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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 With the unanimous massing of Project 1’s motion on July 26, that July 10 motion was superseded.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.

Gretchen Shepherd Romey, Susan Jakubowski and Calvin Lo, three of the six announced candidates for three open seats on the San Marino City Council at the November, 2017 election, fired the first salvos of the campaign season at open houses on Sunday, June 25.

Jakubowski and Lo were hosted by Alice & Paul Su at their home on Shenandoah and Shepherd Romey booked the familiar surroundings of the Hill Harbison House given her 17 years as a Girl Scout volunteer.

Public safety was a common theme on the scorching hot afternoon as each candidate addressed a rise in local home burglaries and other crimes.

“I am shocked and angry,” said Lo, declaring that San Marino is “facing an invasion” of criminal activity. Lo proposed a series of community forums and safety meetings, increased installation of surveillance cameras and a renaissance of the Neighborhood Watch program as possible solutions.

Shepherd Romey was equally alarmed by the increase in crime.

“When my family moved here over 20 years ago, San Marino had long been considered extremely safe,” she said. “The rapid escalation in criminal activity over the last year is cause for alarm.

She also proposed a revival of Neighborhood Watch programs “for our community’s protection.”

MORE PHOTOS FROM SHEPHERD ROMEY’S EVENT

Jakubowski urged the city to immediately fill open spots on the San Marino Police Dept. and proposed “mid-day citizen visual patrols” which she said have “had great success as an extra set of eyes and ears in other cities.”

Jakubowski also proposed the creation of a new five-year strategic plan for the city, calling it a “road map ranking specific issues to be addressed, timelines to get there and the allocation of human and capital resources. Goals we hope to achieve and reporting points will be included in this transparent plan.”

Lo said he would fight for the “preservation of San Marino’s heritage,” and also encouraged community involvement in city affairs.

MORE PHOTOS FROM JAKUBOWSKI AND LO’S EVENT

Shepherd Romey struck a similar tone, pointing out that the city has already granted 13 demolition permits for 2017 while noting that the previous high for any prior year is sixteen, a mark that seems to be in danger of falling. She also addressed the city’s aging streets and infrastructure.

Jakubowski noted that area as well and also addressed the city’s quandary of funding the CalPERS retirement system.

Dr. Hai Sou Chen held his campaign kick-off event on Sunday, July 2 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the home of former Mayor Dr. Matthew Lin. Coverage of that event will be in the July 7 edition of The Tribune.

Scott Kwong has not yet scheduled a campaign kick-off event. His campaign can be reached at kwong4citycouncil@gmail.com.

Ken Ude told The Tribune that his campaign is in the process of organizing a series of town hall meetings, candidate receptions and our team-building event in August. His campaign can be reached at info@kenudeforsanmarino.com.

A filing period for candidates with the San Marino City Clerk begins on July 17 and ends on August 11.

The filing period will likely be extended to August 16, as incumbents Dr. Richard Sun, Richard Ward and Dr. Allan Yung have not yet expressed their intention to make a declaration of candidacy.

The election will be held on Tuesday, November 7.

Gretchen Shepherd Romey has told The Tribune that she is a candidate in the race to fill three seats on the five-member San Marino City Council at the November, 2017 election.

Shepherd Romey – a lawyer – joins Susan Jakubowski, Calvin Lo, Dr. Hai Sou Chen, Scott Kwong and Ken Ude as the sixth declared candidate. A one-month candidate-filing period with the county registrar begins on July 18.

She explained that the idea to run for a seat on the city council developed about a year ago after meetings with a group of younger women community leaders, which were organized by San Marino’s first and second female mayors Rary Simmons and Suzy Crowell.

“They felt there was a need after about 10 years with no female presence on the council; that they needed to pass the torch to a new generation,” Shepherd Romey stated.

After a year of attending council meetings and conversations with the community, Shepherd Romey has identified preservation of historically significant homes—which she referred to as a “movement”—as her top priority.

“I’m running for city council to preserve and protect San Marino,” she said.

“As a city council member, I will strive to rein in this rapid redevelopment by strengthening existing building codes and enforcement,” Shepherd Romey noted, expressing her support for a new historic preservation ordinance.

Shepherd Romey shared her preservation experience with The Tribune.

