Council Acknowledges Complaint Against One of Its Own

First published in the Sept. 23 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council on Tuesday issued a statement regarding the formal complaint filed by a resident against Councilman Jonathan Curtis.
Scott Van Dellen filed a complaint to the state Fair Political Practices Commission — a nonpartisan, five-member panel that administers the Political Reform Act — on Sept. 13 alleging that Curtis violated the act by using his position to influence a government decision concerning a proposed three-story development at 600 Foothill Blvd.Prior to the public comment portion at the top of the council’s regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Terry Walker briefly addressed the issue, saying that it is a process between Curtis and the FPPC and that she and her colleagues will cooperate with the commission on the matter.
“The city welcomes and will cooperate fully with any investigation conducted by the FPPC,” Walker said. “To be proactive, the city attorney has already reached out to the FPPC enforcement division to inform them of our willingness to assist them in whatever information they require to ensure a fair and complete review. I believe it is in the best interest for this city and its residents to allow the FPPC to review the complaint filed and to address it as it deems appropriate.
“Ultimately, this review is within their jurisdiction and the FPPC is the most appropriate independent third party to determine what the merits of the complaint filed are or are not.”
Curtis denied the allegations in an interview with the Outlook Valley Sun on Sept. 15 and emphasized that he had never spoken with a city council member or the municipal staff regarding details of the project.
The councilman and his partners proposed a 77,310-square-foot, three-story development on the 1.29-acre parcel that would provide 47 senior housing units, 12 non-serviced hotel units, 7,600 square feet for office use and an underground parking structure with 111 spaces.
Eight community members spoke against the project during the public comment portion of the meeting, citing concerns — such as the size of the proposed structure and possible traffic congestion at Woodleigh Lane and Foothill Boulevard — that have been raised in previous meetings.
The LCF Planning Commission recommended approval of the controversial project during a virtual meeting on Sept. 2. The commission is set to meet tonight, Sept. 23, and expected to approve the project as part of its consent calendar — the portion of a municipal meeting that is reserved for items that no longer require serious discussion. That approval would send the proposal forward for presentation to the City Council, which has final say on the project.
The Planning Commission’s virtual meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m.

CITY TO EXPLORE PERMITTING OUTDOOR COMMERCIAL ACTIVITIES

The City Council advised staff members to continue researching opportunities that would allow local businesses to expand their operations outdoors.
Restaurants and fitness centers have been allowed to operate outdoors for the past 14 months since City Manager Mark Alexander signed an order that suspended the requirement of a permit to operate outdoors in July 2020.
The order was put into effect to alleviate the loss of business for local establishments, most notably restaurants and gymnasiums, after Los Angeles County imposed some of the strictest regulations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Walker and her colleagues expressed an interest in possibly allowing businesses to continue operations outdoors and asked the staff to look at other cities that have successfully done the same.
“I personally thought it was nice to have the community feeling like you see in Europe and Montrose with the outdoor dining,” Walker said. “I don’t know if there’s anything we can craft to promote that type of atmosphere without taking away parking. I did think it was nice.”
Susan Koleda, the city’s director of community development, said Roundtable Pizza and the Proper are the only restaurants she knows of that still utilize outdoor space for dining as a direct result of the city order.
Curtis said that though Los Gringos Locos restaurant — a staple in LCF — did a “fantastic job” with outdoor dining, the owner did not like it because of the distance employees had to travel to serve patrons.
Mayor Pro Tem Keith Eich suggested to staff members that they ask businesses “what they want” and “not work backwards from complaints.”
Koleda said most of the complaints by far regarded fitness centers operating outdoors.
“These generally have been operating in the early morning hours, and the sound of people exercising and the instructors often yelling can carry quite a distance,” she said.
One business is operating in a parking lot on Valley Sun Lane near the 210 Freeway and taking up parking spaces in an area with limited parking, Koleda added.
Though Koleda recommended that the city not allow fitness centers to operate outdoors on a permanent basis, Councilman Rick Gunter suggested that there not be a blanket ordinance against such outdoor physical activities because there are some workouts that are not as loud, such as tai chi.
“I think there’s really strong evidence that a city that embraces its outdoor realm and mixes businesses in public is a healthy and vibrant community,” he said. “I would love to see as much outdoor engagement along [Foothill Boulevard] and not limit it to what we did in COVID, but maybe rethink how we engage in the public realm along our boulevard in general. I think there are really great opportunities here.”

CRIME DOWN IN LCF

While parts of L.A. County are reportedly seeing spikes in violent crimes, the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station reported that a different trend is occurring in LCF.
Roman Foss, a watch commander at the station, visited City Hall for the council meeting Tuesday to present the crime statistics through August. He said 172 major crimes have been reported in the city in the period that began Jan. 1, a significantly lower figure than in previous years.
“It’s nice to notice that we had the lowest total of crime incidents since 2016,” Walker said after Foss’ presentation.
There were 216 part I offenses — which include homicide, rape, robbery, residential burglary, aggravated assault, larceny, grand theft auto and arson — reported from January through August in 2016. The city saw an uptick in that figure in the first eight months of 2018, with 234 major crimes reported.
Regarding the 21 larceny and theft incidents in July, Walker said she assumed most of the cases involved suspects opening unlocked vehicles, but Foss informed the council that only three of the thefts were from cars that were likely unlocked. There were six shoplifting incidents and Foss added that the investigators have identified several suspects. Five of the incidents involved thieves breaking into locked vehicles, three were thefts of catalytic converters, and in the other cases gardening tools were stolen from trucks.
Residential burglaries went down from eight in July to two in the following month, and an aggravated assault in August involved a couple.
The Flock Safety cameras placed at intersections throughout LCF helped the Sheriff’s Department recover three stolen vehicles and led to the arrest of four individuals connected to the thefts. Pistols, ammunition and narcotics were also recovered as a result of the arrests.