Steve Talt


City officials have released plans and renderings for proposed renovations to the San Marino Center, the building at 1800 Huntington Drive that for most of its existence was called the San Marino Woman’s Club.
If completed, the structure will be brought up to current building codes, match the decor of the neighboring Crowell Public Library and serve as a “usable, flexible and modern community center facility,” in the words of Michael Throne, the city’s public works director and engineer.
The project is estimated to cost approximately $4 million, according to City Manager Marcella Marlowe. The San Marino City Council could take the next steps at one of its upcoming meetings, which are scheduled for Friday, May 29, and Friday, June 5.
The city will host a town hall meeting if the council decides to move forward with the project. The council could then vote to award the design plan as early as its July 8 meeting, according to Marlowe, with the project possibly going out to bid in December.
“This is the right time to take on this project,” said City Councilman Ken Ude, who along with Steve Talt served as a council liaison on the project. “The building is really old, has not been upgraded in 50 years and does not function well. Moreover, we have the capital to deploy, and contractors should be hungry for the work with other cities in post-COVID financial trouble. So, we should be able to get the project done faster and at a lower cost.
“The city’s in good financial shape and our reserve has continued to grow at a time when we have increased our investments in streets, sidewalks and infrastructure.”
Construction was completed in April 1952 on what at the time was the Woman’s Club, which held its first meeting in the new clubhouse that month. In 2005, the building was sold to the city and renamed the San Marino Center.
In its current layout, the building can accommodate up to 300 people and is available to rent for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and other special events. The facility has three main rooms: an auditorium, dining room and the Fireside Room, which is used for smaller events and meetings. The facility also includes an industrial kitchen.
San Marino City Club holds most of its meetings in the San Marino Center, and the building is also used for a weekly bridge game. The San Marino Chamber of Commerce also keeps an office on the premises.
“The conceptual drawings for the San Marino Center are a big step for the city,” Talt said. “For years, we have spoken about what to do about improving the facilities. The plan for remodeling it in a complementary design to the library makes sense to me, and putting the asset to work for the city is the sensible thing to do. The plan to modernize the layout will increase the opportunities for use by Recreation and for larger city gatherings.”
Throne said that the council could add the San Marino Center into the Capital Improvement Plan for the 2020-21 fiscal year. He said residents will be asked to provide input on the project ahead of the July meeting.
Talt also wants to hear from the public.
“We have a lot of work to do before we get there, and I am excited to hear from the residents about their thoughts on its design and use,” Talt said.

California American Water company representatives Brian Barreto (right), external affairs manager, and Wes Owens, director of rates, listen as Council Member Steve Talt (left) asks for more clarity on a proposed water rate increase for 2021-2023 at the council meeting at City Hall, January 8. Photo by Skye Hannah

It was an evening of tense questioning and a lack of local details on Wednesday, January 8 as the San Marino City Council grilled representatives from the California American Water (CAW) Company on why the city is facing a proposed increase of water rates of 16.64 percent starting January 1, 2021.

According to a presentation by CAW representatives Brian Barreto, external affairs manager, and Wes Owens, director of rates, a general rate case application for drinking water and irrigation water is filed every three years and the latest was filed in July 2019, which will affect 2021-2023.

The current general rate case application seeks a 16.64 percent residential increase for San Marino, which includes a desire for CAW to consolidate their three Southern California water districts into one. Without consolidation, the rate of increase for residential would be 23.62 percent.

“The advantage of [consolidation] is over the long term effect, the cost of doing business and the risk of any sort of emergency cost to come up is spread out over a large customer base,” said Baretto. “Right now without consolidation, we’re not allowed to spread out any major cost… It’s important for us… We’re trying to create an even playing field for everybody.”

CAW is proposing a $50 million capital budget infrastructure improvement increase over 2021-2023 for the entire Los Angeles district which includes San Marino. During the presentation, a list of ongoing projects specific to San Marino was presented. The primary drivers of the rate increase were noted as an ongoing need to invest in infrastructure, adjustments for higher costs in purchased water and increases in operating and maintenance costs.

“Wherever we’re doing an investment, whether it be in the city of San Marino or for example in the city of San Gabriel or the city of Rosemead, the residents and the customers here in the city of San Marino benefit from that investment as well,” said Baretto.

Council Member Steve Talt asked the representatives what the rate of return was for San Marino. Owens said that the weighted average cost of capital amounted to 7.61 percent in 2018 and wasn’t broken down by individual cities.

