by Timothy Rutt
The Altadena Town Council rejected Arroyo Pacific Academy’s second bid to put a high school on 183 East Palm St.
The council went along with the Land Use Committee’s recommendation earlier this month to reject a conditional use permit for the high school, which would be an arts-centered satellite campus to the private Arcadia-based school. The council will make that recommendation to the county board of supervisors, which has the final say.
Arroyo Pacific Academy President Philip Clarke said after the meeting that “we’re preparing for the next step in the process, the hearing with the supervisors April 4.”
Town council chair Sandra Thomas held to a strict format Tuesday night: eight minutes for Arroyo Pacific to make its case, ten minutes for opposing viewpoints, and two minutes for the school to rebut.
Clarke said that the school was going to hold no more than 200 students at a time, starting at 80 the first year and ramping up to 200 by the third year. There would be a maximum of 17 teachers and administrators and three staff members on campus.
Arroyo Pacific presented figures showing that the majority of letters about the school supported it. However, the neighborhood group that would be affected by the school disputed Arroyo Pacific’s figures.
Coleen Sterritt of the Palm Street Area Residents' Association (PSARA) called Arroyo Pacific’s number “misleading.” She and PSARA member Nancy Rothwell viewed letters to county regional planning in the case file and found 455 letters in opposition and 281 supporting.
Of the opposition letters, 344 were from Altadena and 250 from a 500 ft. radius around the school, Sterritt said.
Sterritt said that of 22 homes adjacent to the property, 19 opposed having a school.
Mark Goldschmidt, chairman of the Land Use Committee, said that almost everyone liked the idea of the school, but not at the specific location, which is on a narrow street, far from major arterials.
The council was not unified on opposition to the school. Councilman Jamie Bissner noted that Altadena was noted for residents the likes of Glen (aka Rodney) King, Symbionese Liberation Army member Emily (Harris) Montague, and the North Hollywood bank robbers. “I’d like Altadena to be noted a little more like Pasadena,” Bissner, said, which was noted for its educational institutions such as Caltech, Fuller Seminary, and the Arts Center College of Design.
Councilman Allan Wasserman said that he “did a lot of due diligence on this,” and listened to people on both sides of the issue. “I think education trumps the opposition in my particular perception,” Wasserman said. He didn’t think that the issues of noise or traffic would end up being a problem, he said. “Despite concerns and the fears, I think it could be a very positive outcome for the entire community.”
Councilman Gino Sund, on the other hand, said that the existing property is an anomaly: the council decades before approved putting an institutional building complex in a residential neighborhood (it was previously a home and school for small children who had been removed from their families). “[The council] never envisioned this property 20 years later becoming a high school.”
The council voted 11-3 to deny the conditional use permit recommendation, with Bissner, Wasserman, and councilman Doug Colliflower voting in favor.
ADDENDUM: Thanks to reader David for pointing out that the original tenant, Bienvenidos Children's Center, didn't have an educational function that rose to the level of being a "school" -- it was largely a care center for children.