"It's very easy to become known as a gang member, but very difficult to disassociate yourself from that," said Tucker. "I know it doesn't feel good but your association with gangs in the past contributes to that."
Wallace chimed in by reminding the former gang member to ask the detaining officer if they had a reason to stop him and detain him, especially if they let him go without a ticket. If the answer is no, Wallace said, request the officer's business card and file a complaint at the station.
"Just keep doing good and on the straight and narrow," said Oberon. "I know you don't like it but they have a right to stop you. Hopefully over time the decisions you made in the past will stop haunting you like this."

Another result of Tuesday's meeting was the realization that young people need to be educated about the law. A few young audience members pointed out that the police know much more about what is illegal and what isn't than the average person, especially young people, and therefore they felt the police should take that into consideration when dealing with young people.
Two examples of that that were mentioned at the meeting were when a person's Miranda rights need to be read to them and when a person approached by a police officer has to talk to that officer or not. Tucker explained when an officer needs to recite a citizen's Miranda rights.
"I don't have to read you your Miranda rights unless I've arrested you and I want to question you about the reason why you're being arrested," he said. "So it's important that you know your rights when dealing with the police."
When it comes to identifying yourself to police officers, Oberon added, a person's right to remain silent does not apply if they are being detained. If officers want to question the person they've detained or arrested beyond getting proof of their identification, that's when Miranda rights and the right to remain silent come into play.
"If an officer approaches you and you think you've done nothing wrong, don't just walk away," said Oberon. "Ask the officer what they want and if you are a suspect in any kind of investigation. If the answer is no, then the officer has no right to keep you from walking away. However, the officer might have reasonable suspicion that you've done something wrong, so don't automatically walk away."

Police and Community
Another issue among many that came up during the meeting was the gap between the police and young people in the community.
"When I was growing up, all the officers I saw were white," said Wallace. "I didn't like the police. Straight up, I did not like the police. So why am I standing here in this uniform? As I got older, I found out that there are some things I can do as police officer to assist and help and strengthen young black boys and girls, in this uniform. I didn't want them to see nothing but white faces coming into their neighborhoods. There is a mystery and a chasm, a big hole between law enforcement and the kids. There really is. And what we're trying to do with our youth programs and forums is to show you that we're not here to put handcuffs on you, but to strengthen you."
Saunders echoed Wallace's frustration at being a black police officer who sees that the majority of black kids want nothing to do with law enforcement.
"I'm always pushing for young people to get involved with us," said Saunders. "As a black man and a black officer, it saddens me that there's this disconnect between us and young black men. But whether or not you want to get involved with law enforcement, just get involved with something productive now."
The Altadena NAACP Youth Council, which organized and hosted this event, currently has 24 members and meets every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month at 1 p.m. at the , located at 730 Altadena Drive.

La Cañada High’s Class of 2011 Celebrates Graduation

The Class of 2011 graduated from La Cañada High School during a beautiful ceremony, with the San Gabriel mountains before them and the sun setting behind them

By Justin Chapman, La Cañada-Flintridge Patch, 6/17/2011

With 380 seniors graduating from La Cañada High School on Thursday evening, thousands packed the stands to proudly cheer on their accomplished loved ones.
The ceremony's commencement speakers recognized the Class of 2011's particular struggles and achievements. Before the presentation of diplomas began, teacher James Harvey stated to the enthusiastic audience, "In my 38 years here I can say this class ties with the top classes I've ever seen. I love you guys, you're the best!"
A few students spoke with Patch before the ceremony took place about plans for next year and that bittersweet mix of emotions that comes to anyone experiencing a significant transitional period in their lives.
"It's really great to be graduating but at the same time, it's really nostalgic in a way because everyone's going away to their own places," said Jin Ahn, who plans to attend Syracuse University next year to major in psychology. "So it's sort of saddening in some ways but it's also really rewarding."
Ahn believed the school prepared him and his classmates well for college, but fellow classmate Katherine Propper didn't think it was so much school as it was the experiences she went through the past four years that prepared her.
"It feels really surreal," said Propper, who will be attending Georgetown in Washington, D.C. "It doesn't really feel like I'm graduating. It's kind of anti-climactic. But I'm excited for next year, so it feels good."
Haley Herkert, who's going to Los Angeles City College next year and planning to transfer to USC to major in political science, said she's very happy to be graduating after being in the La Cañada school system since kindergarten.
"I just can't believe the day's finally here," she said. "We dream about it and we wake up and it's the day, so it's kind of crazy and surreal. I definitely think the school prepared me for college, having the mix of teachers and everything, through good times and bad times, but overall, I definitely feel prepared."

