Court grants Glendale Unified access to Sagebrush petition signatories

Attorneys representing the Glendale Unified School District were granted access to the names and addresses of 724 registered voters living in the Sagebrush area of La Cañada Flintridge who signed a petition in support of transferring their neighborhood out of Glendale Unified's jurisdiction and into La Cañada Unified's, following a ruling made Friday.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Amy Hogue granted the release of the signatures to Glendale Unified's attorneys, who filed a petition seeking a court order for the names and addresses of transfer supporters in September.

Hogue, however, did not grant the district's additional request to halt current proceedings initiated by the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization in September to decide on the transfer.

The 11-member committee is expected to vote on the matter next year.

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Hogue asked Glendale Unified attorney Stan Barankiewicz why the district wants the names and addresses.

Barankiewicz said the data could help the school district build arguments against the transfer by pointing out how many Sagebrush petitioners have school-age children — and how many don't.

He said the signatures could also give insight into their residential or commercial property values should Glendale Unified potentially argue that those petitioners could make personal gains in property values under the transfer.

"We have a right to make those arguments to the county committee," Barankiewicz told the judge.

After the hearing, he said he was not authorized by Glendale Unified to speak to the press.

Local officials have said the nearly 400 students who live in the Sagebrush area could equate to a $3.6-million loss for Glendale Unified, at most, per year in state funding by 2018, should the students no longer attend Glendale schools.

The Sagebrush area consists of about 385 acres with about 1,000 homes, representing about 2% of Glendale Unified's tax base.

County committee members do not typically look at signature data as part of their process to decide whether to transfer territory from one school district to another, but to get the county committee to weigh in on the transfer, Unite LCF!, a citizens group that supports the transfer, needed to collect roughly 400 signatures of registered voters living in the Sagebrush area who support transferring the territory.

The 700-plus signatures that Unite LCF! gathered were verified by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder.

The citizens group recently gained the support of Marilyn Smith, an attorney who represented the organization pro bono on Friday.

Smith was part of the initial effort to transfer the territory into La Cañada Unified after the city of La Cañada was incorporated in 1976. An earlier effort by Sagebrush residents was launched in the early 1990s, but ultimately failed.

In the 1970s, she said, Sagebrush residents wanted to unify the city and school district's boundaries. That same sentiment remains today, she added, despite claims that Sagebrush residents only seek to raise their home values.

"It's 'Unite LCF.' It's not, 'Raise our property values,'" Smith said.

In response to Glendale Unified's plea for the signature data, Smith said: "It's really voter intimidation."

While Glendale Unified's attorneys can "examine" the signature data, they will not be permitted to take photographs or make copies of the names and addresses, Hogue said, even though Barankiewicz told her that he wanted two watermarked copies of the data.

Instead, Hogue said the attorneys could partake in "19th-century note-taking."

As part of the county committee's consideration in the matter, it will seek input from residents during two upcoming public hearings.

The first hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on Oct. 26 in the boardroom at the La Cañada Unified School District headquarters, 4490 Cornishon Ave., La Cañada.

The second hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 2 in the MacDonald Auditorium at Crescenta Valley High School, 2900 Ramsdell Ave., La Crescenta.

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Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

Twitter: @kellymcorrigan

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