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County committee holds off on Sagebrush election decision until December

Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization
The Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization decided Wednesday morning in Downey to hold off until December to further discuss Sagebrush elections.
(Raul Roa / Glendale News-Press)

The Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization decided Wednesday morning to hold off until December to further discuss selecting which voters will be asked to weigh in on the the transfer of properties that lie within the western La Cañada “Sagebrush” area from the Glendale Unified School District to La Cañada’s public school system.

The committee voted, 4-3, to reject a motion to limit the election area to just the 380-acre, 900-parcel Sagebrush area, while a motion to include the entirety of La Cañada Flintridge Unified and Glendale Unified also died.

The committee is leaning toward a voting area that would include the Sagebrush, La Cañada Unified and the Crescenta Valley High School attendance area, the latter of which is part of Glendale Unified. Committee members asked for more information, such as the number of registered voters in those areas, before making a decision.

“We need to have a fair election area that serves La Cañada and Glendale,” Committee member John Nunez said.

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The discussion was set into motion after the committee’s historical 6-3 vote at its last meeting Oct. 2 to accept a petition by Sagebrush residents to transfer the territory into La Cañada Unified.

That day, the committee also voted, 9-0, to accept the results of a California Environmental Quality Act study, regarding the Sagebrush area, commissioned in May 2017.

One issue not resolved, however, was the next step, which is to establish a voting area for a general election that would ask constituents whether or not to endorse the transfer. The earliest possible election would happen in November 2020.

County staff recommended the entirety of the Glendale and La Cañada Unified school districts be included in the election.

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Such a move would have given Glendale Unified, whose boundaries include around 200,000 residents, a sizable advantage over La Cañada Flintridge, a town of roughly 20,000.

That motion was defeated, 8-1, with only committee member Cherise Moore voting to approve.

On Wednesday, the committee narrowly voted against a motion to designate the election area as only Sagebrush, 4-3, with members Susan Andriacchi, Frank Bostrom and Ted Edmiston voting in favor and Moore, Nunez, Frank Ogaz and AJ Wilmer going against.

Moore followed with a motion to include both districts and Sagebrush, but that action was not seconded and died.

Nunez then asked for a motion to include the attendance area of Crescenta Valley High School and the entirety of Sagebrush and La Cañada Unified.

While the motion was seconded, board members resisted taking a vote, with some saying more information was needed.

Wilmer asked county staff, led by Allison Deegan, LACOE’s regionalized business services coordinator, how many registered voters reside within La Cañada Unified and the Crescenta Valley High School attendance area.

“We don’t have that information,” Deegan responded, saying she needed for further instruction from the committee as to what they needed.

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Moore expressed her disapproval with the maps that provided potential election areas but little else.

“These are just drawings, and it doesn’t really show what the impact would be districtwide,” she said. “For me, I need to have more information.”

Committee members asked Deegan to return with the total number of registered voters in each of the three zones, voter history by precinct and voter turnout for the areas, including all of Glendale Unified.

While these efforts were taking place, Glendale Unified attorney Stan Barankiewicz acknowledged the school district followed up on its stated intent to appeal the committee’s petition approval.

On Oct. 31, the district formally filed a notice of appeal with the county, while also bringing a lawsuit in superior court challenging the results of a mitigated negative declaration conducted during the CEQA study.

Barankiewicz confirmed the district would also file a statement of reason and factual evidence with the county, as part of the appeal process, by a Nov. 14 deadline.

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