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LCF Council elects Terry Walker as mayor, reflects on Mike Davitt’s year at the helm

With words of respect and admiration for outgoing La Cañada Mayor Mike Davitt and a list of goals for the year ahead, Terry Walker was seated as the city's new mayor in an annual reorganization meeting of the City Council Tuesday.

Before the appointment, Davitt reflected on the past year and expressed his appreciation to his fellow council members, city staff, family members and the public for their support.

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"It's been a crazy year. But I think we got a lot done, and I'm very excited about that," he said. "I think there's a lot more to do and I have every confidence in whoever the next mayor will be."

During the reorganization, a unanimous vote brought Walker to the helm, marking her first time serving as mayor since she was appointed to the council in 2015. In a playful demonstration, she held up one of Davitt's shoes (on loan from his wife, Alison) and then placed her own heel inside it.

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"I think I still have a lot of room for growth," Walker said before addressing Davitt. "I will try to live up to your shoe size."

The new mayor offered kind words on the many personal attributes Davitt lent to the council as mayor, commenting on his excellent communication and listening skills, his ease in assuming leadership roles and ability to negotiate in and through tough situations.

"A lot really was accomplished under his mayorship, and we're all very proud of the state of our city under your tutelage," she told Davitt.

Walker outlined her goals for the coming year, promising chief areas of focus would be increasing public safety awareness and crime prevention, strengthening economic development as the city revises its Downtown Village Specific Plan and welcomes a new Target store in its Town Center, completing technological upgrades at City Hall and expanding on the work of the La Cañada Flintridge Sister Cities Assn.

In her first order of mayoral business, she oversaw the unanimous appointment of Councilman Len Pieroni to the position of mayor pro tem. Then the newly reorganized council got down to the business of their regular meeting, before presiding over a parting ceremony for Davitt during which gifts, proclamations and fond remembrances flowed freely.

Representatives from the offices of state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) and L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger recognized Davitt for his commitment to La Cañada and the wider community over the past year.

Law enforcement and public safety officials offered their thanks, as did local organizations, including the LCF Trails Council, YMCA of the Foothills and Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge.

City Manager Mark Alexander offered some sincere and some tongue-in-cheek gifts to the mix from staff, including a commemorative plaque, a tie-dyed banner used in last summer's city-sponsored "Summer of Love" chamber mixer.

Alexander also bestowed upon Davitt police gear alongside the official title of "Undercaptain," a kid's tricycle and a Donald Trump figurine that proclaimed "You made La Cañada Flintridge great again. God bless La Cañada Flintridge and God bless America."

"Thank you Mr. Mayor — you made La Cañada Flintridge great again," the city manager said.

Treehouse trouble

Speaking in a public comment at the start of Tuesday's meeting, La Cañada resident John Womack shared his frustrations with a city ordinance that declared a wooden play platform he built for his young children a code violation and called for its removal.

Womack claimed no harm was done to the tree, and that his review of the ordinance referred only to structures built at ground level. He urged council members to revisit the ordinance in a future meeting.

"We're a family-first community," Womack said. "When we can no longer build treehouses or play platforms in trees [where] we don't cut one single branch, we don't alter the tree and we don't damage the roots, I don't know where we're headed."

Community Development Director Robert Stanley defended the code violation ruling, stating the city's tree ordinance requires setbacks between all structures and protected trees, such as the oak in question.

"My understanding is this [platform] is nailed directly to the oak tree," he said. "You just can't have it."

Both Mayor Walker and Mayor Pro Tem Pieroni requested that the matter be placed on a future meeting agenda for further review.

Swimming pool rules

Also Tuesday, council members reviewed the city's swimming pool enclosure and safety requirements, agreeing to ease up on a previously adopted portion of the 2017 Los Angeles County Building Code that prohibits double doors and openings wider than 4 feet from counting as part of a pool's enclosure.

"Any sliding door, French door or accordion doors that exceed 4 feet do not meet the L.A. County Code requirement," Deputy Development Director Susan Koleda told the council. "We've had a number of complaints regarding the way L.A. County has been implementing the code requirements."

Both the county regulations and the statewide Swimming Pool Safety Act, which took effect Jan. 1, require new pool and spa owners or those renovating existing pools and spas to create a pool enclosure and also choose one additional precaution from a list of measures designed to prevent drowning, including mesh fencing, power safety pool covers and alarms that detect when a pool's surface water tension is disrupted.

For doors providing access to the home to be used as enclosures, regardless of width, the new policy requires homeowners to install a self-latching or self-closing mechanisms or a door alarm. Council members approved the revision, emphasizing the ultimate responsibility lies on homeowners.

"It goes back to the importance of teaching everyone in your home how to swim," Davitt said.

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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