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City Hall employees prepare for big move during ‘soft close’ Fridays in August

City Hall employees prepare for big move during ‘soft close’ Fridays in August
City employees are packing their offices at La Cañada City Hall on Friday, August 3, 2018. The official move isn't until December, but over seven weeks, departments are taking advantage of the slowness of summer to get a bulk of the work done. (Tim Berger / La Cañada Valley Sun)

Dumpsters and paper shredders at La Cañada Flintridge’s City Hall are seeing their fair share of work, as city employees begin to sort through decades of accumulated files and equipment in preparation for the move to a new location.

A recent Friday afternoon — the third of a planned seven consecutive “soft close” Fridays set to run through Aug. 31 — found City Hall employees in comfortable attire busily working to organize boxes and files, occasionally stopping for trips to the facility’s shredding machine.

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La Cañada City Manager Mark Alexander, who’s overseeing the effort, said city staff will not be taking appointments and will limit customer service during Fridays this month to help accommodate the move to the former Sport Chalet headquarters building in the Town Center.

“During the summer months, things tend to slow down a little bit,” he said of timing the clean-out months ahead of an anticipated December move-in date. “Also we want to be doing this when we know there’s going to be dry weather.”

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Items still operational but not currently in use at City Hall will be offered to La Cañada School District, as well as the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station and local fire departments, Alexander explained. After that, a vendor might be called in to separate out items of value before the remainder is discarded.

Senior Accountant Winnie Fung scans through files, looking for when the city purchased the building.
Senior Accountant Winnie Fung scans through files, looking for when the city purchased the building. (Tim Berger / La Cañada Valley Sun)
Code Enforcement Officer David Rodriguez goes through an old box filled with unresolved building permits that he and his team will go through in the next few weeks.
Code Enforcement Officer David Rodriguez goes through an old box filled with unresolved building permits that he and his team will go through in the next few weeks. (Tim Berger / La Cañada Valley Sun)

Given that the city has occupied the 7,160-square-foot building since the early 1980s (years before its purchase in 1997) there’s a lot to go through. So far, the cleanup has unearthed some unexpected treasures.

“This is my second Friday and I’ve just done the top of my desk,” said Ann Wilson, division manager of the administration department, examining a stack of local newspapers from the 2009 Station fire. “I’m not throwing these away — these are staying.”

In the Planning Department, Community Development Director Susan Koleda balanced a massive accordion folder on her lap containing documents pertaining to the city’s housing element, circa 1984.

Senior Management Analyst Lisa Brancheau holds an aerial image of Foothill Boulevard.
Senior Management Analyst Lisa Brancheau holds an aerial image of Foothill Boulevard. (Tim Berger / La Cañada Valley Sun)
A paper shredder has been used constantly over the last few weeks and will continued to be used heavily until the official move in December.
A paper shredder has been used constantly over the last few weeks and will continued to be used heavily until the official move in December. (Tim Berger / La Cañada Valley Sun)

“Everyone’s been quite accommodating,” Koleda said of the transition period. “I’ve got to say, there have been couple of comments (from the public) that it’s about time.”

Employees in her department discovered large-scale aerial photographs depicting La Cañada Flintridge during the building of the 210 Freeway, when the present-day City Hall, at 1327 Foothill Blvd., appeared to serve as a construction vehicle staging area.

In one corner, stacked boxes contained 42 years of resolutions adopted by the Planning and Design commissions. In another, unresolved permits for projects that were approved but whose final inspection results were never reported need to be addressed.

There’s a long way to go, Alexander acknowledged, but the process so far has been fascinating.

“It’s kind of nostalgic at the same time it’s laborious, and it’s interesting at the same time it’s mundane,” he said. “But it’s necessary and I think there’s a sense of fulfillment in doing it.”

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