Some Compromise Made on Proposed Home

There was a modicum of compromise at the recent City Council meeting regarding the long-contested demolition of a home to make way for a new one.
Thanks to a unanimous vote at the Dec. 14 meeting, the property owners of 1470 Virginia Road will be able to file papers with the city for their proposed new home, which will allow evaluators to use the state’s 2016 energy requirements for new homes. However, the ultimate decision as to whether they will be allowed to move forward will tentatively be made at the City Council’s meeting on Jan. 11. Continue reading “Some Compromise Made on Proposed Home”

School Board Defers Borrowing Decision, Elects Officers

Given the body was short one board member, the San Marino Unified School District board elected to wait a month to decide on what terms it will try to borrow $8 million for its forthcoming athletic complex.
The board did, however, elect new officers for 2017 in its final meeting for 2016.
The Certificate of Participation, as presented by Chet Wang of El Segundo-based Keygent Advisors, would be for $8 million over a 25-year period with varying interest rates based on early payment schedules. The payments would run through 2041 unless the School Board acts upon an early payment contingency. Continue reading “School Board Defers Borrowing Decision, Elects Officers”

City Council Takes Steps on Election Decision

Though coming short of a final determination, the City Council did narrow its choices for how it will conform to the state’s election calendar at its sole December meeting.
Based on its vote at the Dec. 14 meeting, the City Council plans to hold the November 2017 election for three of its seats as planned. To be determined, however, is how those or subsequent terms will be modified to transition the city to elections on even-numbered years. Continue reading “City Council Takes Steps on Election Decision”

New Street Lights Among City Projects

With the city’s street light replacement project well underway, San Marino’s Public Works Director Dan Wall expects a variety of other projects to take off in the coming months.
City workers have gradually been replacing the bulbs in street lights as Southern California Edison has installed utility meters into the poles. Previously, San Marino’s street lights were unmetered and the city paid a flat fee for them. Now, the lights will use more energy-efficient bulbs that will be metered. Continue reading “New Street Lights Among City Projects”

Fire Department Adds to Arsenal

Photo courtesy San Marino Fire Department Firefighters practice using one of their new salvage covers at the San Marino Fire Station. The vinyl sheet protects objects from smoke and water damage.
Photo courtesy San Marino Fire Department
Firefighters practice using one of their new salvage covers at the San Marino Fire Station. The vinyl sheet protects objects from smoke and water damage.

It is no secret to firefighters that smoke is borderline impossible to navigate on its own.
Even the artificial smoke generated from machines during training obscures nearly all useful vision, and that’s nothing compared to the black carpets of smoke that come with any type of structure fire and only adds to the chaos.
Starting last week, San Marino Fire Department’s ambulances and firetrucks now carry the latest in heat detection and navigation technology to assist. The small neon thermal imagers replace the clunkier ones of the past at a significant price premium. Continue reading “Fire Department Adds to Arsenal”

Police Chief to Implement Ordinance for Vacant Houses

With an ordinance approved last month and readings slated for the next two City Council meetings, San Marino Police Chief John Incontro said he feels the groundwork for handling the city’s growing number of vacant homes is set.
Barring any future changes to the ordinance’s language, Incontro’s police department will now shoulder the task of identifying vacant homes (by the ordinance’s definition, those unoccupied for 60 or more days in a year) and registering them as such. The hope is that the information involved will help officers in responses to crimes proliferated by the existence of unoccupied homes in neighborhoods. Continue reading “Police Chief to Implement Ordinance for Vacant Houses”

Descanso Gardens Glows in New Light

Photos by Dan Vang / OUTLOOK The "Enchanted: Forest of Light!" show is open through Jan. 8 at Descanso Gardens. The display blends art and nature for a unique holiday experience.
Photos by Dan Vang / OUTLOOK
The “Enchanted: Forest of Light!” show is open through Jan. 8 at Descanso Gardens. The display blends art and nature for a unique holiday experience.

It’s Descanso Gardens, illuminated as you’ve never seen it.
The most familiar of haunts at the beloved botanic gardens have been transformed by the “Enchanted: Forest of Light!” display open to the public until Jan 8. Continue reading “Descanso Gardens Glows in New Light”