Talt said the lack of clarity on the burden San Marino would carry in that cost was an issue.

“The problem is when you’re looking for a 16 percent increase … we look at that as you’re trying to make that 7.6 percent off of our backs, at least part of it, because you’re looking at a substantial increase larger than any other location,” said Talt. “You’re coming after San Marino for the highest rate in the Los Angeles area… When you can’t tell me what the rate of return that is, it leads me to believe that part of your rate of return is [that] we have a greater return of 7.61 percent in San Marino and it allows you to average out across the state.”

Talt asked the representatives how much the San Marino infrastructure improvements would also serve other cities. He was told the information wasn’t immediately available but could be sent in the future. Talt told The Tribune that as of Monday, he had not received anything from CAW.

“It’s tough because I’m looking at you guys seeking 16.64 percent off of our residents and you’re using capital investment budget for the Los Angeles district as a validating point and yet that information is not available [for San Marino], nor is the information on the rate of return, and this makes it very frustrating,” said Talt.

Barreto said that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will review the application and has the authority to approve, modify or reject the application.
“We anticipate over the next 18 months of going through testimony, data request, public participation hearings that we should have a decision from the Public Utilities Commission sometime late December 2020 with rates taking effect Jan. 1, 2021,” said Barreto.

Barreto also noted that the Rate Payer Advocacy group will be involved, which works on behalf of the customer to review CAW’s testimony and application. To date, CAW has received over 600 data requests asking for clarification and more detail from the group, according to Barreto.

Barreto reported that he met with Public Works Director Michael Throne and City Manager Marcella Marlowe in October to share the same information. Several council members said during the meeting that they hadn’t seen the information before and expressed a sense of frustration from the lack of clarity.

In an interview with The Tribune on Tuesday, Marlowe said the representatives had shared a different “rough draft” presentation that included a much broader look at information and wasn’t centered on San Marino. She also said they had promised to reach out personally to members of the council, which did not occur.

“We were disappointed at their level of preparation for questions from the council,” said Marlowe.

The public is invited to join Talt, Throne and other city leaders for a CAW open house to learn about the proposed rate increase and how rates will be affected on Wednesday, January 22, from 5 – 7:00 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, 700 West Huntington Drive in Monrovia.

On Wednesday, January 29, there will be a CPUC public participation hearing from 6 – 8:00 p.m. at the same location. At the public participation hearing, there will be an administrative law judge and a court reporter in attendance, with less “give and take” compared to the open house, according to Baretto.

San Marino voters on Tuesday once again approved by a healthy margin a public safety tax–dubbed Measure SM by its supporters–that will augment paramedic services, fire protection and prevention and police protection. Measure SM, which was first approved by voters in 1980 and garnered 73.11% of Tuesday’s vote, will provide approximately $3.4 million annually until 2025. The measure needed a 66.67% “yes” vote to pass. While Measure SM faced some organized opposition within the community, nobody filed an argument against the initiative for the official ballot statement.

Mayor Dr. Steven Huang called the measure “necessary for our city.”

“I think the community still values our fire department and our police department —

they’re very important,” Huang told the Tribune. “They value public safety as their number one concern.”

Chief of Police John Incontro shared he was grateful for the community’s support and recognized the work of the Committee of San Marino Residents for Measure SM to support the departments.

“This is the community’s way of showing that the police and fire department are doing their part and are responsible with the tax money and the bond money, and they appreciate the work we’ve done,” said Incontro.

“I certainly appreciate their support and I really appreciate their support when they have questions about what we’re doing to make sure we’re doing things right. That’s important,” Incontro continued. “I embrace the questions, the criticism, the ideas and this is just an example of the community and what they do for us.”

Fire Chief Mario Rueda thanked Vice Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey and Council Member Steve Talt, who served as council liaisons for the committee, and the numerous community members who assisted. He said that the passing of the measure is a sign of affirmation of the work the department does, showing the community’s trust and belief in it.

“When somebody votes to give you that sort of level of trust and vote of confidence, it really is our responsibility to make sure that we are fiscally and operationally proficient,” said Rueda. “We understand that it’s coming out of somebody’s pocket.”

Incumbents Huang and Talt received 1,292 (48.92%) and 1,349 (51.08%) votes, respectively, to retain their seats on the San Marino City Council. As the city realigns with mandates to shift election cycles towards more active dates, their second terms will be for five years.

