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Search for High School Land Leads Only to Costlier Sites

Times Staff Writer

A consultant hired by the Alhambra High School District to find a new high school site has proposed two locations in Monterey Park, both much more expensive to acquire than a site in Rosemead that has aroused strong opposition.

The consultant, Harold Hedlund, told a school board meeting attended by council members from four cities that neither of the two Monterey Park sites is as desirable as the 43-acre parcel at Graves and Jackson avenues in Rosemead, designated as Site C.

District Serves 4 Cities

Strong opposition to Site C from the Rosemead City Council and the Garvey Elementary School District board earlier this year persuaded the Alhambra school board to instruct its real estate consultants to widen their search for a high school location to include the entire district, not just Rosemead. The high school district serves students in Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel and Rosemead.

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All of the district’s high schools, Alhambra, Mark Keppel and San Gabriel, are overcrowded, Supt. Bruce Peppin said. He said the district explored the idea of expanding each campus, but the campuses are too small to make that option practical. He said the district needs 35 to 40 acres to build a school to serve 3,000 students.

Peppin said the school board will decide at a meeting at 8 p.m. Sept. 30 which of the proposed sites should receive a thorough environmental impact study. The board has not decided whether to limit the study to one site or include others. After the environmental impact report is completed, the public will have six months to comment before a site is finally adopted, Peppin said.

Hedlund said he looked at several properties suggested by the public as potential school sites, including the Atlantic Square shopping center in Monterey Park, a former K-mart in Rosemead, Granada Park in Alhambra and Luminarias restaurant in Monterey Park, before ruling all of them out for various reasons. Some sites were too small; others were in heavily congested areas, he said.

Many Homes in the Path

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Hedlund offered two possibilities in Monterey Park, both requiring the acquisition of large numbers of homes.

One parcel, designated as Site F, is a 39-acre residential neighborhood bounded on the north by Newmark Avenue, on the east by Orange Avenue, on the west by Alhambra Avenue and on the south by a line several hundred yards north of Graves Avenue. The area contains 162 houses, 181 condominiums that are under construction and 118 other residential units, Hedlund said. He estimated the cost of acquiring and clearing the property and resettling residents at $56 million.

The other, slightly smaller parcel, designated as Site G, is roughly bounded by Garvey Avenue on the north, Marguerita Avenue on the east, Newmark Avenue on the south and Monterey Pass Road on the west. Hedlund said it has 186 homes and a few businesses, and the land could be acquired and cleared for about $30 million, including resettlement costs.

Hedlund said the preferred Rosemead site has from 285 to 295 homes. He estimated the cost of acquisition and demolition, plus resettlement, at $22 million.

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Other Possibilities

Three other sites in Rosemead remain under consideration. Two sites involve overlapping property, including a wholesale auto auction lot north of Garvey Avenue and west of San Gabriel Boulevard. The other site, at the eastern edge of the district, involves a mix of residential, commercial and industrial property south of Garvey Avenue near the Rio Hondo wash.

The Rev. Paul Bengston, who is pastor of a church in Rosemead but lives in Monterey Park, urged the school board to build the high school in Monterey Park, not Rosemead.

“Monterey Park is where the greatest population expansion is happening,” Bengston said. “It is logical to put a high school where the greatest amount of students are coming from.”

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Monterey Park Councilman Barry L. Hatch said the city would welcome a high school if a good site can be found. “We know we are a great part of the problem,” he said, but he added that new city policies are slowing population growth. The city has imposed a moratorium on construction of apartments and condominiums.

Land Values Going Up

Hatch said escalating property values in Monterey Park will make it difficult to find a site that is financially feasible. He suggested that the school board cancel its Sept. 30 meeting and organize a panel of city officials and others to find a better location.

But Supt. Peppin said it is the school board, not city officials, who must make a decision where to put the high school. The only response to Hatch’s suggestion came from school board member Richard Amador, who said the city could best help by providing financial assistance.

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Rosemead City Councilman Gary Taylor complained that Hedlund’s written report on school sites was not available before the meeting, making it impossible for council members and others in the audience to evaluate and respond to it.

But Taylor said, “After what we’ve heard tonight, I’m 90% certain it’s going to be Site C.”

He said the effort to find another location seems to have been “just a formality . . . but not a true evaluation.”


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