YEAR IN REVIEW
For better or for worse, numerous developments throughout 2019 have left or will leave a lasting impact on the community of San Marino.
These impacts may be somber — as with The Outlook’s choice for biggest story. They may complement San Marino tradition. They might have unresolved questions — some of the stories have yet to reach a conclusion.
For the last issue of 2019, The Outlook has compiled a list of events that appear most likely to affect the future of the small and proud suburb or remain in the memories of its residents.
1 PEDESTRIAN KILLED IN JULY 4 TRAGEDY
The normally easygoing Fourth of July observance in San Marino was marred this year by the death of a jogger in a crash that prosecutors said was caused by two teenagers racing their cars down Huntington Drive.
There seems to have been little movement, at least publicly, in the criminal case against the two juveniles, each of whom was charged with vehicular manslaughter for the July 4 tragedy. The victim, Gabriel Crispo, was jogging along the center median on Huntington Drive near Kenilworth Avenue when he was fatally struck by one of the vehicles. The collision also killed Crispo’s dog, Nino.
Around 100 people assembled a memorial to Crispo, who lived in San Gabriel and was an adjunct Pasadena City College instructor, at the site of the collision, leaving flowers and photos and holding a candlelight vigil. San Marino police arrested the two boys alleged to have been racing. Although their age precludes them from being identified, police did add they were not San Marino residents.
The incident resulted in a sharp rebuke from residents and public officials, who have long bemoaned excessive speeds and reckless driving along Huntington Drive, and has fueled continuing discussion on how to slow vehicles down as they cruise through the quiet community.
2 Former School Board Candidate
Charged in Alleged Hostage Situation
Hearings continue to be delayed for John Gabriel, a former San Marino resident and one-time candidate for school board who police said barged into his estranged wife’s home one September night armed with a handgun and held several family members hostage for hours.
The police response, which included a SWAT team, kept neighboring residents along Sherwood Road awake through most of the night as officers worked to coax Gabriel out of the home and extract the family members, who included two children. Although Gabriel did eventually leave the home, officers said they used a nonlethal weapon and a K-9 dog to detain him after he allegedly would not fully cooperate.
Police activity continued the next day after officers said they discovered a trove of narcotics and other illegal drugs in his vehicle in the driveway. Relatedly, Gabriel was at the time on bail for an arrest the week before by the Los Angeles Police Department on drug possession allegations following a traffic stop. He remains in custody.
3 Metro-Funded Traffic Proposals
Become Divisive Local Issue
The City Council this year settled on exploring the merits of two proposals to modify portions of Huntington Drive this year, with the resultant projects to be funded by L.A. Metro.
Getting to the decision, however, proved to be a journey fraught with debate and disagreements. As the Public Safety Commission and then the council discussed the topic, residents fearing how the projects could change the makeup of San Marino began to pack those meetings. The idea was, in lieu of building the tunnel underneath South Pasadena to link the 210 and 10 freeways, Metro would dole out the taxpayer-generated millions to local cities to use toward traffic projects designed to improve capacity and flow.
Many residents did not like the idea of having more vehicles pass through San Marino. Some formed a group to lobby the council to outright reject the proposals, at one point buying newspaper ads advocating so. Others, during various town halls and workshops, gave their suggestions and ideas for alternatives.
Ultimately, in a series of piecemeal votes, a divided council elected to keep two for now — an earmark for modifying Huntington’s intersection with Atlantic Boulevard, and another to improve street parking near all of the local schools — while rejecting the other three.
4 School Board Calls Bond Election for $200M
After kicking around the idea for a couple of years at least — and now, importantly, armed with a thorough assessment by a committee — the San Marino Unified School District Board of Education called an election for March to ask voters whether the district should borrow up to $200 million in bonds to fund school site additions, improvements and repairs.
The item has generated a mixed response at recent board meetings, with some audience members welcoming the initiative as a way to finally address deferred maintenance and outdated facilities and others decrying the bulk of projects as wasteful bells and whistles amid what they see as local schools’ declining academic strength. The district collected input from residents through a variety of meetings and surveys and also considered recommendations from a Facilities Advisory Committee it convened this year to analyze the issue.
If the issue is approved, residents would simply continue paying the same bond obligation they’ve been paying since the 1996 and 2000 bond issues — $60 per $100,000 of assessed property value.
5 Jeff Wilson Hired as Superintendent
In time for the 2019-20 school year, the school board hired Jeff Wilson as the district’s new superintendent in the spring.
A SoCal native, Wilson joined SMUSD by way of Arcadia Unified School District, where he had been a school principal and was more recently an assistant superintendent with the district. He emerged as the choice candidate from 44 applicants. Since beginning, Wilson has dived into the variety of issues facing the district, including funding shortfalls and how to address deferred facility maintenance.
6 Mike Hobbie Retires From SMHS
San Marino High School football coach and physical education teacher Mike Hobbie announced his retirement in January and stepped down from his coaching duties.
Hobbie, who also coached baseball in 2018 and 2019, was hired as head football coach in 2011 and quickly turned the program around. In eight seasons, he guided the Titans to an overall record of 75-25-1, including a 31-7 mark in Rio Hondo League play.