City Council Cultivates Regulations on Marijuana

Facing fallout from state voters’ approval of Proposition 64 last month, the City Council voted unanimously this week to nip as much of it in the bud as legally allowed.
But they don’t like it.
“What can I do? I have to support it,” Councilman Dave Spence said, with some incredulity in his voice.
The ordinance to legalize the personal marijuana cultivation of as much as six plants at a residence was approved by 56.7% of California voters in November. The statewide proposition also formally legalized recreational possession of as much as one ounce of marijuana.
The fine print of the proposition, however, allows counties and municipalities some say on the matter.
The city of La Cañada Flintridge will ban outdoor cultivation and set strict requirements for indoor growth. Sharing marijuana will also be illegal within the city, as will its sale and delivery.
City attorney Mark Steres explained the city’s ordinance on the legalization of medical marijuana in 2011 was written to broadly include all uses of the drug in its restrictions on commercial sales, production and delivery.
“The ordinance that’s in front of you reaffirms that cultivation of marijuana is prohibited, but it [makes the exception] on personal indoor marijuana cultivation,” Steres said.
Although residents are prohibited from growing marijuana outdoors, they may apply with the city for a permit to grow it indoors. The permit application will be reviewed by the city’s Community Development Department, whose Building and Safety Division will conduct a building inspection alongside the Fire Department.
Grow operations must be hidden from public view and include working ventilation, home security and some sort of fire extinguisher. The operation cannot impede the primary purpose of a room (such as a bathroom or kitchen) and the applicant must reside at the location. Finally, marijuana cannot be given, donated or sold to other persons (there is an exception for qualified caregivers who grow and produce for a medical marijuana patient).
The state proposition also comes with its own restrictions. A grow site cannot be larger than 50 square feet. Those driving or riding in vehicles cannot physically possess marijuana (Steres noted transporting it in a trunk is the alternative). It remains illegal to drive while impaired.
Steres acknowledged common complaints about marijuana grow operations, such as odors, mold, fire hazards and the proliferation of criminal activity, and noted six plants could “create a pretty serious operation.” The growth of indoor plants also requires special heat lamps and electrical output consideration, he added.
Spence responded with concern about what to do when a multitude of cars start routinely parking at a grow location, perhaps to share in the recreational use of the crops.
“I don’t know how much a marijuana plant will grow, but I’m worried about people providing it for their friends,” he said.
City Manager Mark Alexander re-emphasized that would violate the local ordinance and the best thing neighbors can do is to report incidents to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office substation.
“It really is going to come down to whether the sheriff’s office can reasonably articulate there is suspicious activity,” Alexander said.
City Council members conceded they found the substance of the ordinance distasteful but it was the best approach, in their minds, to enforce the proposition. Spence, speaking at length, called it a “terrible situation.”
“I would personally say I’m disappointed,” he said. “This is a family-oriented community and now we’re having to pass an ordinance saying you can grow marijuana in your house. I hope the newspaper prints that. We know it’s a gateway drug. We know it. It’s a bad situation for our society.”
Mayor Jonathan Curtis asked if anyone had actually contacted the city about cultivation yet. There apparently has been one such caller.
“We’ll see if this impacts our greenhouse gas reductions with the [increase in] electricity,” he joked.

CITY TO CONSOLIDATE ELECTION

The City Council also voted unanimously to consolidate its March 7 election with that of L.A. County.
The city’s election for two of its council members is now expected to run simultaneously with a countywide measure addressing issues with the county’s homeless population.
At issue is whether to keep the election in local hands and get faster results, or consolidate with the county early and save some money.
Councilwoman Terry Walker pointed out a state law is already requiring a large number of municipalities, including La Cañada Flintridge, to consolidate the elections with the state by 2022 in order to promote voter turnout. Consolidated elections also allow pooling of resources and the county has written in a letter to the city it would be on the hook for “no more than $45,000,” or half the projected cost of a non-consolidated vote.
“It’s going to happen anyway,” she said. “We might as well get used to the process and save $45,000.”
Alexander pointed out a handful of disadvantages in consolidating elections, most prominent of which was that everything would be run through the county’s office in Norwalk.
“Certification of the election might not happen for some time, certainly longer than if we did it standalone,” he said.
Then again, Alexander also added that having a standalone election could result in voters having to use two different ballots at possibly two different locations, which could prove confusing.
“If we consolidate, it’s quite likely the county would create one ballot for the entire election,” he said.
The City Council voted unanimously, with Spence observing he felt “obligated” to vote as a fiscal conservative despite wanting to maintain local control.

MASSAGE PERMITS OK

The City Council approved a series of ordinances that effectively allow for the application of permits for massage establishments within certain zones. The body had previously approved a 22-month moratorium on massage parlors out of concern for their possible association with crimes such as prostitution and human trafficking.
Now, those wanting to start such a business must first be state-licensed and then apply to the city for a conditional use permit in Mixed Use 1 and 2 zones, essentially the city’s commercial zone. The moratorium came after the state, which had taken over massage business regulations before, relinquished some control back to cities.

MILLS ACT HOMES

Two homes were approved for Mills Act contracts that grant some property tax breaks for those who routinely update historic homes.
One of the homes is at 1694 Fairmount Ave., an Italian-style revival built in 1929 by noted architect Gene Verge. The other is at 818 Old Landmark Lane, which is a Craftsman-style home built in 1914 by an unknown architect.
The tax break for the Fairmont Avenue home is estimated to be $570 this year, with $453 expected for the Landmark Lane home.

Local Earns First, But Not Last, Ironman Medal

Nancy Ko’s (far right) support squad included (from left) the “Voice of Ironman” Mike Reilly, parents Warren and Mee-Lee Szeto, husband Jonathan Ko and triplets Nicholas, Jennifer and Ethan Ko.
Nancy Ko’s (far right) support squad included (from left) the “Voice of Ironman” Mike Reilly, parents Warren and Mee-Lee Szeto, husband Jonathan Ko and triplets Nicholas, Jennifer and Ethan Ko.

It had been 15 hours and 28 minutes of near-constant swimming, bicycling and running in Arizona when Nancy Ko rounded the corner and found her finish line on Nov. 20. Continue reading “Local Earns First, But Not Last, Ironman Medal”

Safeguard Against Thieves During Holiday Season

With the gift-giving season upon us, public officials urge people to take extra safety precautions tied to holiday events.
Police Chief John Incontro said he encourages residents to be conscious of the increased potential for thefts and burglaries, given that gifts people order and receive are often expensive and desirous.
“We’re anticipating an issue or two because of the number of packages being delivered,” Incontro said in a phone interview. “That’s always a concern.”
Incontro said he advises residents ordering items from the internet to note special delivery locations not in public view in order to hide them from potential thieves. Reports of mail theft have consistently been included in weekly police reports, ranging from new credit cards to packages containing such electronics as cellphones. Continue reading “Safeguard Against Thieves During Holiday Season”