Huang and Talt filed election papers before the August deadline while one San Marino resident, Andrew Ko, later qualified as a write-in candidate. Huang and Talt were elected to their first terms in 2015. According to the Registrar of Voters, the number of ballots containing a write-in candidate vote is 49, but officials have not yet verified whether they were properly filled out nor they determined the identity of the recipient(s) of the vote(s).

“I appreciate the residents giving me another term,” said Huang, who is San Marino’s current mayor. He also expressed his appreciation at the passage of the safety tax.

“Apparently the community still values public safety,” Huang said. “They know we can do a good job with the money.”

Talt was equally as thankful.

“I am grateful to the residents for the opportunity to continue to serve on our City Council and look forward to the next term,” Talt told The Tribune. “San Marino is such a unique town, and it is truly a privilege and honor to be trusted with the responsibility of helping maintain what makes it so special.”

Only 1,902 ballots were received at the county board of elections from San Marino voters. The city has 8,603 registered voters.

San Marino voters on Tuesday once again approved a public safety tax–named Measure SM by supporters–that will augment paramedic services, fire protection and prevention and police protection. Measure SM, which was first approved by voters in 1980 and garnered 73.11% of Tuesday’s vote, will provide approximately $3.4 million annually until 2025. The measure needed a 66.67% “yes” vote to pass. While Measure SM faced some opposition in the community, nobody filed an argument against the initiative for the official ballot statement.

Incumbents Dr. Steven Huang and Steve Talt received 1,292 (48.92%) and 1,349 (51.08%) votes, respectively, to retain their seats on the San Marino City Council.

Huang and Talt filed election papers before the August deadline while one San Marino resident, Andrew Ko, later qualified as a write-in candidate. Huang and Talt were elected to their first terms in 2015. Ko’s vote total was not available at time of publication.

San Marino City Council Member Susan Jakubowski (from left), Council Member Steve Talt, Mayor Dr. Steve Huang, Vice Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey and Council Member Ken Ude listen to feedback from residents at the Crowell Public Library, July 26. Skye Hannah Photo

The San Marino City Council unanimously voted to continue reserving $8 million in Metro 710 N project funds for improvements to the Atlantic Boulevard/Huntington Drive/Los Robles Avenue/Garfield intersection with public input and voted 3-2 to move forward with considering $6 million in funding for Huntington Drive improvements specifically as it relates to school areas. The meeting was held July 26 at the Crowell Public Library.

The funds are part of $32 million reserved for San Marino of Measure R transportation sales tax funds, set for placeholder projects. Five projects were presented for consideration.

For Project 1 (intersection improvements to Huntington Drive, $12 million), the council rejected the project and funding for three of the four intersections ($4 million) and moved ahead with the fourth intersection, Atlantic Boulevard/Huntington Drive/Los Robles Avenue/Garfield Avenue, ($8 million). Council Member Steve Talt added an amendment that public input be included into the refinement of the proposals, which are set to come back from city staff in September.

For Project 2 (Huntington Drive improvements, $6 million), the council voted 3-2 to continue holding the funds specifically as they relate to school areas and have city staff return to the council with refined and clarified proposals in September.

Project 4 (Huntington Drive signal synchronization, $7 million) was rejected 3-1 at the July 10 meeting.

There were some initial confusion on the motions as city staff noted that there was a clash of motions from the July 10 meeting. At the time, the council voted 3-1 to direct city manager to direct Metro that the city was unwilling to accept any funds other than those that benefit projects around the schools on Huntington Drive. With the unanimous massing of Project 1’s motion on July 26, that July 10 motion was superseded.

When asked for further clarification by city staff on the motions, Vice Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey shared a sense of exasperation. She said the city was working to be open and transparent, and she was concerned the council was at risk of being “worn down” by additional clarity questions. She noted that the July 10 meeting was packed and residents “heard us loud and clear.”

“Every time, the public comes out, they spend their time, they spend their energy and then we’re left with ‘oh, but there’s still a question,’” said Shepherd Romey. “No, no, no. This has to stop.”

Council Member Steve Talt agreed with Shepherd Romey.

“What is clear we’re moving forward with taking a further look at Atlantic and we’re moving forward on looking at congestions around school sites,” said Talt. “That is clear. We’ve rejected everything else.”

