San Marino City Hall


Measure E, the parcel tax that raises $4 million annually for schools within the boundaries of the San Marino Unified School District, had fallen behind the pace needed for victory following an initial ballot count that was taken after polls closed on Tuesday evening at 8 p.m.
At The Tribune’s press deadline, Measure E had received 1,850 yes votes (62.82%) with 1,095 votes in opposition, or 37.18%. The parcel tax required two-thirds approval by the more than 10,400 registered voters who live within the boundaries of the school district to pass.
That tally included all votes that were received by day’s end Tuesday either via mail or in-person drop-off since the election began.

San Marino City Hall was fumigated during the Thanksgiving holiday period, while upgrades to local Police Department offices that were begun at the same time will continue for about a month, municipal officials said.
The tarps that are a familiar part of the fight against termites — and, in San Marino’s case, other pests as well — were assembled on Wednesday of last week and came down Saturday morning.

Randy Shulman, vice president for advancement and external relations at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, shares plans for a pilot program for spring weekend offsite parking with the Public Safety Commission at City Hall, Monday, January 20. Photo by Skye Hannah

A pilot project to direct spring weekend parking at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens to an off-site garage along the Metro Gold Line was informationally presented to the San Marino Public Safety Commission during the public comment section at its meeting at City Hall on Monday.

According to The Huntington’s Vice President for Advancement and External Relations Randy Shulman, the first trial run of the program will kick off Feb. 1 and 2 for the Chinese Lunar New Year event, the institution’s busiest weekend of the year.

The Huntington worked with the city of Pasadena to utilize Metro’s 1,200-spot parking lot at Sierra Madre Villa Station for visitor traffic. For the New Year event, there will be 40-seat shuttles running every 15 minutes from 9 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., allowing for early arrivals and late departures (The Huntington is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). There is no cost for parking at the station.

Shuttle riders will also receive a $5 coupon for a discount on Huntington admission (adult, senior or student tickets) or $5 off food purchases in the 1919 Cafe, Red Car Coffee Shop, Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle House, or Rose Garden Tea Room.

If the run is deemed successful, the service would then start every weekend from the middle of March through the middle of June, Shulman told the commission.

The growth in popularity of The Huntington has made parking an increasing issue as more visitors travel a good distance in their personal vehicles to the institution. The program is part of The Huntington’s goal “to help the surrounding neighbors feel some degree of control and relief [and] to make the impacts as minimal as possible,” Shulman said.

Shulman said the 3.5-mile route was selected to spend as little time in San Marino as possible and be the most direct as possible while following the truck and bus route. The route goes north from The Huntington parking lot on Allen Avenue, turns right on East California Boulevard, left on Sierra Madre Boulevard and right on East Foothill Boulevard to the Sierra Madre Villa Station.
“Very little of it is in San Marino so that’s what we could do that was logical but also to follow the route that the trucks already use,” said Shulman.

After the New Year event, 29-seat shuttles powered by natural gas with no loud mechanized sounds are proposed for the other weekends.

The Huntington plans to monitor the buses during the day, take a survey of visitors who utilize it and host a public forum for neighbors around the institution. By June, Shulman said they will know if the program has a “green light” to go for next year.
“When issues arise, we are willing to work and try to remedy anything you hear about from a public safety point,” said Shulman.

Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey (center) shares her focus initiatives for the upcoming year alongside Vice Mayor Ken Ude (right) and Council Member Susan Jakubowski.

With the chambers of City Hall filled to standing room only with residents, friends and family, Council Member Gretchen Shepherd Romey was unanimously voted by council to become San Marino’s next mayor and Council Member Ken Ude was similarly elected to serve as vice mayor Wednesday night.

In addition, Council Member Steve Talt and former Mayor, now Council Member, Dr. Steven Huang, were sworn in by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge and San Marino resident Elizabeth R. Feffer after being reelected to City Council

“I must say it’s a great honor to serve as the next mayor of San Marino,” Shepherd Romey said at the meeting. “I believe in my heart that San Marino is a very unique and special place, whether you were born here, you were raised from childhood here or you came here as an adult, like myself.”

