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South Pasadena: Fairness at Issue in Renovation, Expansion of Historic Home

I am personally devastated by the most recent verdict in the case of Lee Prentiss versus the city of South Pasadena (July 30).

In 1990, when I served as mayor, Prentiss was hastily issued a building permit that did not receive environmental review or comply with the state Historic Building Code standards. Upon this notice, the permit was revoked at the behest of the majority of the council. Prentiss’ politics were not the issue. The issue was an addition of 2,661 square feet to the front of a historic 3,600-plus-square-foot home.

At all times the council acted in the best interest of the city. We sought the advice of an expert in environmental and historic law after the city attorney admitted he was not versed in this area of law. The council was advised that this area of the law was unsettled, but it was felt the city’s position was sound. At one point in this lengthy court saga, two state agencies including the attorney general sided with the city’s case by presenting an amicus curiae brief.

For the record, Prentiss was offered a second permit within seven months of the original revocation for virtually the same size addition. A few months later he applied for this second permit and did in fact commence construction and eventually complete two-thirds of his project. His oversized project was even exempted from a mansionization ordinance.

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The city has continually attempted to settle this ongoing legal matter. Offers were always turned down. The council at all times assessed the matter in a fair manner, as it did any number of lawsuits that came before it. The primary factor of consideration was always fairness and the effect on the city budget.

It is devastating to consider the ramifications of this case. My integrity has been impugned. As a council member and mayor, I continually embraced the high ideals of making government responsive and accountable. I chose to serve my community primarily on a volunteer basis.

I am shocked and dismayed to think that any council member, anywhere at any time, might be accused of abusing power when he or she strives to further the principles by which they were elected. Someone willing to lie in court can crush a reputation. I would consider legal action but I do not have the financial means to fight this battle alone.

EVELYN FIERRO

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Former mayor, South Pasadena currently in Alexandria, Va.

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We have lived in this town for 13 years. Our children have attended our fine schools and we have enjoyed living in a wonderful neighborhood where neighbors know and respect each other, get together for holidays and summer barbecues, and even vacation together.

We are deeply hurt to see two women for whom we have tremendous respect be maligned. We know them well, and know their intentions have always been for the good of the city of South Pasadena.

We are talking about former Mayor Evelyn Fierro and former Transportation Commissioner Joanne Nuckols. They fought for years to keep the 710 Freeway out of our city. They have also spent their volunteer hours continually helping and protecting this city when the rest of us couldn’t find the time and relied on them. We need these kind of leaders; people willing to put their necks on the line to help us preserve our community.

Evelyn has temporarily moved to Washington, D.C., but we recall how she fought for our community to bring about design standards and stood up to those who wanted to overdevelop our small town.

Joanne gets things done. She has masterminded the freeway fight for years. She has motivated national preservation groups to help save our city.

We moved our family to South Pasadena 13 years ago because of its small-town atmosphere and community closeness. We want it preserved for future generations of children to play in the front yards and walk to school together.

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To say these women have deprived Lee Prentiss of his civil rights is absurd. This is definitely taking political antics too far. They acted in good faith for the city, with nothing personal to gain.

JEFF and LESLIE ESTEP

South Pasadena


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