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SHERMAN OAKS : Parole Office Should Stay, Committee Says

A state parole office should remain in Sherman Oaks despite pressure from residents and politicians opposed to it, leaders of a citizens advisory committee said Friday.

“There is no documentation that there is an increase in criminal activity,” said Don Schultz, chairman of the committee, which ironically was created by state Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Van Nuys), one of several politicians fighting to have the parole office moved.

Schultz made his remarks at a press conference Friday morning.

Bowing to political pressure, state officials in May announced that the parole center--which had just moved into a new building in Sherman Oaks a month and a half earlier--would be closed and moved to North Hollywood.

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Opponents contended that the Sherman Oaks facility, directly across from a park, violated state Department of Corrections guidelines for locating a parole facility.

But Schultz said that those fears were overblown, and that crime is no worse in the neighborhood because criminals are unlikely to congregate in the park knowing that armed parole officers are in the building across from them.

At the press conference, Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs said he opposes the move to North Hollywood--which is in his district--although he does not necessarily agree that it should stay in Sherman Oaks.

“The problem is that they made a decision based on political pressure and not by involving the community in the process before a decision was made,” Wachs said. “I think each community should bear its fair share of the responsibility.”

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State Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Panorama City) said that moving to the North Hollywood site, which he called an inferior facility, would be a waste of $2 million that the state Department of Corrections spent in its search for the new Sherman Oaks site.

By recommending that the facility remain in Sherman Oaks, the committee failed to do the job given to them by Roberti, which was to find an alternative site, said Sandy Miller, Roberti’s chief of staff.

“The sole purpose of the committee was to work with the Department of Corrections to find a site the three communities would be happy with,” Miller said, adding that Sherman Oaks representatives have been out-voted on the issue.

“We’re just not giving them the answer that they wanted to hear,” Schultz said.

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The committee has sent a letter to Gov. Pete Wilson asking for the decision to move the facility be overturned.

The committee vote on the issue--two weeks ago--was 7 to 1 in favor of keeping the office in Sherman Oaks. Opposing the action was Patricia Boyd of Sherman Oaks, who said she objects to keeping the office at its present location because of its proximity to the park, as well as to a senior citizens center. She added that the rent is more expensive than it had been.

Boyd was the only representative from Sherman Oaks who was included in the vote. The two other representatives were absent that day, she said.

“I think it could have been worked out more amicably,” Boyd said.

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