Shepherd Romey delivered thanks to her family, the support of the community, the mentorship of San Marino’s first female mayor, Rary Simmons, and to residents Nancy Hoffman and Marilyn Peck for their advising. She also said she was grateful for an all-female campaign committee that supported her. Shepherd Romey is the fourth female mayor in the city’s 106-year history.

She also noted coming into her role as a woman on the council during an important societal time and she will be looking to encourage more women to become politically active.
“I’m privileged in many ways not the least of which that I entered public service at this important time that society is finally ready to listen to women, so in the words of [Supreme County Justice] Ruth Bader Ginsburg, ‘I am thankful for that,’” said Shepherd Romey. “That gives me an added responsibility to reach out and encourage other women in our community to serve in this capacity or others in public service.”

Shepherd Romey shared that she will work with City Council, residents and city staff toward “preserving and protecting our great community” by focusing on the major issues of public safety, preserving the city’s “beautiful neighborhoods” and city resources, as well as protecting the city’s environment.

For public safety, she said she would look to utilize the speedy survey report, traffic consultant recommendations and city staff recommendations over the next few months in order to address the “increasing number and severity” of accidents in the city, noting a trend of an increase in injuries and those that involve vehicle and pedestrian collisions.
“In making this a focused initiative over this next year, my goal is to have zero traffic fatalities and a decrease in the percentage of injuries and protect our residents and make San Marino a safer place,” said Shepherd Romey.

Preserving the city’s natural environment was another focus. She introduced Sammy Estrada as the city’s appointed and first-ever public forester, who will work to develop a plan and work with staff to educate residents on proper tree care maintenance, tree program and preservation ordinance.

Noting Lacy Park as “a jewel in our city,” Shepherd Romey said she was also committed to making progress on the master plan of the park and was committed to the reconstruction of the Rose Arbor.
“I will monitor its progress and get it rebuilt in a financially sound and expeditious manner as possible,” Shepherd Romey said.

She saluted the council’s work, under former Mayor Stephen Huang’s direction, in the first historic preservation ordinance to preserve the character of the community. The city is currently in phase two or the ordinance, the historic resources survey. The consultant is continuing to research and investigate potential historic resources within the city.
“To ensure that that effort is as complete as possible, I ask that the community members continue to provide feedback and information through Director [Aldo] Cervantes of our Planning and Building Department in order to make that process a success,” said Shepherd Romey.

In conclusion, she said that there is “significant housing legislation that is coming from Sacramento that threatens our traditional understanding and the residential character of our city.” She will be directing staff to monitor the bills and the council will be considering “whether to assert a more definition position to preserve our heritage and the unique character of San Marino.”
“I will work hard and diligently to put San Marino residents first in all things in this next year,” said Shepherd Romey.

In a lighthearted moment, right, former Mayor Dr. Stephen Huang presents a light-up crown to newly elected Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey. Photos by Skye Hannah
San Marino Firefighters helped purchase a new bicycle for San Marino’s famous “Little Paul” Elieff when his was stolen from City Hall last week. PICTURED ABOVE, left to right, are Firefighter Shawn Stewart, Captain Dominic Petta, Firefighter Richard Fixsen, “Little Paul” Elieff, Firefighter Anthony Alvarado, Firefighter Brian Campbell and Firefighter Jeff Tsay.

There are probably no better local organizations to come to the rescue when something goes wrong, and the San Marino Firefighters Association and Rotary Club of San Marino came through once again last week when someone had the audacity to steal a local icon’s bicycle.

“Little Paul” Elieff was making his rounds at City Hall last week and when he returned to his trusty bicycle.

“Gone!” Elieff said recently, when he relayed his plight to this reporter.

Elieff was aboard his back-up bike when he told the tale of woe to his buddies at the San Marino Fire Department. He was invited to the station for a Saturday morning shopping spree and within hours, Little Paul was rolling on his new Huffy. He also received a high-tech helmet-replete with flashing safety light-and another important accessory: a lock.

San Marino Rotarians were informed of the theft at last Thursday’s luncheon meeting and within minutes, more than $300 was collected and soon delivered to the SMFD to help defray the cost or establish a maintenance fund.

A lifetime resident of San Marino, Elieff can frequently be seen cruising Huntington Drive on his regular route to a recycling center in Arcadia.

