Palm Crest Elementary School is one step closer to undertaking its modernization project after the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board approved an environmental study by a consulting firm during a virtual meeting on Tuesday.
In accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, the district reviewed the report on the environmental impact of the development and hired the consultant, UltraSystems Environmental, to address the problems it cited. The firm found potential impacts for the area in aesthetics, biological resources, cultural resources, geology and soils, hazards and hazardous materials, noise and transportation and proposed mitigations that would make such impacts “less than significant,” according to senior project manager Margaret Partridge.
The Palm Crest revamp calls for construction of a 23,184-square-foot building, renovations of 18 existing classrooms, removal of trees to construct a new parking lot, alterations to the existing drop-off area and west parking lot, improved landscaping areas and pedestrian walkways, and installation of temporary portable classrooms used during construction.
The demolition of the Viewpoint structure was the biggest point of contention between the public and board members. It served as a retreat home for John G. Bullock, founder of Bullock’s department store, and his family in 1925. The district used the building as its offices prior to moving to the location on Cornishon Avenue.
The firm acknowledged that the former Bullock residence had historical value but its level of significance “does not rise to the level required by CEQA in terms of being a significant historical resource to be preserved,” according to Bai Tang of UltraSystems.
“Our conclusion is that John Bullock certainly was important in Southern California history but his importance is more that of a local celebrity than a person with a long-lasting and far-reaching impact in the long-term development of Southern California history,” said Tang, who added that the former Bullock’s store and residence in Los Angeles were considered more historic. “The guidelines for the California Register of Historical Resources require property to not only just be marginally associated with the person but also illustrate important contributions this person made to history.”
However, the district is making an effort to preserve parts of Viewpoint. LCUSD Associate Superintendent Mark Evans said the fireplace designed by Ernest A. Batchelder and entrance gates will be disassembled and stored safely until the district figures out “where it goes and where it lands as a home.”
SINNETTE RECEIVES KUDOS
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette was lauded by the board for her work and accomplishments over the last school year.
Sinnette highlighted successes in the buildup to the passage of Measure LCF, various modernization projects, organizational and talent development and the districtwide emotional learning and wellness initiative.
“You really went above and beyond in many areas, specifically around how you handled COVID,” board President Joe Radabaugh said.
A public comment was submitted during that portion of the meeting, asking Sinnette about this year’s goal in regard to the diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives recommended by consultant Christina Hale-Elliott, whose one-year contract with the district recently came to an end. Hale-Elliott presented a detailed report of her findings to the board in August and the LCUSD decided to do more community outreach.
“One of the bullet points in this goal is for me to assess and identify all the outside resources that are required to make this goal for this year successful and obviously we will be looking to all of the resources that we’ve adopted this past year,” Sinnette said. “I think we first have to do community outreach. I’ve been in contact with Christina Hale-Elliott and have promised to get back to her. I know that this is a lengthy process and I appreciate her professionalism and patience as we deal with our internal norming and identifying the work for this goal but it is one of the outcomes of my goal to secure consultants and resources. And the three that come immediately to mind are our work with Christina Hale-Elliott, our work with the Anti-Defamation League and our work with the International Foundation for Social Emotional Learning.”
Sinnette is expected at the next board meeting to present her goals for the 2020-21 school year, according to Radabaugh.
WORRIES ABOUT FENCES
Two community members expressed concern Tuesday over the new fences at La Cañada High School.
The fences currently under construction have a horizontal bar at the top that raise some safety concerns.
David Haxton submitted a public comment expressing his feeling that the fence is “easy to climb” and called the project a “disaster,” adding that he felt the fences look “like a do-it-yourself project from Home Depot.”
Radabaugh assured stakeholders that he will speak with Evans to get an update on all projects, including the construction of fences at the high school.