“Over the past 17 years, I have had hands-on experience in the community’s efforts to preserve the historic Hill Harbison House,” she said. “I learned that modernization and improvements can be successfully accomplished while preserving historic structures along with the surrounding mature landscape and trees.”

Crime reduction is also a top priority in Shepherd Romey’s campaign platform.

She explained, “When I moved here over 20 years ago, San Marino had long been considered an extremely safe community. The recent spike in criminal activity is cause for alarm.”

“If elected, I plan to start a community crime prevention program with a goal of educating all residents and empowering them with information and strategies to protect their families against burglaries and home invasions, as well as financial exploitation,” she stated, noting the importance of a partnership with local law enforcement to revive San Marino’s neighborhood watch program.

Shepherd Romey has her eye on the city’s finances as well.

A firm supporter of the recommendations submitted by the citizen advisory group of the council’s Ad Hoc Committee, which reviewed the city’s administration and parks and public works departments, she feels full implementation would result in savings, increased productivity and financial responsibility for the city.

“Having served on executive boards of numerous nonprofit organizations that have monthly financial reports, I believes this method of reporting and analysis will increase the city’s financial responsibility to stay at or below budget and lead to greater financial transparency,” she added in her call for departmental monthly financial reports.

Savings resulting from a more financially responsible approach should go straight toward financing deferred infrastructure maintenance, she argued.

“I want to bring those matters to the forefront, and work on city council toward fully funding payments on those [infrastructure] liabilities annually, and directing any budget savings to go directly to payoff those liabilities,” she said.

Shepherd Romey earned her juris doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. Since moving to San Marino with her husband Michael, also an attorney, and children, Morgan and Turner, Shepherd Romey has played an active role in National Charity League, National Charity League Juniors, San Marino Garden Club, the Hill-Harbison House, San Marino Junior Alliance, San Marino Service Unit of Girl Scouts of America, and the Huntington Middle School and Valentine Elementary School PTAs. She is also a docent and educational facilitator at The Huntington Library.

“After a career as an attorney, and since moving to San Marino in 1996, I have been continuously active volunteering and leading many local civic, charitable, and educational organizations. Those two decades of community experience have given me a deep appreciation of our city and its residents, as well as a strong commitment to public service. If elected to City Council, such knowledge and experience will enable me to make an even greater impact for the betterment of our city,” she added.

To learn more about Shepherd Romey’s campaign, visit gretchenshepherdromeyforsanmarino.com. A campaign kick-off event will be held at the Hill Harbison House, 1841 Alhambra Rd., San Marino on Sunday, June 25 from 3 to 5 p.m.

The San Marino City Council terminated the position of Assistant City Manager and the contract of the person in that position, Lucy Garcia, in a four-to-one vote at its Apr. 12 regular meeting.

Vice Mayor Richard Ward cast the lone dissenting vote.

“I find it very difficult to accept the Ad Hoc proposal exactly as presented by the committee,” Ward said, noting that the council had a lengthy discussion about the matter. “I find it to be a particularly difficult [decision] to make and it’s inevitable that, I have to say that to some extent, I take into account the personalities and the personnel that are involved in the implication of this decision,” he added.

Garcia, a 12-½ year employee of the City of San Marino, was placed on administrative leave during a city council closed session meeting two weeks prior to Apr. 12.

The council’s decision included the elimination of the vacant finance director position, and the establishment of three fulltime positions: administrative services director, human resources manager and accountant. The council’s recent actions were informed by the first four of 44 total findings and recommendations listed in two council-commissioned reports produced by San Marino residents and citizen advisors Dan Biles, Alfred Boegh, Stef Dietrich, Hal Harrigian and Susan Jakubowski. The report’s authors did not comment during the 10-minute agenda item.

Interim City Manager Cindy Collins explained that she and the city council reviewed and analyzed the reports “and considered various alternatives to address the issues raised specifically in the areas of finance and human resources.”

“These two functions are relied upon by every city department and are critical in the financial operational health of the organization. Ultimately [these] actions are considered to be the most appropriate staffing consideration as discussed in closed session,” Collins stated.

She shared that the City Librarian and Recreation Manager “will need to perform more independently, and the city manager will be more administratively involved with the [Library and Recreation] departments,” as a result of Garcia’s termination.