San Marino Fire Captain Dominic Petta, “Little Paul” Elieff on his new bicycle, and Firefighter Anthony Alvarado at the SMFD.

It was a full City Hall council chamber as residents gathered for the first public presentation of preliminary refinements to two Metro Measure R-funded traffic projects in San Marino at the Public Safety Commission meeting August 16. Residents were invited to share suggestions on what they liked and disliked about the ideas, which were collected across numerous previous public meetings. 

As approved across the July 10 and July 26 City Council meetings, the refinements involved part of Project 1 (improve traffic flow with public input at intersection of Atlantic Boulevard/Huntington Drive/Los Robles Avenue/Garfield Avenue for $8 million) and Project 2 (Huntington Drive improvements near school sites for $6 million). Initially there were five projects totaling $32, as part of Metro’s alternative plan for the 710 N study to alleviate congestion and traffic flow. San Marino’s City Council and Mayor Dr. Steven Huang have rejected all others. 

Michael Throne, director of Parks and Public Works and city engineer, noted that for Project 1, special emphasis was focused on “reducing as much as practicable traffic using Los Robles from Atlantic” and the city would be seeking a holistic solution in conjunction with Alhambra and South Pasadena, who share ownership of the intersection. 

“This, as I said, is a very interesting and complex intersection and when we get to that point, we will have to hire a very experienced transportation engineering firm to sort out and design the best functioning intersection,” said Throne. 

From city limits to city limits, the preliminary plans call for a continuous three lanes of traffic along Huntington Drive to “encourage a slower and more consistent, uniform path through town,” according to Throne. Where there are four lanes coming into the city, those lanes will drop to three before they get into the city. There will be no merging of four lanes into three within the city, according to Throne. Pending engineering and safety analysis by the city traffic engineer, there are plans to change the through lanes into two 10-foot wide lanes and one 12-foot wide lane. 

Within the Project 1 intersection, directional signage helping to clarify routes will be added before cars reach the lights. Throne said it will help with the congestion and confusion that some new drivers to the area experience. 

“The purpose of this project being in the Metro plan is that work that’s done here improves the flow at this intersection in all the different legs and from our perspective, we want to improve the flow into [Los] Robles here by sending it somewhere else,” said Throne. 

Resident Stephanie Johnson said she was “happy to see this plan going forward” and she hoped for the city to work with South Pasadena to remove the no left turn restriction at Garfield Avenue and Huntington Drive. 

“I think this is very good,” said Johnson. “We’re happy to see that there’s hope.” 

For the Project 2 work along Huntington Drive near the schools, there are plans to pull the parking lane as far away from the number three outside lane as possible. Turning lanes into Valentine School and Huntington Middle School would be added in addition to a striped safety divide for parking areas along the road and new curbs and gutters around the trees. 

“This has been proposed so this third lane acts more like a through lane and if you want to do your turning off into the school entrances, there will be a right turn pocket that’s not in the number three lane so that gets that traffic out and off the number three lane as quickly as possible,” said Throne. “As you come out of the schools, you have a little distance to merge before you get into the number three lane.” 

“What this does is it keeps this slow moving traffic from congesting that number three lane. Because currently you have parking, you have merging, and you have turning all going on in this lane…it really does impede the flow here and it creates quite a safety hazard for those who are dropping off and picking up kids,” Throne continued.” 

For Project 2 near Carver School, there will be a striped safety divider added between the outside lane and parking lane on both sides of Huntington Drive to the west of San Gabriel Boulevard.

For the roadway by San Marino High School (SMHS), there are preliminary plans to close two driveways by the parking lot and have one single entrance. The school traffic exit via the city alley would become an exit only with a new traffic signal at Winston Way linked to the Huntington Drive signal. Parking along Huntington would be added with a striped safety divider. 

Curbs would also be pulled out before the traffic entrance at the high school and before Winston Avenue. Throne shared there will still be a turnout lane into Tony’s Pizza but there are plans to make a more dedicated and narrow fourth lane. The work will involve “cleaning up a lot of the extra pavement that breeds a lot of driver confusion,” said Throne. 

Resident Hector Gutierrez shared concern at the idea of blocking two exits and only leaving one. 

“I think that’s really going to back up things,” said Gutierrez, suggesting for a possible second drop off area.