In order to keep the record clean, City Attorney Stephanie Cao recommended the council motion to vacate the July 10 motion in regards to rejecting all funds except for school projects and move forward with the consideration of $8 million for Atlantic Boulevard/Huntington Drive/Los Robles Avenue/Garfield intersection with public input. Council Members Talt, Ken Ude and Susan Jakubowski voted in favor with Mayor Dr. Steven Huang and Vice Mayor Romey voted against.

The vacating of the July 10 motion left Project 3 (Sierra Madre Boulevard improvements, $4 million) and Project 5 (San Gabriel Boulevard signal synchronization, $3 million) with no approved motion from council, according to City Manager Dr. Marcella Marlowe.

In a letter by Huang sent to Metro Senior Executive Officer Abdollah Ansari sent July 30 and provided to the Tribune by Marlowe, Huang said that “based on the Council’s discussion at both meetings” he communicated that the city declined the projects and funding for Project 3 and 5.

He noted in the letter that in total, San Marino is requesting $14 million for Projects 1 and 2, and declining the remaining $18 million.

Council Member Steve Talt (top left to bottom), resident Eileen Hale and Director of Parks and Public Works Michael Throne share ideas and take down input for traffic project considerations during a town hall meeting at the San Marino Center, May 14. Photo by Skye Hannah

It was an evening of strong passion sprinkled with some frustration May 14 at the San Marino Center as residents gathered with city officials to voice their thoughts on city traffic projects that could be possible with the $32 million from Measure R transportation funds allocated for the city from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro). The funds are meant to address traffic impact stemming from Metro’s decision to not construct the 710 freeway tunnel project. The tunnel project aimed to link the 710 and 210 freeways.

Previously presented projects considered in San Marino are Huntington Drive intersection work ($12 million), Huntington Drive signal synchronization ($7 million), work in front of school sites on Huntington Drive ($6 million), work along Sierra Madre Boulevard ($4 million) and San Gabriel Boulevard signal synchronization ($3 million).

In the city-led meeting, City Council Member Steve Talt, Director of Parks and Public Works Michael Throne and City Manager Dr. Marcella Marlowe asked for ideas from residents on what they’d like to see for traffic-centric projects in the city, stressing that the meeting was for ideas and wasn’t a final opportunity for input.

“We want you to think of ways and ideas that we could use the money in a way we want to without respect to some general concept out there that Huntington Drive is to become a freeway,” said Talt.

Throne took notes on ideas presented by residents on a large pad of paper at the front of the room. He shared that his role was to accept everyone’s ideas so that preliminary sketches of those plans could be made and then presented in the future as more developed possibilities for Metro funding.

“It’s very difficult right now for there to be lots and lots of words but no pictures,” said Throne.

According to a handout at the meeting provided by the Parks and Public Works Department, there is “no immediate urgency” for the City Council to decide on the projects and Metro won’t be ready to approve city-developed projects until late summer 2019, at the earliest.

Several residents expressed a sense of confusion about the goal of the meeting, one hour time limit and concern on the ability for future input, which resulted in many questions and suggestions being freely voiced from the gathered group. Marlowe stepped in to clarify that the meeting was put together “at the last moment” as a result of the April 29 community-led meeting.

“We anticipate many more community engagement sessions,” said Marlowe. “We’d like to give you something to look at because right now what you’re looking at is essentially placeholder projects from before that we have every intention of amending. We’d like to give you some of the real projects that we think might work here and really get your thoughts on that.”

Marlowe elaborated that the city wasn’t at the stage to “take, accept or reject part or in total any of the money” from Metro and the opportunity would come for residents to suggest their desires to the City Council, who hold the final vote on the funding.

“What we’re trying to do right now is see if there are projects that you would be interested in that would make your lives better, and if the answer is no—no problem, we don’t need to accept the money,” explained Marlowe.

Residents brought up concerns that Metro would not fund safety-oriented projects that many felt were pressingly important to the city, particularly around schools on Huntington Drive. Talt referenced an email he received from Metro which stated that safety was now a valid consideration within the projects. He apologized for the change and encouraged residents to share ideas on both congestion reduction and safety.

“What a lot of us were operating on, me too, was it’s these five projects, or two of the five projects, or nothing [and] you won’t get a dime,” said Talt. “We’ve now discovered that’s not correct. As long as whatever we come up with is consistent with reducing congestion and safety…we can have other people’s money pay for projects that we want, and that’s what we’re looking at right now.”