“The personnel rules provide for additional compensation of 5 percent,” Collins added, noting that the additional cost to the city would be $34,000 in the next fiscal year. The Interim City Manager/new City Manager will evaluate the change in structure to determine the effectiveness,” she said.

Council Member Steve Talt addressed his comments of clarification to Collins, the public and city staff.

“In evaluating, the [citizen] advisory committee was directed not to look into individual job performances. So any decision made was not based upon the adequacy of the job the person described was doing,” Talt explained.

Mayor Richard Sun concurred.

“The council has already had an extensive discussion on this matter in closed session. Like Councilman Talt said, it’s based on the function, which will benefit the organization the most. It has nothing to do with the individual’s performance,” stated Sun.

“The council wanted to look at our basic structure to govern the city now and in the future. And that is what the Ad Hoc committee called for and they did a very thorough job,” added Council Member Allan Yung.

It is now the job of Collins to draft job descriptions and salary schedules for the newly created positions so that the city may begin to fill the three new vacancies.

Dr. Hai-Sou Chen, a 35-year resident and former chairman of this city’s Design Review Committee, has told The Tribune that he is declaring his candidacy in the race to fill three seats on the five-member San Marino City Council in the November, 2017 election.

Dr. Chen – a dentist – joins Susan Jakubowski and Calvin Lo as the only three declared candidates thus far. The deadline to declare is in August.

Chen served five years on the Design Review Committee and was the chairman of the DRC in 2014-15. He was president of the Chinese Club of San Marino in 2016 and is current a member of the San Marino Historical Society, City Club, Rotary Club and serves as an advisor to the Chinese Club of San Marino.

Dr. Chen’s experience on the Design Review Committee is one of the factors that drew him to the council race.

“I would very much like to appoint an additional volunteer liaison unit or sub-committee to provide architecture guidance and facilitate communication to residents prior to submitting the building plans,” said Chen. “I think this will help minimize the cost to the applicants and also increase the efficiency of the approval process.”

He is also concerned about the security of residents, citing the recent increase in home burglaries reported by the San Marino Police Dept.

He said it is crucial to update equipment that will “function as additional surveillance assistance to all of the city’s neighborhoods.”

Chen said he has “witnessed many changes” over his 35 years in San Marino and would add a bilingual, Chinese speaking receptionist to help with the daily function of the city. He would also add a bilingual element to the city’s webpage and appoint a volunteer committee “to help newcomers understand the history of San Marino and to adapt to the living requirements of this city.”

He also told The Tribune he wants to “preserve the classic appearance of the city’s development to keep San Marino unique.”

Chen’s wife, Linda Sun, was president of the Chinese Club in 2012 and has co-chaired successful tax campaigns for both the city and school district. A longtime civic volunteer, Sun received the Certificate of Congressional Recognition from United States Congresswoman Judy Chu in April, 2016.

Susan Jakubowski and Calvin Lo declared themselves candidates in the race to fill three seats on the five-member San Marino City Council in the November 2017 election.

In an exclusive interview with the San Marino Tribune, Jakubowski – the vice chairperson of the San Marino Planning Commission – and Lo – an alternate member of the San Marino Traffic Advisory Committee – shared their top priorities if elected.

Jakubowski listed fiscal responsibility—stressing attention to the City of San Marino’s aging infrastructure and growing pension liability—as her primary goal.

She stated that she addressed these issues and others as one of five citizen advisors to the city council’s Ad Hoc Committee reviewing city administration and parks and public works, an experience that she described as insightful.

Jakubowski, a member of San Marino City Club and former trustee on the San Marino Schools Foundation, said that her recent experience as a citizen advisor on the city’s Ad Hoc Committee has her “excited at the possibility of doing so much more.”

Also included in her list of goals are “enhanced community safety through more developed citizen volunteerism” and “character retention of residential areas and improvement of some business areas to become more welcoming.”

She added that a “careful review and study of the impact of increased traffic within [the] city” and “a closer partnership with the San Marino Unified School District” would also be among her goals.

Lo, a San Marino Rotarian and former president of the Chinese Club of San Marino, stated that preservation of San Marino’s architecture and history would be his main goal.

Next, he shared that he would work to increase community involvement, noting that volunteering is the fastest way to integrate newcomers into the community.