Resident Stan Pitts spoke up for the traffic that gathers on Winston Avenue as people wait before and after school at SMHS. He was concerned that making the city alley an exit only for the school would exacerbate the issue. 

“Don’t stick people on this street,” said Pitts. “Don’t stick a traffic light there. That’s only about 60 feet…and another 100 ft to Cumberland [Road]. That’s a mess. Don’t ruin our neighborhood.” 

Wrapping up the meeting, Throne said he was “very appreciative of the folks that came out” and will be incorporating their input onto further refining the project plans before they’re presented at the next Public Safety Commission meeting Monday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. in City Hall, followed by a workshop session with City Council at the Crowell Public Library on Sept. 27 at 8:30 a.m. 

The preliminary plans are currently on view at City Hall, the Crowell Public Library and available online under the Public Safety Commission’s Aug. 19 agenda. 

Additional ideas and comments can be submitted to the city via publicworks@cityofsanmarino.org and by calling (626) 300-0765. 

SMFD Firefighter/Paramedic Jeff Tsay guides a young resident in extinguishing a fire during National Night Out with SMFD vehicles on display at the fire department during National Night Out. Rafael Najarian Photos

What may have been the largest crowd in the history of San Marino’s participation in the National Night Out program brought what some estimates believe to be approximately 500 community members to City Hall on Tuesday evening.

“I think it went very, very well,” San Marino Police Chief John Incontro said on Wednesday morning. “It was a great turnout and there were a lot of people that I had not met before. We thought it was a great event.”

Established in 1984, National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes partnerships between police and the community they serve. San Marino is relatively new to the concept and routinely invites the fire department to take part in the festivities.

“The relationship between police and fire is very important to this community,” Incontro said of National Night Out, which was held in the block that includes San Marino City Hall and the San Marino Police and Fire Departments.

Community organizations were on hand to promote their activities and young people were able to enjoy snacks and partake in face painting and a fire extinguisher demonstration, among other attractions. A movie was also was shown for the children.

San Marino Fire Chief Mario Rueda extended his appreciation and gratitude for Incontro and the SMPD and echoed the program’s goal of “building trust within the community.”

“Police and fire are on the same team, we just wear different uniforms,” Rueda told The Tribune. “We work together closely, we support one another, we respond on the same calls and we have the sane desire to protect and serve our residents.” Rueda also commented that attendance has been on a steady increase and credited a sudden reduction in temperature as a factor for Tuesday’s large crowd..

“This is an exceptional event for our town,” Rueda said.

Nationwide, millions take part in National Night Out across thousands of communities from all fifty states, U.S. territories and military bases worldwide on the first Tuesday in August.

Incontro said that four community members personally volunteered on Tuesday to serve as block captains and that at least twenty more signed up for the city’s Neighborhood Watch program.

“We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish,” Incontro said.

With San Marino’s schools opening next week, the chief also said that his department will slightly shift its focus towards student safety while tightening up on traffic circulation during student commute times.

He also told The Tribune that the city will hold a safety training exercise in the Emergency Operations Center along with city staff and members of the San Marino Unified SchoolDistrict, sometime in early September, that will demonstrate the city’s preparedness.

“We will work through a scenario that will show we are ready,” Incontro said.

BACK FOR THE FUTURE: The San Marino City Council is considering a return to wood for the city’s rose arbor, as in this 2005 photo, courtesy of San Marino Parks and Public Works.

Despite initial city staff recommendations to rebuild the Lacy Park rose arbor out of steel, the San Marino City Council voted for plans to move ahead with a lumber option at its June 12 meeting at City Hall. The lumber reconstruction costs—with engineering and plans to faithfully resemble the previous arbor—is expected to cost $350,700. Council Member Ken Ude was the sole no vote, citing concerns on the price.

“I’m lukewarm on the project and financially more conservative,” said Ude. “So I think we should complete what the total plan looks like before we decide to spend that type of money.”

The decision by the City Council includes a directive to the city manager to prepare plans and specifications for a lumber rose arbor replacement, advertise for construction bids and return to the council “as soon as possible” with a recommendation for funding options and an award of a construction contract. The council previously designated $200,000 as a placeholder in the fiscal year 2019-20 budget for the rose arbor and established a rose arbor donation fund. At the meeting, the council also discussed creating an endowment to cover ongoing maintenance and care, to possibly be kicked off during the city’s 90th anniversary of its founding in September.

