City Council Hesitates to Budget for Sound Walls

In the last of three budget meetings, City Council members opted on Thursday, June 28, to hold off funding four sound walls and the long-discussed bikeway and pedestrian project near the YMCA as they worked to balance the city’s budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.
La Cañada Flintridge’s total general fund revenue for the next year is budgeted at $14,650,375, which will match its expenditures, according to Finance Director Rebekka Hosken.
There was extensive deliberation on LCF’s next sound wall project, which will have to wait, despite $5 million in matching funds offered by the California Transportation Commission.
With encouragement from state Sen. Anthony Portantino, an LCF resident, the commission voted in May to appropriate the funds that would have helped pay for four sound walls along the 210 Freeway. But council members decided at last week’s meeting not to commit to the matching $5 million — plus $2 million for design costs — that could have come from 10 years’ worth of Measure M transportation funding.
Councilman Jonathan Curtis suggested his colleagues think hard about accepting the state’s offer.
“Why are we putting all the Measure M money, which everyone in the city is paying, toward sound walls?” he asked. “Don’t we want to explore and evaluate what benefits the city and everybody, as opposed to just [doing this]? I recognize we have a huge need for sound walls, but I’m also trying to recognize that we have the rest of the city to treat fairly.
“It’s a huge decision,” added Curtis, suggesting the city discuss funding with the county, which promised communities such as LCF transportation-related funding when the 710 Freeway tunnel proposal failed. “You don’t want to lose an opportunity, but if we can tweak the opportunity where we can get other sources [we should.]”
Adding to the council’s reluctance was the fact that the state funding was to come from SB 1, the gas tax that will be up for repeal in the November election. If the project had been approved and the funding was later denied, the city would not be responsible for the match, city officials suggested.
City Manager Mark Alexander said he will proceed with the application for SB 1 funding while the city looks into finding a source of funding more suitable than the Measure M money. If that effort is successful, council members will be able to amend the budget, he said.
The council also opted against funding the Foothill Boulevard Link project along Foothill Boulevard near the Crescenta Cañada YMCA, the estimated cost of which increased significantly, to $796,775, from the previous year’s estimate of $209,575.
City Engineer Hoon Hahn suggested reducing costs by scaling back the Link project so that it would include a bike lane but no major landscaping. But that would defeat the purpose of the original proposal, Mayor Terry Walker said.
“When we first talked about this transportation grant, we were looking for beautification, for medians to beautify the west side,” she said. “We settled on doing the bike path as a means to get the medians. Now we’re losing the medians and we’re stuck with a bike path that very few were in favor of to begin with. I’m very disappointed.”
Council members directed the city still to fund the portion of the project that included a redesign of the stoplight at Palm Avenue to better align it with the YMCA across the street.
Council members also opted for savings in other areas, including funding $75,000 (instead of a requested $175,000) for a historic preservation consultant (the city will investigate whether it would be possible to partner with a local university) and skipping altogether a proposed median modification at the post office that would have cost $40,000.
The final budget also included the city’s contract with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, which comes to approximately $2.8 million.
Though $8 million in expected revenue and $10.4 million in expected expenditures was penciled in for property acquisition purposes, Alexander pointed out the budget reflected a “moderated approach toward budgeting revenues and expenditures” in the first year of the city’s move to its new City Hall. With that move pending, the city was able only to estimate financing of the required purchase and improvements, Alexander explained in the budget report.
The City Council transferred $347,225 from LCF’s general fund reserves for the 2018-19 fiscal year. Officials will target the general fund reserve level to be approximately $11,130,000 for the close of the coming fiscal year, according to Carl Alameda, the director of administrative services.

Leave a Reply