La Cañada Grads Say Goodbye to High School (Photos)

Some 380 seniors graduated from La Cañada High School Thursday

By Justin Chapman, La Cañada-Flintridge Patch, 6/17/2011

Graduating seniors of La Cañada High's Class of 2011 hurl their mortarboards into the air in triumph!

Police Discuss Race and Other Issues with Altadena Youth

A dialogue forum featuring a Pasadena police officers panel and hosted by the Altadena NAACP Youth Council answered many questions about police involvement in the community...and left just as many unanswered

By Justin Chapman, Altadena Patch, 6/16/2011

On Tuesday evening about 100 people filled the Jackie Robinson Center for a dialogue forum between the Pasadena Police Department, which was represented by six officers, and the Altadena and Northwest Pasadena community.
The event, which was called "Words I Never Said: A Conversation with Cops," was organized by the Altadena NAACP Youth Council.  A majority of the audience appeared to be teenagers, though there were also some older attendees.
Pasadena Police Chief Philip Sanchez was scheduled to make an appearance, but regrettably had to forego the event due to the Kevin Sandoval of the South Pasadena Police Department.
The reason for including a panel of Pasadena police officers instead of Altadena Sheriff's deputies, according to Youth Council President Destiny Iwuoma, is because the 24 members of the council all attend high schools in Pasadena.
"The campus police at these high schools are Pasadena PD," said Iwuoma. "So that's why we decided to do that, because it's a youth event and we wanted to reach out to the high school students. Summer time is coming up and students tend to get a little more rowdy, so we decided to have this event now so we can ease any tensions that will be going into summer time."
He said the event wasn't related to any specific incident and that he wasn't looking for any particular answers from the meeting, just "more understanding from the youth and community regarding what the police are about. That's really what it is. I'm not necessarily looking for any particular answer, I'm just looking for understanding."
While a meaningful dialogue did occur at the meeting between the police panel of six officers, many audience members were from Altadena and had complaints about the Sheriff's Department in their community, which the police panel swiftly used to their advantage by saying that they cannot account for other departments' or officers' conduct, only for the Pasadena Police Department.
The six officers on the panel included Lt. Rodney Wallace, Det. Robert Tucker of Youth and Family Services, Sgt. Cheryl Moody of Employment Services/Internal Affairs, Officers Steven Oberon and Mac Adesina of the Safe Schools Team, and Officer Rodney Saunders.
The meeting was organized into several categories, including getting pulled over, gangs, harassment and targeting, and Pasadena police involvement in the community, including parts of Altadena. Other topics that were planned for discussion had to be tabled when the meeting ran into overtime.

Talking to Police
The meeting itself was basically a question and answer session in which some confusion about protocol when dealing with law enforcement became a little more clear.
"The best advice I can give you in any situation where you are talking to a police officer, whether you've been pulled over or whatever, is to cooperate," said Wallace. "Do not make your situation worse by arguing with the police, even if you think you've done nothing wrong or you think they are being disrespectful towards you. We are required to carry business cards on us. If you think you've been treated unfairly, ask for the officer's business card and come down to the police station later to file a complaint."
Moody of Internal Affairs said that every complaint that is filed is taken "very seriously." She added that as a member of Internal Affairs she is often the one to investigate those complaints, but she said that every one is investigated as required by law.

Race a Factor?
Despite the high number of African Americans compared to Caucasians in jails and prisons, as well as research showing that young black men are more likely to be pulled over, searched, and arrested than any other demographic, several of the officers present said that race is not a factor when they pull someone over, approach a person or a group of people for suspicious behavior, or even dealing with gangs.
The only white officer on the panel, Oberon, said to an audience of mostly African Americans that he "doesn't see race." What he does look for in certain areas, especially dealing with known or unknown gang members, he added, includes gang colors and a style of clothing often worn by gang members.
"It's not a crime to be a gang member," said Oberon. "We do make a distinction, but gangs do commit crimes and so it's our job to know who the gang members are in our communities."
Questions about the ratio in jails were quickly deflected by the police panel as out of their jurisdiction. Wallace, who is the Vice President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, acknowledged that officers are human and therefore make mistakes, but directed the conversation back to the Pasadena Police Department, leaving questions about the conduct of Altadena Sheriff's deputies and those deputies who run the LA County jail system out of the discussion. His response, however, was a genuine attempt to address the reality of bias in the criminal justice system.
"As far as the institutionalization of a lot of African Americans, yes the number is larger," he said. "But it is not only from the police department. The entire criminal justice system has a part to play in this. But this department, the Pasadena Police Department, we pride ourselves on getting to know our communities. We pride ourselves on trying to do our best in trying to make sure everything is fair and equitable. Do we make mistakes? Yes we do. Regarding statistics nationwide, I can't speak to that. What I can speak to is how the Pasadena Police Department treats you."
Check the site tomorrow for more coverage of Tuesday's discussion of community and police relationships.