San Marino Director of Parks and Public Works and City Engineer Michael Throne shares detailed plan options for the Lacy Park rose arbor to the City Council at City Hall, June 12. Photo by Skye Hannah

“I have really no doubt that if we highly publicize this, we have nicely detailed plans, we make a big event, we get out there and volunteer, I think that we could really see a good showing from our community,” said Council Member Susan Jakubowski.

According to plans discussed at the meeting, the rose arbor reconstruction could be as early as next spring.

“I would like to see it built in the near future,” said Vice Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey. “That section of the park has been an eyesore for too long and it was a wrong act by the city, I think, that put it in that condition and we need to rectify that. That’s our responsibility.”

In sharing the reasoning behind the initial recommendation for steel construction, Director of Parks and Public Works and City Engineer Michael Throne noted that the original arbor was constructed out of 500-year-old wood.

“The creators of the arbor back in the 1920s had cheap and easy access to fabulous wood which today is very expensive to replace, so that is sort of the interesting conundrum of it,” said Throne.

The city staff considered four material options: lumber, composite, steel and aluminum. For lumber, the estimated life span was 20-30 years with a repainting cycle of five years and probable cost of $350,700. For composite, the estimated life span was 15-25 years with a repainting cycle of five years and probable cost of $421,590. For steel, the estimated life span was more than 50 years with a repainting cycle of 10 years and probable cost of $454,190. For aluminum, the estimated life span was 20 years with a repainting cycle of 10 years and probable cost of $486,370.

Throne shared that his department consulted with Descanso Gardens and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens on what would work best for the roses to grow upon. Throne noted The Huntington utilizes steel, concrete, aluminum and timber in their own rose trellis constructions and his department felt that steel would be the best choice, with white-painted rosewood pieces as louvers on top to avoid scorching the rose canes.

“We felt that all factors considered and looking at the long length that it could survive with the least amount of economic impact over time,” said Throne. “Steel made sense to us from our perspective as we could get exactly what we wanted it to look like and the maintenance is not going to be something, over the next 20 years, put us back on that cycle that we’ve been in the past 15-20 years.”

To fully fund a 20- and 50-year lifecycle program of scheduled maintenance, repainting and replacement, the finance department noted the amount of funds today that would be necessary. Twenty-year endowments amount to $1,034,000 for lumber and $1,265,000 for steel. Fifty-year endowments include $2,467,000 for lumber and $1,696,000 for steel.

Shepherd Romey noted a caution about steel as a material despite the maintenance cost savings over time.

“Steel just packs a heat element in that area that I’m concerned about for the plants that we’re now trying to redo a rose arbor and maybe then our roses are going to fail,” said Shepherd Romey. “So that’s another issue that I think we need to take into account when we’re talking about the cost.”

Ten-year-old Eric Yang, a fifth-grader at Valentine Elementary School, served as ceremonial “Mayor for the Day” and uses the mayor’s gavel to call the City Council meeting to order beside Mayor Dr. Steven Huang (left) and Vice Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey at City Hall on May 8. Photo by Skye Hannah

On Wednesday, May 8 at City Hall, the San Marino City Council voted to schedule a de novo hearing for June 12 to discuss a property at 1885 Virginia Rd. following neighbors’ concerns that ordinances were not followed in the construction process.

In legal terms, de novo means “to start from the beginning,” indicating that the City Council intends on revisiting the permit application and construction processes for the home in question. The council also heard details on the first quarter crime report from the San Marino Police Department (SMPD). Eric Yang, 10, a fifth-grader at Valentine Elementary, served as ceremonial “Mayor for the Day” and opened the meeting with a gavel and reading of the meeting guidelines.

The issue of the property located at 1885 Virginia Road, owned by Marcol Young, began in Feb. 2018 when the Design Review Committee approved a request by Young to build a first and second story addition with remodeling and exterior modifications to the existing two-story home, according to assistant planner Christine Song. At the time, legal non-conforming side yard setbacks were identified and the owner was not required to correct the issue. During the application process, Young provided itemized project valuation data, which the city plan checked and approved. When the project was approved through the Design Review Committee (DRC), no appeals were filed. With a building permit from the city, Young commenced construction and reported that existing walls were “severely damaged” by dry rot and termites, according to Song. Young provided a structural engineers report which was reviewed and confirmed by city building officials.

