La Cañada Flintridge City Council candidate Rick Gunter takes seriously an uptick in local residential burglaries.
A public safety report by Capt. Todd Deeds of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station in December showed there had been 91 residential burglaries in LCF from January through November 2019, compared with 51 in the same period the previous year — a 78% increase.
“It’s a big problem,” Gunter, 55, said in a recent interview at the Hill Street Cafe on Foothill Boulevard. “There’s a number of things we need to do as a city. We need to make sure we’re in very close communication with the [local] sheriff’s office. Make sure that they understand our needs and are serving our city the way they need to. We need to have a lot of outreach to the residents, because there’s a number of things we all need to do all the time looking out for each other.”
Gunter said there are simple ways to educate the public to do that and to spot something unusual or odd.
“It’s really about vigilance,” he said.
Gunter, who spent eight years on the city’s Planning Commission, is one of four people running for council, which will have three seats open. His opponents in the March 3 election are incumbents Leonard Pieroni and Terry Walker and Public Works and Traffic Commission chair Keith Eich.
Gunter, who graduated from La Cañada High School in 1982, is the senior project manager of the SoFi Stadium, the Los Angeles Rams’ and Chargers’ future home, for HKS Architects, where he is a principal.
“I am the [firm’s] lead architect on professional and collegiate sports facilities in Southern California,” Gunter said. “I lead teams of architects, engineers and designers to create stadiums, ballparks and arenas.”
Gunter graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. He is married, has two children and currently serves as a lector and master of ceremonies at St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church. Gunter’s children are grown; one lives in San Francisco since graduating from UC Santa Barbara, and the other is expected to graduate from Cal Poly SLO in March.
Despite his thoughts on crime, Gunter doesn’t feel that there’s one big issue he’s running on.
“Really, the priority is sort of protecting what we have,” Gunter said “One of the things I learned during my eight years on the Planning Commission was it’s my job to represent the residents and the citizens. Often my job was to listen to what everybody thinks is a concern and needs to get handled. Sometimes that’s a small issue. Sometimes that’s a big issue.”
When asked about local traffic, Gunter said it’s a symptom of living in Los Angeles County.
“It’s not particularly better or worse here as a whole,” said Gunter, adding that certain areas in the city are impacted because it is hilly and semirural, with small streets. “Often that’s really more about traffic management and construction activities and less about traffic per se.
“Traffic is changing. In the not too distant future, our kids that are now 10 may never drive for themselves. And that gets back to being prepared and being able to cite the research that goes into being a council member. It’s not what I think. It’s what I’ve learned listening to residents, what I’ve studied.”
The former commission chair said he has a very distinct style in running a meeting.
“Oftentimes people feel like government is like Kabuki theater,” Gunter said. “It’s all formal and weird. … I do much more hands on. I meet all the rules but I have a much more friendly approach.”
He said being on the commission helped him learn to listen attentively and practice patience, because sometimes it would take hours to hear everyone who wanted to speak.
“During my time, particularly as chairman, when I ran a number of really large meetings about big issues like the general plan amendment and the housing element [four to five years ago] … I got feedback from the people that attended,” Gunter said. “Even the ones that it didn’t go their way. They felt that the meeting was fair and open and their concerns were heard and addressed and that they came away with a positive experience that government can work if everyone is paying attention and everyone is sincere and honest and treating each other with respect.”
Gunter doesn’t feel the demands of his job would affect his role as a councilman. He said that in eight years on the commission, he at most missed a handful of meetings.
“The good news is I’m a manager and leader in my business,” Gunter said. “I can come and go as I need to. And my work is in Southern California. My whole team is doing all of the work. I’m not physically doing the stuff day to day. I have a team that I can meet with. … I can make time to talk [with residents].”
He does feel that there are state and regional issues pushing against the city.
“Our job is to be prepared and to address them head on and make sure we don’t let someone in Sacramento change what’s great about here,” Gunter said. “It’s a bunch of things that have to be carefully monitored and carefully taken care of by someone who’s willing to step up to the plate and do the job.”
In responding to concerns raised by LCF Chamber of Commerce leader Pat Anderson at a recent Planning Commission meeting about the exit of retail businesses from the city, Gunter said he agrees that such losses are a significant problem.
“It’s super important we promote local businesses, because part of having a thriving town is having a thriving downtown,” Gunter said. “What we have to be really careful about is [ensuring] there is absolutely no red tape” keeping businesses from opening. “We obviously can’t create businesses, but if someone has the passion to bring business in our town we have to do everything in our power to get out of their way.”
When asked for his thoughts about education locally, he said it was key to the community’s identity.
“I’m as committed as you can be to making our schools great and I have huge respect for the very difficult and good work that our school board does,” Gunter said. “It means that when there are areas of collaboration and opportunity that we’re actively involved in it.”
*Today The Outlook continues a weekly series of profiles of the four City Council candidates in the March 3 election. This week’s report, on Rick Gunter, will be followed by articles on Leonard Pieroni and Terry Walker. Keith Eich was profiled on Jan. 9.