Ideas presented by residents included changing the intersection at Huntington Drive and Sierra Madre Boulevard to a previous configuration, either fully and partially synchronizing lights along Huntington Drive and Sierra Madre Boulevard, adding speed bumps along Los Robles Avenue, adding a toll fee on Huntington Drive and adding a dedicated lane in front of schools for safety.

Resident Eugene Sun, former mayor and city council member, said he was in favor of traffic light synchronization so that the city would be able to control the speed limit along Huntington Drive.

“With synchronization, we’re going to avoid a traffic backup,” said Sun. “If we have a standstill [and] traffic backup, traffic will go to the side streets along the residential area.”

Resident Joe Petrillo, a retired deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, urged the city to come together to list five to 10 priorities that they’d ideally like to see, and then see how those would align with the Metro project scope possibilities.

“The traffic is coming, understand that,” said Petrillo. “You can’t stop it. You don’t have the power. Steve [Talt] doesn’t even have the power to stop the traffic. What we have the power to do is efficiently move the traffic through our city at a reasonable safe speed…like many of the cities in Orange County are doing, San Bernardino County are doing. That’s what we need to do.”

Resident Marilyn Peck of Huntington Drive said that all roads seem to be leading to her street and expressed a strong sentiment for the city to consider the residents’ needs first and foremost.

“I want to remind you when you do your planning, remember we have businesses, schools, everything along Huntington Drive. It slices through our community. Before you make it a highway or enlarge it in any way, remember we’re not listening to Metro—you have to listen to us,” said Peck, followed by a round of applause from fellow residents.

Resident Eileen Hale, a 10-year former member of the city’s traffic commission, shared her own experience with traffic within the city and said “traffic is like water” which would flow to the areas of least resistance. She said with the city’s population holding fairly stable over the last 60 years, San Marino has a commuter problem and not a traffic program.

“We don’t have more people. Everybody else has more people,” said Hale. “So I don’t understand why we have to take the burden of South Pas passing the 710 to put it onto Huntington.”

Hale urged the city to take a defensive role in traffic management and look at ways to improve safety while not increasing speed or volume.

“There are things we can do that are not very expensive like signage during commuting hours, no left when the traffic goes this way, no right when the traffic goes that way, to keep it off of the side streets but don’t encourage it,” said Hale.

Resident Lee Benuska shared that as a licensed civil engineer in California for 50 years, he could see a possibility of adding a lane at schools for safety while reminding the city of a difference in goals between Metro and the community.

“Basically Metro’s goals are different than our goals,” said Benuska. “I’ve heard safety, safety, safety, rather than their goal, which is throughput.”

Residents are encouraged to send their ideas to Parks and Public Works Director Michael Throne (publicworks@cityofsanmarino.org) and City Council members (cityofsanmarino.org/165/Mayor-City-Council).

The San Marino City Council submitted it finishing touches to the city’s $29.3 million budget at its meeting on Wednesday, June 14.

It unanimously continued the approval of the budget to the last statutorily permitted day, June 30, when the council meets at 8 a.m. at City Hall.

Collectively, the council agreed to amortize the city’s CalPERS unfunded liability—currently valued at approximately $29 million—over 30 years.

“All cities face the unfunded liability situation,” said Contract Finance Director Misty Cheng. “I’m seeing astronomical figures in the other cities that I’m finance director of.”

She continued, “That’s always a moving target. The unfunded liability will always move because of the discount rate of PERS, etc.”

The decision requires the city to pay an annual lump sum payment of $1,172,236. The new total will result in a savings of nearly $250,000, which the council can choose to appropriate to another segment of the budget.

Cheng suggested that such savings could be invested in a ‘trust fund’ with Public Agency Retirement Services, or PARS, which, she claimed, would provide a better return on investment.

“A lot of cities are doing this as well,” she added.

Interim City Manager Cindy Collins said the recently established ad hoc committee to review the city’s finances would consider the item in the near future.


Council Member Steve Talt then began to propose cuts one city department at a time.

“It’s not that much money overall,” Talt said of his proposed cuts. “But it’s important because when a government spends money—not necessarily this one—it tends to spend money year after year without ever looking back as to whether that expenditure is correct in the first place.”

Talt said that information technology, or IT, expenditures should be halted for all departments until the city receives IT requests for proposal during the upcoming year.