Following the report, city staff found that reconstructing the damaged walls in the same location with the previously existing legal non-conforming side yard setbacks would require a conditional use permit (CUP). The CUP was approved in March by the Planning Commission, which noted the legal non-conforming side yard setbacks “wouldn’t intensify nor worsen any negative impacts to adjacent neighbors” due to it being a condition on the property since its original build.

In April, an appeal was filed to the City Council to reconsider the Planning Commission’s decision by adjacent neighbor Dr. Babak Parwar. He noted in a letter to the council that the construction of the “new house with old non-conforming side yard setbacks will damage the peace, privacy and property value of the neighbors as well as increase fire risk.” He also expressed that the applicated “failed to submit required drawings in the DRC application” and felt “both the DRC and Planning Commission evaluations have been compromised.”

At the May 8 meeting, the property owner’s wife, Jenny Young, asked the council to uphold the approval of the CUP, sharing that to tear down the home and restart the DRC procedures would add to an “already stressful and emotional process.” She said her family was seeking to keep what previously existed and to maintain the legal non-conforming side yard setback of less than 5 feet, which she said was the same as a neighbor’s property.

“If we would have to tear our house down and start over, it would just be so devastating,” said Young. “What would I tell my children? If you were in my family’s shoes, what would you do?”

In public comment, resident Kalia Petmecky of West Drive expressed that the numbers submitted for the permit were not “accurate and true.”

“I’d like to start by responding to the developer owner’s wife’s question as to what would you do,” said Petmecky. “As a mother of two, she said ‘what would you do?’ As a mother of four, I would start by telling the truth in my application for a permit. This is a permit. It was a permit for a remodel based on numbers that were completely inaccurate.”

Resident Justin Feffer expressed a sense of relief that city staff was open to considering a de novo review. He felt the city ordinances were ignored when the applicant provided valuation data that was “completely unrealistic,” noting the numbers were estimated and not done to a schedule, as is required by a city statute. He stated that the valuation data showed the owner “basically claimed he could build an approximately 3,900 square foot house in San Marino, in 2019, for $40 a square foot,” demolition was stated at $1,000 and the electrical system would cost $6,600.

“City staff based everything, this entire house of cards, is built on the 50 percent estimate of the value of the construction, that’s why we’re here,” said Feffer. “We’re here because these unrealistic numbers were not properly vetted. They were only mathematically checked. They were not vetted for reasonability, for accuracy or even plausibility.”

Resident Evette Ramsay of Chelsea Road shared that the “architectural preservation and charm” of San Marino are strong reasons the city is attractive and expressed that rules and ordinances are the “only tools we have to safeguard the appearance of San Marino.” She felt the owner or developer failed to follow the rules and she was surprised to watch the construction go from a remodel to a “completely new house.”

“If we start to let builders change their plan their course of action in the middle of a project, we’re really opening up ourselves to a whole can of worms of new construction that goes beyond what the initial expectations or approvals are,” said Ramsay.

The City Council unanimously voted for a de novo review hearing of the plans set for June 12, which will involve reviewing the Planning Commission’s decision of the CUP with a more comprehensive record of the matter. Council Member Steve Talt voluntarily recused himself from the vote due to owning property within 500 feet of the property in question.

“I feel strongly that this should be a de novo review,” said Vice Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey. “I appreciate that it is our responsibility of our city to take a hard look at what’s happened in the process and also we need to step up and do the right thing for the community.”

For the first quarter police report, SMPD Chief of Police John Incontro shared the city has experienced a 17.9 percent overall decrease in Part 1 crimes (murder and nonnegligent homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, larceny-theft and arson, according to Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics) so far in 2019. Residential burglaries are down 23 percent, with six less than last year. Attempted burglaries are up 28 percent, with two more than the same time last year. Incontro noted that within the burglaries, the department has noticed that “about half of the homes have no alarm systems at all, no alarms, no cameras, nothing. That allows the burglars to spend more time in the home, take more items of value.”