Thirdly, Lo expressed his intent to support a modernization of the city’s information technology, or IT, system, suggesting the development of a smartphone application similar to the one provided by the school district.

Lastly, he noted that city government should be more cost effective, but not in a way that would “compromise” the city’s “premium” services.

Jakubowski and Lo explained that they would not run a joint campaign for office.

“To be up on as many issues as possible,” Jakubowski clarified as the purpose for the collaborative effort. Some campaign events would be held jointly, they added.

Mayor Richard Sun, Vice Mayor Richard Ward and Council Member Allan Yung are all eligible to run for reelection, but have not publicly declared their intentions.

Elections for council seats currently held by Council Members Steve Talt and Steven Huang are scheduled for November, 2019.

The San Marino Planning Commission unanimously approved a conditional use permit to operate a yoga and meditation studio at 2260 Huntington Dr.

Clarisa Ru will operate Green Heart Yoga, the new occupant of the 2,618 square foot, two-story commercial space, which was once the home of the San Marino Tribune and, later, Lizzie Driver.

“I find it kind of odd that we don’t have [yoga studio and meditation center] in our community,” said Ru, who mentored five San Marino High School students last year.
“I think it would be a nice offering for our community. Yoga is available to all ages and all populations.”

Commissioners were supportive of the proposed use, but wanted to mitigate potential issues associated with limited parking space.

“The operator is also proposing to install a bicycle rack to encourage alternative transportation modes and to reduce on-site parking demand for the business,” informed Eva Choi, a planner with the City of San Marino, noting that the location had four tandem spaces behind it and two spaces leased to it from the adjacent city hall parking lot.
In the city’s staff report, Choi recommended that commission evaluate the parking situation one year after Green Heart Yoga opens its doors.

Commission Vice Chairperson Susan Jakubowski suggested that the commission evaluate the parking situation after 6 months of operation instead of the staff recommended one-year mark.

Alternate Commissioner James Okazaki also suggested an evaluation every six months.
The commission ultimately approved the staff recommended condition of a one-year check up in addition to a suggested condition from Commission Chairperson Marcos Velayos.

“It’s only really an issue if there are a ton of people and they’re coming and they’re driving and parking at city hall. And we’ll hear about it if that’s the issue,” Velayos contended. “The applicant will be ultimately responsible for ensuring customers do not use city hall parking and will implement appropriate steps which may include modifying operations to ensure that the project’s parking can satisfy demand,” he proposed.

Velayos reasoned, “If people are using parking that they’re not allowed to use at city hall, we’d rather have you figure out the solution to the problem than us trying to guess at a solution right now.”

Commissioner Howard Brody seconded Velayos’s proposed condition, adding, “I have meditated on this and completely support it,” which was received with laughter.
Ru assured the commission that her website and studio would include messages to encourage customers to walk, bike or carpool to the studio, and not park in city hall parking spaces.

Choi also explained that the business would operate seven days a week and would not host more than one session at any given time. The location would also include a small retail space in the front, according to Ru’s application.

1750 Chelsea Rd.
Commissioners approved modifications to two conditional use permits and two design review actions, which were previously approved in November 2015.

Per city staff’s recommendation, the commission denied a different part of the application—a variance for a five-foot high side yard wall located within 10 feet of the sidewalk.

The approval included the condition that the homeowner shall provide a city-approved tree protection plan for all mature trees on, near, or adjacent to his property, to be approved by Ron Serven, the city’s environmental services manager. Tree relocations shall follow the same approval process.

1750 Chelsea Rd

Steve Dahl, the project’s architect, explained that the modification request was a result of cost.

“We found that what we had gotten approved was way too darn expensive. It just was going to break the bank,” Dahl said, noting the existing plate height and roof pitch would be maintained. “Instead of a mini-mansion last time, you’ve got a house remodel,” he said of the new proposal, adding that the new project will include less excavation.

However, Dahl disagreed with city staff’s recommendation to deny the proposed five-foot retaining wall.

“The property can accommodate a taller wall than the code allows in a manner that is compatible with the neighborhood. However, staff cannot find that the physical circumstances of the property would warrant a deviation from the code,” the staff report stated, noting that most of the wall would be out of public view.

