Council Discusses Gift Card Program to Help Local Businesses

Local residents take in some warm summer weather on Wednesday to support local business Soak Nail Bar, which has moved operations outside to observe safety measures put in place by Gov. Gavin Newsom to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council is taking action in assisting businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing a gift card program that would encourage the public to spend locally.
Lisa Brancheau, senior management analyst, presented the idea in a virtual meeting on Tuesday, and the council unanimously approved a motion to allow City Manager Mark Alexander to run a pilot program that will cost up to $15,000. Mayor Mike Davitt and Councilwoman Terry Walker abstained from the conversation and vote because of their stakes in local businesses.
The program will allow people to purchase gift cards at a discounted rate and use them at participating businesses. Staff considered options that included a collaboration with Citizens Business Bank in which it would sell gift cards that function as a debit card. The idea of selling them through City Hall was also explored.
However, the discussion between Mayor Pro Tem Jonathan Curtis and members Keith Eich and Richard Gunter favored a digital approach because it would present fewer challenges. Brancheau said other cities have successfully implemented similar programs through Giftbar and Yiftee, and the online platforms make it easier to conduct research and track data. The city would use the agreed-upon $15,000 to pay for any fees incurred on merchants.

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Local Doctor Helps Kaiser Medical School Shape New Healers

Photo courtesy Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine
Dr. Mark Schuster, shown speaking with students, is the founding dean and CEO of the new Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine, which recently opened its doors.

Though the coronavirus pandemic has largely crippled in-person educational systems across the state, the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine opened its doors recently for the first time in Pasadena, immersing its inaugural class of 50 students in a hybrid learning model.
A La Cañada Flintridge resident, Dr. Mark Schuster, is leading the charge at the highly anticipated school, which is offering free tuition for all four years of instruction to its first five classes. The school had to quickly — and creatively — revamp operations in the final steps to opening amid COVID-19.
“We will have a hybrid model of in-person learning and virtual platforms; we looked at every component of the curriculum and decided what made the most sense for that specific topic,” said Schuster, the school’s founding dean and CEO. “We considered the full range of possibilities, and we are prepared to go fully virtual if we need to, but for now we are able to make it work with the hybrid model, and we think that’s going well.”
The school is also in the unusual position of opening its state-of-the-art, 80,000-square-foot, four-story building to just 50 students in its first year, though it will eventually house 200-plus. That left the administration with endless possibilities of creating small-group classes, Schuster noted.

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COVID-19 Report Backlog Darkens Promising County Trend

Los Angeles County public health officials are “cautiously optimistic” that the spread of COVID-19 is slowing, though they also indicated that delays in reporting are contributing to an underestimated count.
Because of the technology issues causing the delays, La Cañada Flintridge’s case count of 129, reported on Wednesday, was potentially an undercount. There were also six deaths reported.
According to the number of confirmed cases that have been reported, new LCF infections have been keeping fairly steady for some time; the case total was reported at 118 through the end of July 27, while 107 cases were reported through July 20. The largest weekly increase in July was registered from July 13 to July 20, at 14 new cases within the week.
“I, like so many, do want this to come to some type of resolve,” Mayor Mike Davitt said in an email. “We continue to work with our county and state leaders to find ways to allow business and field [usage] to reopen in a safe and prudent manner.”
Davitt also said that LCF’s leaders are considering options for programs that “could be helpful to our business in town as well as our residents.”

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Community Center Revamps Programs to Safely Offer Services

By Haley Sawyer
The Outlook

Photo courtesy Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge
Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge Executive Director Ethan Stern has helped implement coronavirus safety measures to continue providing services.

Service-oriented nonprofit organizations are known for their high-energy schedules, but leading one like the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge during a global pandemic has proved to be an adventure of its own for recently named Executive Director Ethan Stern.
Soon after beginning his duties in March, Stern was required — under a statewide directive from Gov. Gavin Newsom — to close the Community Center’s doors due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
He sent an email to nearly 6,000 people who had been enrolled at the center, explaining the closure and offering refunds of payments for classes.
“We were issuing so many refunds,” Stern said. “When you’re a director and you’re watching that revenue go back out there, it’s scary. It’s disheartening. You know that your programs give so much to the community and people value them.”
The center also offered the option of donating program tuition instead of receiving a refund. Happily, he said, the CCLCF ended up receiving the same amount of money in donations as it refunded.

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Virtual Community Backyard BBQ to Celebrate Miss LCF, Royal Court

Photo courtesy La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce
Miss La Cañada Flintridge and her court include (from left) Audrey Melillo, Grace Fontes, Ally Rayer, Ellaney Matarese and Reese Ramseyer.