Larcenies are down 24 percent. Incontro noted arrests have been assisted by surveillance video provided by residents.

“Generally for us our problems have been theft from vehicles, where people have items of value left visible from the outside, or items left on the front porch such as deliveries,” said Incontro. “You’ve probably heard the term ‘porch pirate.’”

For the year to date, the SMPD has delivered 27 search warrants and four arrest warrants, for burglary, theft of vehicle and grand theft of property. Three people have been arrested for burglary and two for larceny.

For staffing, the department hired two officers, from departments in South Pasadena and Los Alamos, New Mexico, who are currently in the field going through training. An additional two were hired May 13.

“Things are looking up and I really thank you all for your support and thank the city manager for her support in what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Incontro.

San Marino City Hall. Daryl Chan Photo

For the first time in recent San Marino history, residents have the opportunity to vote on 21 issues that the city is currently considering for next year’s budgetary process. The City Council is taking account of what special projects–or priority initiatives–that staff should dedicate time and/or financial resources to next year. Some of the issues include co-sponsoring events with the school district and community groups, creating a Business Improvement District and developing a 20-year Master Plan for Lacy Park.

Residents are encouraged to vote via an online survey that is available on the city’s website, call City Hall or visit City Hall to pick up a paper voting sheet. Residents have until the City Council meeting on February 22 to weigh in. The results will then be further considered by the council.

“These are our ideas about things that maybe we don’t have now that could make things a little bit better for the community in a variety of different ways,” said City Manager Dr. Marcella Marlowe. “They’re new things.”

The list has been pared down from an initial 53 topics that were born from a brainstorming meeting with City Council and the city’s executive team. The council then applied preferences to which of the 53 topics they’d like to see go forward. The current 21 issues fall under eight critical success factors (such as engaged and connected residents, safe community and well-maintained infrastructure) that were adopted last year as part of the city’s strategic plan.

The issues were unveiled at the Town Hall meeting on Monday, January 4, one of this year’s monthly meetings held on the first Monday of the month at 6:00 p.m. at the Crowell Public Library’s Barth Community Room. Marlowe introduced the three residents in attendance to the topics, encouraged them to ask any questions they may have and then vote on the top 10 issues they’d like to see the council address. Executive leaders from each of the departments were in attendance and residents shared direct time with each to learn more about the issues.

Last year’s budget was adopted two months later than usual, intentionally, and it included almost no public involvement, according to Marlowe. This year, she said the entire process is now different and the city is working to stretch the process out so that “more information at a high level” gets to the City Council with input from residents.

At the Town Hall meeting, resident Miriam Quan carefully considered the voting sheet and talked with several city officials. She said she appreciated how the city provided the ability to talk one-on-one with leaders in order to get a more nuanced view of the issues.

“I like how they’ve had people explain things in depth,” said Quan. “It’s nice that you can actually talk to the people who are in the know and they can explain it to you more fully.”

John Dustin, a former Design Review Committee member, was also in attendance to learn more about the budget issues. He said the ability to talk directly with staff helped him better understand the pros and cons of the issues. Initially excited about the prospect of additional city street cameras, Dustin said he understood the constraints they involve after talking with Chief of Police John Incontro.

“It actually was really nice to be able to spend significant time with people and ask questions,” said Dustin. “I liked the list of projects that they came up with. I would hope that they publish the results when residents start voting because I’d be interested to see how other people think about things.”

Vice Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey shared that it was very important for the city to get a sense of what the community’s priorities are and what they’d like to see accomplished.

“We really need direction from residents and what they’d like to see done,” said Shepherd Romey. “I think that should influence our budget priorities.”

To participate in the voting process for the 21 priority initiatives, visit www.cityofsanmarino.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=634 or stop by City Hall at 2200 Huntington Dr. For more information, residents may also contact Amanda Fowler, assistant to the city manager, at (626) 300-0781 or email afowler@cityofsanmarino.org.

Next month’s Town Hall meeting will be held Monday, March 4 at 6:00 p.m. in the Crowell Public Library’s Barth Community Room. The topic will involve San Marino traffic options for the $32 million in Measure R funds tied to the SR-710 North study.