In the city council department, Talt called for the elimination of a $1,800 expense to participate in the U.S. Council of Mayors annual conference. He claimed that only cities with a population of 30,000 or more could be members.

The cost of materials and supplies for the department should be maintained at the current level of $5,000 instead of the proposed $6,000 for the 2017-2018 budget, he requested.

For the administration department, Talt asked that $15,000 be redirected away from a membership with the 710 Coalition—an organization advocating for a freeway tunnel to connect the 710 to the 210—and to more productive ends.

“We should spend the money to get as much money as we can,” Talt said, recommending that the city should obtain Measure R county transportation funds to support the city’s infrastructure investment plan.

In the fire department, Talt said the city’s line item for the tri-city fire department command agreement should be reduced. San Marino Fire Chief Mario Rueda agreed that the item could be a third of the budgeted $3,000.

Talt also found a typo in the parks and public works department that reduced an $8,500 cost to an $850 cost. Public Works Director Dan Wall was able to answer several of Talt’s other questions, including questions about expenditures related to traffic signal timing.

Talt also requested that Wall take a closer look at shed roof repair at Lacy Park to eliminate a $1,000 roof replacement cost.

Talt spent a significant amount of time with the recreation department budget.

“When I see time of employees added to recreation, that concerns me,” he told Recreation Manager Rosa Pinuelas.

“I realize that some of this is safety [related], but do we need a maintenance assistant that is spending .03 [of his time] at special events, when we have other people on our staff at building and maintenance that do a lot of that,” Talt continued, encouraging Pinuelas to coordinate with public works to reduce employee time overlap in recreation.

“We don’t mind doing that. We always do that as much as we can because we have that [70 percent] recovery [requirement], so we want as much of a buffer from that 70 percent,” Pinuelas responding, adding that the department’s fulltime equivalents will decrease with elimination of the Tsunamis swimming program.

Talt’s questions resulted in several clarifications from the heads of the city’s departments, which helped to explain items that appeared to have vague descriptions.

City staff will incorporate Talt’s requests into the final draft of the budget. Other changes that were recommend by the council at budget hearings held in May include an increase in the fire department budget to incorporate the new union agreement, the deletion of half a position in the fire department, the deferral of a cost of service study, a reduction in the budget for police conferences, and additional appropriations via federal funds for sidewalk repairs.

The next city council meeting is on Friday, June 30 at 8 a.m. at San Marino City Hall.

The San Marino City Council unanimously tabled a proposed ordinance, which, according to Planning and Building Director Aldo Cervantes, is intended “to ensure the protection of our public health with respect to lead hazards.”

“The ordinance will mandate compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Federal Code 40, [or the Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule], which requires anyone performing a renovation or paint project to be certified to abate lead hazards on the property if found,” he stated.

Despite the intention of the ordinance, the council felt the proposed addition to the city’s municipal code lacked a stringent enforcement mechanism and penalty.

“This is a good start, in my opinion. The problem is it has no teeth,” said Council Member Steve Talt. “It should state in our ordinance, ‘If you don’t comply with [the EPA code], you’re in trouble.’”

City Attorney Steven Flower recognized that the ordinance, which also aims to educate contractors about the need to comply with Federal code, was “an initial first step.”

“Our concern was, if we were to try to directly enforce the EPA’s Federal Rule, whether or not we’d be preempted,” Flower explained.

Talt acknowledged the validity of the preemption concern, and continued to characterize potential problematic scenarios in San Marino.

“This happens probably daily in the city of San Marino, we have building codes [and] we have construction codes that are violated left and right,” Talt said, noting as an example that some contractors place portable bathrooms in the front yard during a construction despite local code that prohibits it.

He continued, “This is serious enough where we should put some teeth into the ordinance if we’re going to adopt it. Let’s not go halfway. Let’s make sure that we’ve got a hammer to hit over somebody’s head if they’re going to violate these rules.”

Mayor Richard Sun shared Talt’s response.

“It seems like there’s not enough tools we could use to enforce this particular ordinance,” Sun commented.

“Why don’t we get it done completely in one shot instead of coming back to amend it?” he added. “I think we should have some teeth in there—some kinds of penalties—because this is a health hazard issue.”

Council Member Allan Yung echoed his colleagues’ statements, after which Flower clarified the city’s ability to enforce the proposed lead ordinance.

Flower first stated that staff “will come back with more inspection enforcement” and review enforcement mechanisms in other cities with stringent lead ordinances.

