Rec Commission Suggests $2.3M for Stoneman

Should the city spend $2.28 million to upgrade crumbling Stoneman School, creating accommodation for the disabled and ensuring that children in recreation programs don’t swelter in summer and shiver in winter?
The Recreation Commission strongly feels that it should, and voted unanimously Monday night to recommend that the City Council appropriate the money and send the project out to bid.
“I think it’s embarrassing for the city to have that facility,” said Stephanie Perry, who chairs the commission. “… I really feel we need to go in this direction and upgrade it and make it look decent, and able for more kids and classes to be held there.”
OK, that’s the easy part. Much less certain is what the City Council will do with that suggestion. After adding two new members in an election last fall, it took a much more frugal approach to budget deliberations during the first half of this year, quibbling with and ultimately denying, for example, the upgrade of an administrative assistant position to the city manager, which would have cost $24,281 annually.
Agreeing to cut this check would be a major step for this council, especially in light of the philosophical tug-of-war that has raged over the Stoneman property and other city facilities in general — including the tired-looking San Marino Center, where the Recreation Commission held its meeting.
Stoneman, a former elementary school that the city bought from the San Marino Unified School District for $6 million in 2012, is the headquarters of the Recreation Department and the site of preschool, day-care and many other programs. But portions of it date to the 1920s, and it is desperately in need of upgrades.
In an agenda report, Recreation Manager Rosa Pinuelas noted that the Community Care Licensing Division of Los Angeles County ruled four years ago that Stoneman’s facilities were insufficient for the city to achieve full-care licensing there. Interim City Manager Cindy Collins added that the resultant cutback in services is costing the city between $250,000 and $300,000 in revenues annually.
The proposed improvements include heating and air conditioning, plumbing, fire sprinklers and environmental material abatement. But the big-ticket item is compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. That would require an expenditure of $1.3 million, and would include ramps, handrails and restroom conversions. Some of the cost estimates are eye-popping: door operating hardware (which is to say handles), $1,030 per door for 33 doors, or $33,990 in all; three high-low drinking fountains, $26,250; adjusting the height of 20 switches, outlets and controls, $39,920.
Two members of the commission argued that the improvements — including heating, air and fire sprinklers — would address health and safety issues. “My thinking is, let’s keep [the children] safe,” said Hal Suetsugu. “My kids went through it. I wouldn’t care for other kids to go through it. Let’s have a healthy, safe place for them.”
Louise Cook agreed, saying it’s “unconscionable to expect staff and children to be in that environment.”
But a former member of the City Council, Eugene Sun, remarked during public comment, “I hope you’re looking at the option of doing nothing,” and suggested that programs simply be relocated if some of the Stoneman rooms are not suitable for them.
City Council members have expressed reluctance in the past to pouring money into patching up Stoneman, especially until a city-wide facility needs assessment can be conducted. They’ll confront the issue anew Sept. 30 when the Recreation Commission’s recommendation lands in their laps.

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