Official: District 'Screwed Up' on Burbank Elementary Plan

A Monday night meeting on the future of the soon-to-be closed school site was a rowdy one, with many angry Altadenans expressing their frustration about the lack of transparency and public input regarding PUSD's reconfiguration plan

By Justin Chapman, Altadena Patch, 6/14/2011

At a very contentious and hastily put together community meeting Monday night about the future of the site, which was at the end of this school year by the Pasadena Unified Board of Education last November, four PUSD officials gave a presentation about their Burbank Elementary reconfiguration plan for the site.
The plan, which would expand parking at the school to accommodate new preschools and nonprofits, is the only one currently being considered by PUSD, and district officials aim to begin implementing the proposed changes this summer if the board approves it, with the goal of finishing it by September.
Many of the audience members, which totaled about 100 people, at Monday's meeting were very upset about the way the meeting was organized, announced and carried out, as well as the lack of public input on the plan, the lack of transparency regarding the plan, and the closure of Burbank Elementary in the first place.
District officials were quick to acknowledge that it was a mistake to bring the plan to the school board for a vote last month without first informing the Altadena public.
"I screwed up," David Azcarraga, the district's chief facilities officer, said. "Staff screwed up. We will come back to you with a more thorough presentation before the board votes on it. Staff members and I have our homework to do, and we will be more transparent."
The vote, which took place on May 24, failed after a 3-3 tie on the motion to move the plan forward.  There was no public comment on the item at the time.
Audience members spoke out at the meeting about several of the specific recommended changes in the plan, including street parking, the c, the planned access route to the proposed lot, and the hours of operation of the various administrative and educational functions that the plan calls for.

The reconfiguration plan includes utilizing existing buildings and facilities for a multi-use educational and administrative setup, with a couple different preschools and PUSD-related offices operating there, as well as a construction project that could cost up to $200,000. That project includes:
  • Renovating some rooms and buildings.
  • Converting most of the grass field to asphalt for a parking lot that could fit 75 to 80 spaces.
  • Building a preschool playground area and equipment.
  • The relocation of LAUP, a nonprofit special education preschool currently located at
  • The relocation of Hodges Children Center preschool program which is currently located at 136 W. Peoria Street in Pasadena
  • Construction of office space for PUSD's Mental Health program which is currently located at McKinley School and operates at 11 schools in the area.
  • Relocation of other professional development offices for staff training of teachers, principals, and administrative staff.
"As far as I know, this will not be a stop-gap reconfiguration," Azcarraga said.  "This plan will not be temporary. Unless enrollment increases in PUSD, this will be a permanent setup, as far as I've been told."

Residents Unaware of Previous Meetings
This is the first time most of the nearby residents had heard anything about most of the plan's changes to and occupiers of the site, though the same presentation was given to the school board at its May 24 meeting and at a June 7 subcommittee meeting.
The board has not voted on the plan yet, and both Azcarraga and Board member Ed Honowitz assured the crowd that it was not on the agenda for tonight's meeting. The earliest the board will see it on the agenda is June 28, according to Azcarraga.
"We're not ready to go to the school board and present them with a finalized plan," he said.
The point of the meeting, according to Azcarraga, was to clear up some of the rumors that had been going around about what was going to happen to the site, including the idea that would be relocating its Pasadena high school there.
Aveson did request the space but board member Tom Selinske said the request has been denied and there is no chance that the school will occupy the Burbank Elementary site.

Public Reaction
Many people in the audience expressed frustration that they were not included in the process of formulating this plan, that they were not even notified quickly or sufficiently enough about Monday's meeting, and that there is very little time left for public input.
They also said an Environmental Impact Report should be conducted, which Azcarraga confirmed is not taking place and will not take place unless directed by the school board to do so.
Audience members said they didn't feel included in this process and felt they were forced into a plan that seems to be already on its way to being cemented into place.
One woman said, "This plan is just awful. Altadenans have not been treated fairly throughout this whole process."