“We’re going to get rid of that five-foot fence across the top and tuck it underground by cutting through the hill with the driveway,” Dahl responded, referring to the proposed wall as “subterranean screening.”

“The gate, which we’re proposing should be five-feet—continue that line—will be five feet lower than what you have out there right now,” he added, claiming that the code of a four-foot wall within 20 feet of the sidewalk would result in more excavation.

“What started out as a cost-cutting measure turned into a better product,” Dahl concluded.
Dahl’s retaining wall found its only supporter in Okazaki, who—like his colleagues—approved of the rest of the proposal as well.

“I could support all the conditional changes, including the one-foot difference in the height of the wall. For me it’s okay because it’s an unusual condition,” he said.

“I can’t see how we could meet [the legal findings for] a variance here,” said Brody, adding an amendment that the owner implement a maintenance plan to give the home—which has been vacant for six years—an occupied appearance.

Chairperson Velayos stated, “The variance findings just cannot be made. We have very specific legal findings we need to make and I just don’t think they can be made in this case.”

In regard’s the Brody’s recommended amendment, he added, “If it is going to continue to be vacant after this approval, we want to ensure that, at least, the site is being maintained properly.” The owner of the residence was present for the hearing.

Two Withdrawals
An application to operate a music academy at 2491 Huntington Dr. was withdrawn from consideration by its applicant.

An application to appeal the decision of the San Marino Design Review Committee to deny a proposed two-story house and detached two-car garage was also withdrawn from consideration by its applicant.

The Planning Commission will hold its next regular meeting on Wednesday, Apr. 26 at 7 p.m. at 2200 Huntington Dr.

The San Marino Planning Commission unanimously approved a modification to a conditional use permit, which was granted to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in 2001, to change the size and orientation of three accessory buildings associated with the Chinese Garden.

The Northern Service Building, Penjing Restrooms and Penjing Service Building were approved and permitted by the planning commission as part of an overall master plan, which outlined sub-gardens and phases of construction, prepared by The Huntington in 2001.

“The intent of the project is to modernize the facilities—to address the needs for the current demand for the Garden,” according to report by city of San Marino Planning staff.

The staff report continued, “Although the proposal includes an additional 2,447 square feet of structure, the site is large enough to incorporate landscaping fences, walls and loading areas.”

The commission also unanimously approved a conditional use permit for a new 1,920 square foot art gallery in the area of the Chinese Garden.

Regarding the new art gallery, which would be the second art gallery in that portion of The Huntington, The Huntington’s Vice President for Advancement Randy Shulman noted, “we really wanted to have a second space that could really have things on paper that are light sensitive.”

He continued, “It is not anticipated that we’re going to collect Chinese art. It’s going to have temporary, small exhibits.”

Planning commissioners agreed with city staff, which approved of both components of The Huntington’s application.

Commission Vice Chairperson Susan Jakubowski thanked architect Jim Fry for the “detailed work that has been put into this proposal.”

“I can fully support this. It’s exciting to see that the Chinese Garden continues in its development. So far it seems to be seamlessly growing and so nicely coming together,” she noted, adding that she hopes that the Garden continues its seamless growth.

“The Garden really is one of the most significant gardens in the world. It is by far the best and most well planned Chinese garden outside of China, as well as including China,” said Commissioner Raymond Cheng.

Commissioner Howard Brody added, “This is really a gem within a gem. Certainly what’s been proposed is going to make it even more attractive. I could support it in its entirety.”

New Residence

The planning commission unanimously approved a new 4,159 square foot single-family residence to replace an existing 1,791 square foot residence on the north end of property of The Huntington Library.

Just like the existing house, the new house will also serve as the residence of The Huntington’s director of research, Steve Hindle, and his family.

“The design of the proposed house is a style anchored in The Huntington aesthetic while looking forward. Huntington himself was a very forward-looking person. He was drawn to new innovative materials and many he used on his ranch,” said house architect Kelly Sutherlin-McLeod.

“The project is to be of the place as a pavilion in the garden much more so than an architectural icon set in the middle of a garden,” she noted, stating that the design sought to create indoor and outdoor living spaces, maximize natural light and achieve sustainability.

The approved site plan of the new residence for The Huntington’s director of research. Photo courtesy of The Huntington

“We are aiming for LEED home certification. And this will possibly be the first single family home to receive this certification in San Marino,” Sutherlin-McLeod said.

