Budget, Neighborhoods Among Mayor’s Priorities

Communal budget deliberations, integrity of neighborhoods, a solution for the puzzle that is tired, old Stoneman School.
These are some of the issues that Dr. Allan Yung said he’d like to address in the coming year after he took up the mayor’s gavel on Dec. 9. A few days later, in an interview with The Outlook in the Huntington Library’s Garden Court, he elaborated on some of the key points.
BUDGET
City government has resolved to have a more open budget process over the next six months. It will begin with a community meeting on Jan. 20 at the Crowell Public Library to introduce the current method. In subsequent City Council meetings, reviews of various aspects of city operations will be presented. At the same time, an ad hoc committee led by Yung and new City Councilman Steve Talt will begin conducting a management performance audit of various departments, starting with Public Works and Administration. Members of the community with background in finance and accounting will be welcomed into the group.
Yung: “Our city government has always been transparent, and we’re willing to work with our citizens. This budget system that we have has been going on as long as I know. Recently, a few people have come and said are we spending too much? So we say, ‘Let’s take a look at it and see where we’re going.’
“In my mind, if we can develop some sort of a system, some sort of format, that we can follow for years to come, that would be great. But, if nothing else, at least all of the residents can look at the budget process with an informed eye.
“I’ve heard several comments about our budget. On one hand, people said we are spending too much money. But every year, our revenue exceeds our expenditures. I would urge the council to be involved more and to understand the budget more. And I would let all the citizens know more about the budget. I would give them reliable information. We’ll get feedback and come back and discuss what we should do individually. I’m happy to get suggestions from anybody.”
MAINTAINING NEIGHBORHOODS
Yung notes that many people discern a difference when they drive from other communities into San Marino, and he doesn’t want that to change. He says he feels strongly about maintenance — streets that are clean, sidewalks and streets kept in good repair, fresh striping, trees trimmed, etc. He discussed what has been a hot-button issue in recent years, and particularly during the City Council campaign this fall: teardowns of existing homes to make way for out-sized designs that many residents deem out of step with their environs.
Yung: “Lately, I believe there were more people coming into San Marino, and as owners and buyers, a lot of them came from different cultures. It is difficult to tell them, ‘No, you cannot bring your culture into our community.’
“It’s natural when you buy a house, you want to do something with it. In the past, we’ve been very user-friendly, kind of live-and-let-live. We’ve built many houses in last 30 years, and not too many people complained. If you look back, there were a couple that weren’t quite what we would consider good architecture for San Marino. But if you look at the number of buildings built and the number of buildings that were not compatible, the number is small.
“In some circles, there is a particular worry. And the council is the end of the bucket line. We’re responsible to the citizens. …
“When I was on the Design Review Committee, every time, without exceptions, we had to deal with property rights, owner rights and community rights. We had to make some sort of compromise.”
STAFF RESPONSIVENESS
Yung: “Enforcing our rules does not mean that our city employees and planning staff would not serve with a smile. Our staff provides courteous service. We will always try to help and be user-friendly, and that will continue to be my policy.”
STONEMAN/SM CENTER
San Marino is on the horns of a dilemma with Stoneman School, which is desperately in need of upgrades. After learning that it would cost more to renovate the place than tear it down and build new, the City Council moved in that direction, asking for help from the community as to what it would like to see in a new recreation hub. But that stalled as citizens objected to the demolition. New Councilman Steve Talt, for one, believes San Marino should assess its needs and consider all of its facilities before doing anything. The new mayor rolled the San Marino Center into the discussion, suggesting a refurbishment.
Yung: “My idea was, if we can afford it, we should have a new building that is similar [to the Crowell Public Library], connecting with the library, so it looks like a complex. We cannot afford a Taj Mahal, but at least something that looks like our new age. The library is beautiful, but it’s not extravagant.
“[With Stoneman], we’re faced with legal changes on whether it’s ADA-compliant. Our attorney has told us that if something happened and a disabled person comes and wants to use a bathroom, we are liable. …
“So what do we have left to do? I think the building needs a coat of paint. And it needs ADA approvals. So let’s start from the basics, these two things. … I think to let that building just keep on decaying is not right. It’s not right for San Marino and it’s illegal to do that. So we will try to find the smallest budget we can afford to upgrade it to a standard that most of us can accept.”
And the San Marino Center?
Yung: “If we can afford it, we can do both. If we can’t afford it, we should do at least one. These things go very slowly. But we need to start. …
“Not everybody wants to do the same thing, so I think the council has the responsibility of providing the proper leadership, not waiting so much. We know what we want to do, so let’s go ahead and do it, and not be influenced by one or two people.”

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