He cemented himself as one of the all-time greatest coaches in school history by guiding San Marino to its best season in 2015. The Titans went 15-1 and won their first CIF Southern Section title since 1988 and reached the CIF State Small Schools Division championship.
It took San Marino nearly three months to find the successor to Hobbie. Justin Mesa arrived May 1 from the University of Wyoming to coach football and teach physical education. After a 0-4 start to the season, Mesa guided the Titans to three victories in the Rio Hondo League and clinched a playoff berth.
7 Huntington Library Turns 100
The Huntington Library kicked off its centennial celebration in August, on the 100th anniversary of Henry and Arabella Huntington formally signing the paperwork to convert their vast estate into the cultural institution it is today.
Curators worked to prepare a variety of special events and exhibits commemorating the landmark and illustrating their visions for the future. The institution will in a few days showcase itself in the Rose Parade for the first time in 50 years. President Karen Lawrence, hired last year, also announced a slight name change — turning Art Collections into Art Museum.
8 SMHS Undergoes Precautionary
Lockdown After FBI Tip
San Marino High School was locked down before classes started one March morning while local investigators looked into an apparent threat made by a student that was ultimately reported to the FBI.
The reported threat, which was made via text message from one student to a group chat, eventually proved to be something of a joke that got out of hand. Nevertheless, investigators were compelled to make sure nothing came of it.
9 Long-awaited HMS Gym Facility Opens
The Barth Athletics Complex was completed and opened in time for the school year, giving Huntington Middle School students a modern gym facility large enough to host the entire student body for assemblies for the first time in, well, ever.
Funded through district funds, local donors and borrowed dollars, the facility project began in 2017 with the demolition of the old gym building. The building is so named for the initial donation by Andy and Avery Barth to kick-start the project.
10 Legendary Former SMHS Coach Dies
San Marino High School lost one of its greatest figures when former teacher and legendary tennis coach Maureen Bryant died of cancer on Jan. 8.
Bryant began teaching at SMHS in 1971 and went on to become a beloved school figure during her 39-year tenure. Bryant made a name for herself as a tennis coach and went on to become one of the greatest in the history of the school. She guided the Titans to 14 CIF Southern Section tennis championships.
11 Voters Stick With City Hall Continuity
Two city councilmen were easily re-elected and a parcel tax renewed in November.
Dr. Steven Huang and Steve Talt will serve their second terms on the City Council, maintaining office through 2024. No resident filed to directly challenge them on the ballot this year, although one local man, Andrew Ko, later qualified as a write-in candidate. A parcel tax that generates around $3.4 million every year to help fund the police and fire departments also was renewed by voters.
12 Storied Toy and Book Shoppe Sticks Around
Popular Huntington Drive business San Marino Toy and Book Shoppe was slated to go out of business when its founder decided to retire — that is until local couple Andy and Kelley Carpiac decided to step in. The pair purchased the store and after a brief reorganization held a grand re-opening this year. More recently, Kelley Carpiac joined the city’s Economic Development Team to help figure out how to attract more mom-and-pop stores in town.
13 Badminton Takes CIF Championship
The San Marino High School varsity badminton team made history in the spring when it defeated Long Beach Poly, 14-7, at Arcadia High School to claim the program’s first CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship. The Titans finished second in the Almont League and went on an impressive postseason run. The team played without its head coach because Kevin Yu had to go on personal leave, but San Marino prevailed with victories over Redlands East Valley and Rowland High, which boasted the top-ranked player in the nation, and Loma Linda.
14 City Conducts Historical Resource Survey
At long last, the city is paying a local firm to conduct an assessment of San Marino’s historical resources, which will help give residents the teeth they need to designate their properties as historic to the city and, therefore, protected from demolition. Historic preservation is an issue that helped propel virtually all of the current City Council members to their seats.
15 Chinese Club Turns 40
One of the city’s most visible civic organizations, the Chinese Club of San Marino, has been around for 40 years as of this year. The group has remodeled its facilities and hopes to expand its services and outreach to the city’s significant Chinese and Taiwanese population.
16 SMUSD Parcel Tax Renewed
School district voters keen on maintaining smaller class sizes elected this year to renew one of the SMUSD’s two parcel taxes, the revenues of which help pay for more than a dozen teachers and support staff to the tune of $1.4 million annually.
17 SMUSD Top Dog for Two Decades
For the 20th straight year, SMUSD has reigned supreme in the state’s metrics for evaluating academic performance among public school districts.
18 Longtime Assistant Superintendent Retires
Julie Boucher, who has been the assistant superintendent of business services with SMUSD since 1998, announced in October she will retire at the end of December. Having overseen the bulk of the district’s last major bond-funded projects, she said it was time to hand off the baton to her successor as district began mulling a new bond.
19 Motor Classic to Continue
Appreciating the success of the popular event and the charitable causes it helps fund, the City Council renewed the agreement with local resident Aaron Weiss to continue hosting the San Marino Motor Classic in Lacy Park.