Then he explained, “This ordinance can be enforced. What this ordinance does, however, is not directly enforce the EPA rule. That’s a Federal Rule. We can’t directly enforce Federal law. What this does is require the contractor to come in on an annual basis—which will probably tie administratively to business license renewal—and certify that if they’re going to do this work as subject to the rule, they’re certified to do it.”

Cervantes confirmed in an interview with The Tribune that the business license renewal process would capture a majority of contractors, adding that his department is working with EPA to add to the ordinance.

“If they provide the certification, or if they’re going to go and do work without a building permit, we can enforce that. That’s a misdemeanor. That is a criminal offense,” Flower added. “We have enforcement for what this ordinance does. What I’m hearing is you want to go further than what this ordinance does.”

Cervantes added that the city could fine and/or issue a stop-work notice in accordance with local building codes if the city discovered somebody to be in violation of the proposed ordinance.

Claiming the last word, Talt reiterated the council’s direction to staff.

“It’s just that if they get caught, they have to pay for it,” he concluded.

The San Marino City Council chose not to establish a lead remediation ad hoc committee at its Apr. 28 meeting, citing recently acquired information that clarified claims of high blood lead levels in San Marino children.

The purpose of the ad hoc committee would have been to obtain blood lead level data from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health—information that the county has not formally sent to the city since the city’s public records request one month ago—and information from other agencies to address an Apr. 20 article published by Reuters News Agency.

Based on county data collected between 2011 and 2015, the Reuters article stated that 17 percent of children under the age of six who reside in the western Census tract of San Marino had elevated blood lead levels—the highest proportion of any census tract in the county.

Between San Marino’s two census tracts, a total of 14 percent of San Marino children were identified as having elevated blood lead levels, according to a Tribune calculation of county data.

Since the publication of the Reuters article, county public health officials explained on Apr. 26 during an emergency meeting of the city council that only three, or less than one percent of, San Marino children tested have elevated blood lead levels.

Mayor Richard Sun explained that he did not know the information that Dr. Cyrus Rangan, director of toxicology and environmental assessment at the county, provided on Apr. 26, when Sun proposed the ad hoc committee on Monday, Apr. 24.

Sun also noted that California American Water conducted water tests that week, which showed no detectable lead in 14 of 15 recent samples of San Marino water.

“One sample had one half of one part per billion. It’s one-thirtieth of the lead action level in one of these samples. This would be the equivalent of second in 64 years in one of 15 samples we found,” said Timothy Miller, senior director of water quality and environmental compliance for California American Water.

Miller added, “Your water is not aggressive. It’s generally not going to cause corrosion.”

“I don’t feel we need [an ad hoc committee] at this time. I believe the city has taken the proper action since this event occurred,” Sun continued.

“If [Los Angeles County] can share this data with us and anything related to health in advance, that’s something I’m trying to get here,” Sun added, calling for more cooperation and communication between San Marino and the county.

“I also feel, based on the facts, that we don’t need an ad hoc committee at this point,” said Council Member Allan Yung. He added that the city should urge the county to address the cases of elevated blood lead levels.

“When 17 percent of your sample shows a red mark, whether its just 5 micrograms [per deciliter], or 10 or six, I believe they should look at it. Even though they say they don’t look at it unless it’s 10 micrograms [per deciliter] or more,” said Yung.

Council Member Steve Talt invited Dr. Rangan and Maurice Pantoja, Environmental Health Services Manager of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, to speak at the council emergency meeting.

“I don’t think we need an ad hoc committee as much as we need to review our building codes to assure that we’re doing what the state recommends with respect to model ordinances to assure lead abatement or lead identification in remodeling,” said Talt, referring to an urgency ordinance on the agenda.

The urgency ordinance would require that contractors acquire Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, certification before being issued a City of San Marino permit or business license, according to Interim City Manager Cindy Collins. The ordinance, which was postponed to the council’s May 10 meeting, would also require that contractors provide “follow up documentation that any lead found had been properly abated.”

“We’d like to make it more comprehensive and spend a little more time developing that ordinance,” explained Collins.

“I’d be more than happy to take point on this,” Talt continued. “I think we’re doing what we should do at this point.”

“The reason that the county did not share the data with us is because none of the testing resulted in action on their part,” he said.

Talt added, “There was nothing that the county saw as actionable to give that information to San Marino. We didn’t know that when we started this process.”