The La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce will hold a Virtual Community Backyard BBQ on Thursday evening, Aug. 13, to recognize, honor and raise money for the 2020 Miss LCF and Royal Court scholarship. The event begins at 6:30 p.m.
The Royal Court comprises five high school students who are selected from the community each year to serve as official representatives of the city of La Cañada Flintridge and the Chamber of Commerce. Each year those selected, through a vigorous interview process, participate in publicity photos, promotional events, and assist in fundraising activities throughout the year. Their fundraising efforts support the Royal Court scholarship fund. The Royal Court also fully participates at various civic functions, including ribbon-cutting ceremonies, chamber mixers, Fiesta Days Memorial Day Weekend celebrations, and miscellaneous chamber-sponsored events.

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Portantino’s Workforce Housing Bill Clears Assembly Housing Committee

State Sen. Anthony Portantino
State Sen. Anthony Portantino

State Sen. Anthony Portantino’s SB 1299 passed the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee last week with bipartisan support. The bill previously passed the Senate unanimously.
Portantino has long supported incentive-based legislation and SB 1299 is consistent with that approach, according to a spokesman. The Los Angeles County Business Federation suggested the bill idea to the senator earlier in the year to help address L.A. County’s housing shortage.
According to a Portantino spokesman, SB 1299 will create a program for cities to convert abandoned big-box retail sites into affordable and workforce housing. Under Portantino’s bill, local governments will be able to use these incentives to replace sales tax revenues previously generated from big-box retail stores.
Specifically, SB 1299 will enable local cities to receive from HCD the average of the annual amount of sales tax revenue generated by that site for the last seven years if the site has been converted and occupied with new housing. The city would receive that average amount for a total of seven years.

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Local Students Complete Virtual History Internship at Lanterman House

Some local high school students have become the first graduates of the Lanterman Historical Museum Foundation’s Virtual History Internship Program, which trained interns to conduct and record oral history interviews with La Cañada Flintridge residents.
The recorded interviews will be permanently archived in the Lanterman House archives, according to Laura Verlaque, executive director of the foundation.
The program, which was conducted remotely, was open to students in grades 9-12 interested in preserving local history. Interns completed training in research methods, interview techniques, how to process and preserve the interview, and legal and ethical guidelines. They then each chose a member of the community to interview and used a free recording app on their cellphone to record the conversation.
Interviewees came from a wide range of backgrounds and discussed diverse local topics, including education and schools, growing up in LCF, local history and businesses, diversity, politics and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Methodist Service Focuses on the Helpers

At 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 9, at La Cañada United Methodist Church, the Rev. Karin Ellis concludes her online worship series “A Compassionate Neighborhood: Spiritual Lessons From Mister Rogers” with the topic “Look for the Helpers.”
Using Hebrews 4:14-16, Ellis will talk about the grace God gives us to help one another, as well as Mister Rogers’ lesson to look for the helpers in our community when life becomes challenging. Several members of LCUMC’s congregation who are essential workers will talk about what it means for them to be helpers in our community.
LCUMC’s service can be watched at 10:30 a.m. Sunday or later via the church’s webpage at and its Facebook page, listed under La Cañada United Methodist Church. Sermons dating to March can also be found under Media on LCUMC’s webpage, and prayers are posted on the Facebook page every day.
For information, phone the church office at (818) 790-3605 or visit the website.

Lutheran Church Streams Good News

Couch Church continues for the foreseeable future at Lutheran Church in the Foothills.
Worship services stream on the church’s Facebook page and YouTube Channel at 10 a.m. on Sundays, then videos are available on LCIF’s website at, Facebook page at and YouTube Channel.
This Sunday, Aug. 9, the Rev. Scott Peterson will lead the service with a sermon called “Wet Feet.”
The church office is located at 1700 Foothill Blvd. in La Cañada Flintridge and is open from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday. Contact the office at or (818) 790-1951 for information or to offer or request help.

LCF Native Is Executive Chef at New Restaurant

Chef Gary Baca.

Gary Baca, a La Cañada Flintridge native, was recently named executive chef of Eldr+Rime, a new Milwaukee restaurant that offers Nordic-inspired fare and opens this month.
Baca graduated from St. Francis High School in LCF and later attended Santa Barbara City College and UC Berkeley.
With more than 20 years of culinary experience, Baca has worked as executive chef and partner at Lettuce Entertain You and Michael Jordan’s Steak House. Eldr+Rime, which translates to “fire and ice,” will present a seasonally focused menu and inspiration from northern European taste. The menu will include staples like steaks, fresh fish, hearty grains and chilled and composed seafood from the raw bar.
Concord Hospitality Enterprises and HKS Holdings, in collaboration with the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, has announced the restaurant will have a spacious and socially distanced full dining room, full-service bar, bar with seating in front of the open kitchen, two private dining rooms and an outdoor patio, which together will encompass 6,800 square feet.

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