“We are approaching the LEED certification holistically from the entire design including collection of ground water, percolation of water [and] the drive area of the gate—we’d like to use permeable concrete,” she explained. “So it’ll be site design, it’ll be building design, it’ll be the materials that we use [and] it’ll be the type of furnishings that go in the house.”

Sutherlin-McLeod noted that materials removed from Huntington buildings during previous renovation may be included in the house.

“The simple style of the new house provides a backdrop with which we can showcase these artifacts,” she said.

Other materials to be used on house are limestone, metal wall panels, board-formed concrete, stone veneer for the chimney, a standing seam metal roof, metal and wood soffits and overhangs, aluminum windows and doors and a wood garage.

Though the city’s staff report expressed concern regarding the metal wall panels and standing seam metal roof, commissioners did not.

“I think this is going to be a very good addition to the Library. I like that honest feel of the material and capturing the space both interior and exterior,” said Commissioner Cheng.

“I think a committee-type review of the materials is going to deprecate the project. I don’t want to see that happen,” said Commissioner Brody, expressing his support for the project.

“I think this is a well-designed project, especially that it’s environmentally friendly,” said Commissioner Hsu.

The commission also approved a new gate, which will be used by the residents of the house for entry off of Orlando Rd. The new iron gate will replace an existing chain link gate, which—like the existing residence—was not found to be original or of historic significance.

In other business…

A conditional use permit to operate a music academy at 2491 Huntington Dr. was unanimously continued to the commission’s March meeting due to the applicant’s absence.

Commissioners and staff raised concerns regarding about parking requirements and pick-up and drop-off scenarios, but expressed a sincere desire to fill the space in an effort to reduce the vacancy rate along Huntington Dr.

Citizen advisors to the San Marino City Council’s Ad Hoc Budget Committee delivered their final report to committee members and Council Members Allan Yung and Steve Talt on Jan. 3 after a year-long review process of the City of San Marino’s administrative functions and parks and public works department.

Following a review of the 16-page document by the city’s labor attorney, the report was made available to The Tribune last week.

“We believe immediate changes are required to avoid unnecessary costs, improve management and deliver the range and quality of services our citizens expect and deserve,” collectively penned citizen advisors and residents Dan Biles, Alfred Boegh, Stef Dietrich, Hal Harrigian and Susan Jakubowski.

The advisors made a total of 46 recommendations, which span numerous city operations, such as payroll, human resources, accounting, budgeting, information technology, work schedules, strategic long-term planning, infrastructure, citizen access and other areas.

The advisors’ recommendations are paired with explanations, which were informed by numerous interviews with city staff, analyses of city documents, observations of city operations and the authors’ perceptions of government.

At the council’s Jan. 11 meeting, Mayor Richard Sun thanked the citizen advisors for their efforts to produce a document that he described as a “very detailed report with many, many recommendations.”

“This is just the beginning of the implementation process, so today is the first meeting for this,” Sun noted, stating that interim City Manager Cindy Collins has already initiated many of the recommendations found in the report. “The council needs to have time to study this one and the staff needs to study this one,” he added, requesting that Collins submit city staff’s analysis of the report when it is ready.

The report recommends a variety of changes to city staffing levels.

One such recommendation is the combination of the roles of assistant city manager and community services director, currently performed by Lucy Garcia, and finance director, which has been contracted out to MV Cheng & Associates since July, 2016.

Another recommendation requests that the city add an accountant to the city’s finance team to assist in the installation and documentation of proper accounting procedures and internal controls to correct deficiencies that were identified by auditors.

The report describes financial control of city funds as “highly decentralized” and found the city procedures and internal controls to be “not adequate to limit opportunities for significant losses.”

“If money is available in the budget, few questions appear to be asked,” the report adds.

A permanent human resources professional may aid in the operation of the city, the report added. The city currently receives contracted human resources services.

An HR professional would be needed, the report recommends, to work on “the immediate development or updating and implementation of appropriate employment policies and procedures,” “the immediate creation and publication of a current employee handbook,” and “the practice of formal documentation of employee participation in training programs covering legally sensitive issues.”

