Preparation of an environmental impact report for a proposed high school in Rosemead is being delayed while the Alhambra School District appeals to the state Allocation Board for $1 million to pay for the report and other costs connected with the site.
The need for $1 million is just one more problem for the Alhambra district, which operates elementary schools in Alhambra and high schools serving Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead and San Gabriel. The proposal to build a high school in Rosemead has been greeted with disdain by Rosemead’s mayor, who has questioned the need for another high school in the city. And the Garvey school board, which operates elementary schools in Rosemead, has gone on record against the site preferred by the Alhambra board.
The Allocation Board, which finances school construction, has tentatively awarded $44.6 million to Alhambra to buy property, build the school and relocate residents who would be displaced. But the allocation does not cover the environmental impact report, the cost of negotiating agreements with property owners or the development of a relocation plan for displaced residents.
John Perko, associate superintendent, said the environmental study will cost $60,000 to $90,000. He said it will cost $200,000 to $300,000 to conduct property negotiations and $600,000 to $700,000 to prepare and administer a relocation plan.
Anne Garbeff, spokeswoman for the state Department of General Services, said environmental impact studies, property negotiations and relocation plans are considered administrative expenses, which are a local responsibility. Payment of those expenses by the state would require a policy change by the Allocation Board, she said. Perko said he will appear before the board in Sacramento Sept. 25 to request the policy change.
Contract Held Up
Perko said the contract for an environmental impact report is being held up until the financial issue is resolved.
Before the contract is awarded, the board will have to focus the study on a specific high school site. The school board is not yet committed to a site, but its consultants have suggested four possibilities and the board several months ago indicated a “preference” for what is labeled as Site C, a 42.6-acre area that lies generally along Jackson Avenue between Fern and Graves avenues, and is occupied by houses and apartments. The district has estimated that 250 families would be displaced, but opponents contend that the figure is closer to 400.
Opponents also say the plan would create traffic congestion and put the high school within blocks of three elementary schools, a junior high school and an orphanage, exposing youngsters to drugs and other problems associated with high schools.
Some residents opposed to Site C suggested an alternative plan that would put the high school at Fern Intermediate and Elementary School, expanding that campus through acquisition of neighboring homes. The Alhambra district would pay for the property, enabling the Garvey School District, which runs Fern, to build a new elementary school on vacant land on Rush Street between Walnut Grove Avenue and San Gabriel Boulevard.
John Nunez, president of the Garvey school board, said his board is on record against Site C because there are too many schools nearby, and he thinks the board also will oppose the Fern site, particularly because Garvey and the city of Rosemead are planning a joint project to renovate sports fields on the property.
Nunez said the Alhambra board cannot acquire Fern School without approval from the Garvey board. Both the Garvey and Alhambra districts serve the southern half of Rosemead. Garvey operates schools from kindergarten through the eighth grade. The Alhambra district runs Alhambra, Mark Keppel and San Gabriel high schools, which serve Alhambra, San Gabriel and part of Monterey Park and Rosemead.
Alhambra Supt. Bruce Peppin said all of the district’s high schools are overcrowded. Enrollment has risen 20% in five years. The proposed high school would primarily serve the 2,700 high school students who live in the Garvey district, although all of the Alhambra district’s high school attendance areas would be redrawn.
Rosemead Mayor Louis Tury said he thinks most of the increased enrollment is coming from Monterey Park, not Rosemead.
“We don’t feel Rosemead is responsible for the overcrowding,” Tury said. “We made a conscious decision to keep our density low; Monterey Park did not.”
Tury said the city is seeking figures to determine whether the high school is needed. The reaction of many residents, he said, is that the site should be “any place but Rosemead.”
Many Rosemead residents who attended an information meeting held by the Alhambra school board last week urged the district to look for a site in Monterey Park. Others questioned whether a high school is needed at all, and some acknowedged the need for a high school in Rosemead, but complained that community opinion had been ignored in the search for a site.
Rosemead Councilman Jay Imperial recently suggested that consideration be given to unifying the school districts that serve Rosemead before building another high school. He noted that Rosemead students north of the San Bernardino Freeway attend schools in the Rosemead Elementary School District and go to Rosemead High School, which is run by the El Monte Union High School District. He said it might be possible to combine the Rosemead and Garvey elementary districts and have them take over and expand Rosemead High School. But officials from the existing school districts said such an effort would be enormously complicated and face many obstacles.
Richard Amador, president of the Alhambra school board, defended the decision to build a new high school, saying that the state Allocation Board would not have approved funds for a school if it was not needed.
“There is no question that we need another high school,” he said. “There is no question we are way overcrowded.”
At the same time, he said, he is greatly concerned about any proposal that will destroy homes.
He said the board is continuing to invite site suggestions in hopes of finding a suitable location that would displace fewer families. But school officials have said that the area is so fully developed that a 40-acre site cannot be assembled without displacing homes or businesses.
Amador said the next major decision for the board will be to order an environmental impact report focusing on a specific site. After the environmental report is completed, the public will have six months to comment before the board can begin acquisition of property.