Amid a notable lack of fanfare due to social distancing, Michael Davitt was chosen unanimously as mayor of La Cañada Flintridge at a virtual City Council meeting on Tuesday, which also featured the installation of new members Keith Eich, Rick Gunter and incumbent Terry Walker.
The meeting, which typically would have celebrated the council re-organization after an election, with special recognition to new members and those leaving office — which this term includes Gregory Brown and Leonard Pieroni — was held quickly and from the privacy of separate locations.
Walker said she hopes the city can plan an event to recognize the achievements of all its new and outgoing members in the near future, when pandemic measures have faded.
“I’ve very sad … that this is the way you have to end and begin your term on City Hall,” she noted, adding that Pieroni, Brown, Eich and Gunter all deserved better than a virtual meeting with no friends or family.
Meanwhile, Davitt, who will be serving as mayor for his third term, spoke after the meeting about his goals for this coming term and listed public safety and the health and safety of residents as priorities.
“I would say that public safety remains an ongoing priority and the pending installation of the (Flock) camera system in town should be a good step in the right direction,” Davitt said after the meeting. “The good news out of all of this ‘unprecedented times’ is that crime is down in LCF and countywide.”
He added that “we are clearly living in the moment” and a first priority has to be the health and safety of residents during this time of the coronavirus.
Pieroni, the outgoing mayor, finished fourth in the race for three seats after a health scare resulted in him suspending his campaign.
In a statement read during the meeting, Pieroni said “I’d like to thank the community for the kind words and prayers during my recovery from stroke. They have been, and still are, inspirations for me.”
Davitt did not run for his seat and instead replaced the outgoing Brown, who stepped down with two years remaining on his term. Because Davitt had no challengers for that position, he was appointed by the council to fill the seat when Brown exits. That move saved the city approximately $5,000 in election-related costs, according to a city agenda report.
Other council members also thanked Pieroni and Brown for their time on the City Council.
Brown had served on the City Council for nearly 11 years, including his most recent appointment as mayor in May 2017 after the unexpected death of longtime councilman and six-time mayor David Spence. Brown declined to run again for multiple reasons, including spending more time with his family, counseling individuals as part of his church responsibilities and more flexibility in his schedule.
“I did not prepare remarks,” said Brown, adding he knew an event honoring him and Pieroni would come later. “You’ve already heard too much from me over the years.”
He congratulated Eich, Gunter, Walker and Davitt.
“Keep up the good work going forward,” he said. “We’ll certainly be around town and involved in a lot of things going on.”
Davitt emphasized the city government needs to support citizens and the local business community during this challenging time.
“This is an opportunity to support ‘local’ when you can,” Davitt said. “Our hope is that this crisis will end in the near future and we can begin to move back to a more normal course of action. As when we can move forward, we want to continue to prioritize our sound wall projects, increased road resurfacing improvements, support our nonprofit community groups and improve upon our systems to enhance City Hall services to our residents and businesses.”
LOCAL COVID-19 CASES GROW
As of Wednesday, the city of LCF had 16 cases confirmed COVID-19, according to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health.
“As the medical experts had predicted, the number of cases county-wide will continue to grow, as there is an increase in testing,” Davitt said. “Thus, the increase in cases in La Cañada appears to be following that trend. It is clearly not a sign to panic. What is important is that all residents follow the orders and instructions as outlined by the (Los Angeles) County Health Department. Being prudent will help you and all of us in LCF.”
Separately, Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Department Sgt. John Gilbert told The Outlook on Wednesday there had been no citations or arrests for people who are not following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “Shelter in Place” order announced last month, which gave directives on social distancing to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“We hope to keep it that way,” said Gilbert, who added that most people have complied, while others did after being given a warning.
SOUND WALL UPDATE
At the council meeting Tuesday, City Public Works Director Patrick DeChellis updated members on different phases of the 210 Freeway sound wall construction, which is scheduled to begin in late 2021 and completed in early 2023.
The much-discussed third phase, approved in December 2018, involves the south side of the 210 and includes a continuation of the project’s second phase from Alta Canyada Road to the bridge under Foothill Boulevard at Memorial Park; the south side of the freeway from west of Vineta Avenue to the eastbound on-ramp east of Georgian Road; and the north side of the 210 from the intersection of Baptiste Way and Vineta to the Crown Avenue/Foothill westbound exit.
DeChellis said a kick-off meeting via teleconferencing was held on April 2 with all the public agencies involved in the sound walls.
For the second sound-wall phase, DeChellis said city Public Works continues working with Caltrans and Southern California Edison regarding the relocation of a power pole in a Caltrans right of way affected by construction of the wall. He said that when that issue is resolved, the city could receive Caltrans approval to advertise for a bid for wall construction in the summer and that building could begin in the fall and finish by 2021.
A fourth phase will include construction on the north side of the 210 from Waltonia Drive to Glenhaven Drive; the north side of the freeway from La Granada Way to Vista Place; the 210 from La Canada Boulevard to Angeles Crest Highway; and the north side of the freeway from Commonwealth Avenue to Oakwood Avenue.
DeChellis added that city officials had to prepare an application through the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for Metro to submit to the California Transportation Committee for additional funds to carry out the project. About $11 million is budgeted for the project using state budget funds and state Senate Bill 1 Local Partnership Program funds that state Sen. Anthony Portantino helped to arrange.
The City Council voted to approve the additional $61, 800 in funds to pay for a consultant to prepare the application in the consent calendar.