To limit and recover costs, the citizen advisors included that fees for the accountant and human resources professional are not to exceed the budgeted cost of the finance director, which is $196,200 according to the approved 2016-17 fiscal year budget.

The report also recommends hiring a technology director to, among other duties, evaluate software currently used by the city to support project management, financial information sharing, policy and procedure documentation and to improve the city’s website, which the report describes as “incomplete and often out of date.”

The city utilizes a software known as Springbook, which, the report notes, provides a variety of modules that can aid the city in accomplishing several of the goals set out by the report, including improved budgeting practices and technological integration of accounting and payroll functions.

It recommends in the report that the city employ a receptionist to improve citizen access to city hall. The recommendation appears to be a result of the observation, which is noted in the report, that “visitors are often not greeted or wait for the planning staff to serve others first.”

“This person can direct visitors, perform clerical services for various departments and answer those callers seeking to speak with a ‘real person,’” the report said of the “dedicated receptionist” position.

The requirement that city employees update their voice message greetings on a daily basis, leave “out of office messages,” and respond to citizen’s emails and written communications within two business days are also listed as recommendations in the report.

The report also advises the update of the city’s telephone system, preferably as a lease, an approach that the report also recommends for many of the city’s vehicles and public works equipment.

Citizen advisors also expressed a desire to expand the city’s work week from four to five days, which, the report states, will require the revision of some employees’ work schedules to not increase their total hours or cost.

The report also highlights the “extra-ordinary freedom” given to staff in creating their work schedules and calls for a “thorough review of work schedules and immediate changes to conform with labor laws.”

Citizen advisors then claimed that “financial reporting to managers and the council is grossly inadequate.”

In order to provide complete financial information to managers or department directors, the report recommends “that financial statements comparing actual receipts and disbursements compared with the budget be prepared and distributed to management and the council within five business days after each month.”

The report further recommends the creation of two new committees. It requested that council appoint a citizen committee to “understand and advise on how to deal with [the] growing [pension] liability.”

The pension liability, referred to as “the elephant in the room,” is made larger as a result of “low earnings on investments,” according to the report.

Low earnings are also cited as cause for a second committee, which would be tasked with improvement of the city’s treasury function.

A finance committee, which the report notswas once a standing city committee and appeared to be envisioned as a group of “professional money managers,” could help the council “revisit the investment policy.”

The citizen advisors requested a more active role be played by the city’s treasurer, as well.

The report suggeststhat planning may be a desired solution to more effective spending of government dollars and resources.

“A comprehensive definition and description of all city services needs to be developed. Specific activities must be outlined for each service. Resources needed to provide these services must be defined. Such a plan will drive staffing and spending,” the citizen advisors wrote.

The advisors recommend that the council “[define] goals and objectives and assign staff to work with citizens to develop plans for achieving them.”

Some goals include a cost-benefit analysis of all city-owned facilities, a recreation department needs assessment study, and the formalization of plans and funding to address the city’s aging sewer system and declining roads.

The report notes that City Engineer Dan Wall, also the city’s parks and public works director, estimated “a minimum annual cost of $4.3 million over the next 10 years to adequately maintain the streets.” The city has currently budgeted $1.25 million per year for street maintenance.

According to the report, Wall also estimated that it will cost the city approximately $600,000 per year over the next 30 years to replace the city’s aging sewer system. “Adequate funds have not yet been set aside for that replacement,” the report reads.

Citizen advisors agreed with Wall that “the council needs to consider infrastructure maintenance a priority ahead of other areas and increase funding.” The report also praises Wall for the near-future installation of a computerized system for planning, tracking and control of projects.

However, the citizen advisors critique the department, noting that public works employees “do not report time spent by category or even in total by project.” As a result, “there is no way to evaluate the cost effectiveness of staff utilization.”

The report recommends that the city engineer internalize formally external engineering costs, utilize a commercial gardening maintenance firm to conduct lawn maintenance at Lacy Park and other green areas, fully automate the city’s irrigation system at Lacy Park, and reduce vehicle maintenance staff from two to one person.

“We asked some really tough questions and we asked for documents that maybe didn’t exist or weren’t easily available. It was frustrating. It was difficult,” stated Jakubowski, a citizen advisor, during the council meeting. “And everyone in the end came through and I think it’s a statement for the attitude the city employees have. So we thank them very much.”