County Sagebrush Meeting Postponed Until April

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What’s an extra nine weeks spent on an issue that dates back to 1961?
At the request of the chief petitioners, the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization has again postponed making a preliminary decision on whether to grant a territory transfer of the 385-acre Sagebrush area in westernmost La Cañada Flintridge from Glendale Unified to La Cañada Unified School District.
According to petitioner Tom Smith, the committee is expected to take up the matter at its April 5 meeting instead of deliberating on Wednesday, March 8.
According to a statement by Smith’s UniteLCF citizens’ group, the request was “to facilitate the ongoing analysis of our transfer petition by the county committee and the two school districts.”
The county committee originally was scheduled to address the matter on Feb. 1 before moving the item to its March meeting. In that case, UniteLCF organizers were told that committee members needed additional time to review documents and to begin a preliminary environmental analysis.
The county committee meeting came after the pair of community hearings held last fall, which followed a petition by UniteLCF, the group of Sagebrush residents who want their neighborhood to be transferred.
The long-awaited move, they say, will increase community cohesion in LCF while easing enrollment concerns within GUSD. But GUSD contends the loss of as many as 356 students could mean a detrimental reduction of as much as $2.7 million in average daily attendance.
If the 11-member committee preliminarily approves the transfer in April, a California Environmental Quality Act analysis will begin and could last several months. If the committee officially approves the transfer, once it is complete, GUSD will have 30 days to appeal, according to Smith.
On the other hand, he said, if the committee denies the transfer request, there will be no CEQA study and UniteLCF will have five days to file a notice of appeal.
“We feel very good,” Smith said in January. “We made a very compelling argument.”
That argument is the latest in a series that included two failed attempts at legislation and three previous petitions.
This time, advocates are asking the county to consider what a small percentage of GUSD’s total enrollment Sagebrush represents — an estimated 250 school-age students equates to less than 1%, according to UniteLCF. They also point out that 84% of respondents indicated they’re in favor of the move when they were surveyed by GUSD in 2014.
In the past, the committee has approved each petition, all of which went on to be denied later in the process. UniteLCF members are hopeful this time the petition will make it all the way through.
“What we’re trying to impress on GUSD is that … more and more, the ground has moved in favor of petitioners,” Smith said earlier. “If we don’t come to a negotiated agreement between the two districts, every time you go before the Board of Education on appeal, you’re rolling the dice and it’s only a matter of time before the dice come up 7 and you lose.”

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