Local elected officials and police joined a Sherman Oaks homeowners group Thursday to protest the recent opening of a parole office in their community, complaining that the office is located too close to a park and that public notification about the opening was inadequate.
Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents Sherman Oaks, and Capt. James McMurray of the Los Angeles Police Department joined a Sherman Oaks homeowner group at a news conference to ask state officials to close the parole office on Van Nuys Boulevard that opened last month.
Earlier Thursday, state Sen. David Roberti (D-Van Nuys) called Gov. Pete Wilson and state Department of Corrections Director James Gomez to demand that the state relocate the parole office, according to a Roberti aide. Roberti has yet to receive a response to his request, the aide said.
State parole officials defend the decision to open the office, saying they properly notified state and local officials. They also reject criticism that the office will generate more crime in the area.
The parole office opened April 25 at 5121 Van Nuys Blvd. to consolidate two San Fernando Valley parole offices and provide more room for parole officials. It has 70 state employees, including 50 armed parole officers, and serves 4,100 parolees. The office is located across the street from the Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks Recreation Center.
Yaroslavsky criticized state corrections officials, saying he received no notice about the opening. After reading a notice sent to Roberti, he said, he was angry that the document was vague about what type of office was being proposed.
“The state’s behavior on this has been sneaky and shocking,” Yaroslavsky said in an interview after the news conference. He said he will urge the City Council today to ask the Department of Corrections to close the Sherman Oaks facility.
McMurray, commander of the LAPD’s Van Nuys Division, said he too was not notified of the office opening. He said he fears that the parolees coming and going at the center will cause problems in a relatively low-crime area.
Yaroslavsky and Sandy Miller, Roberti’s district chief of staff, said they believe the opening violates the state’s own guidelines, which says parole offices should be located at least a quarter-mile from parks and schools.
“This kind of office, by their own guidelines, should not be within a quarter-mile from a park,” the councilman said.
Frank Marino, who heads the parole office, said the state’s Department of General Services sent notices about the opening last to elected state officials, the Los Angeles city clerk’s office and LAPD Chief Willie Williams.
As for the charges that the office violates state regulations, Marino said the guidelines regarding the location of parole offices are merely recommendations and not requirements.
He noted that the state has already signed a five- to 10-year, $2.5-million lease and that relocation would be unlikely because of the money already invested in the move.
Although the office will serve 4,100 convicted criminals, Marino said parolees will come to the office only to sign papers or receive special drug testing. For the most part, he said, parole officers meet with parolees at the parolees’ home.
“In my personal experience of 24 years, I have had little or no incidents around parole office sites,” Marino said, adding that parolees tend to stay clear of parole offices. “They have an aversion to the office.”
He said the public outcry over the parole office is not new. In other cities, such as El Monte and Alhambra, local officials have agreed to help pay the costs of relocating parole offices that have created a public furor, Marino said.
But Yaroslavsky rejected any suggestion that the city of Los Angeles will help pay to relocate the office.
“The city is not going to pay,” he said. “This is not the city’s mistake.”