Piece of Mind: Small investments with big dividends

So I see from the story filed this week by contributing writer Sara Cardine that supporters of La Cañada’s highly performing public school system are showing up at a local real estate office at night to dial for dollars. Their hope is they will persuade property owners within the school district to approve an extension of the existing parcel tax. The proposed tax is $450, up $300 from the current rate, so I guess one way we could look at it is that they’re seeking what amounts to an additional $25 a month from each household to help keep the LCUSD in good shape.

Many of us vote with our wallets in mind and flinch when asked for more, so the volunteers at the phone bank will have to be convincing. After sitting at the City Council meeting Tuesday night to hear what was being said about zoning to allow for affordable housing — a topic that has raised the ire of some residents — I have another thought to add to the school district’s pitch for money. I’m stealing it from the local resident seated next to me at that meeting. We’re longtime acquaintances, so we couldn’t help ourselves — we did some chatting as thoughts sprang to mind.

While city officials were making the case that updating the housing element is simply a matter of meeting a state mandate and that once it’s done, all will be well because (I’m paraphrasing here) no developers in their right minds would want to buy up high-priced La Cañada real estate in order to build affordable housing projects or a homeless shelter, people seated in front of us were shaking their heads in disbelief. They clearly were not buying what the city officials were peddling. About then, my friend leaned over and whispered to me, ”That’s why people need to support the parcel tax.” Of course! If the parcel tax passes, not only do the schools win, our property values remain enviable and higher taxes might make it even that much less enticing for a developer to entertain the idea of creating the kind of units that are so troubling to some of our residents. That latter scenario alone might keep those citizens voting in favor of parcel taxes for as long as they call La Cañada home. Do you think they’ll buy that?

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As is so often the case around this city, where civic involvement is so key to our way of life, the school district is not the only entity seeking public support this year. I sat down last week with Kim Beattie, who last Thursday night was sworn in as the new chairman of the board of the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce and Community Assn.

I asked Kim if she had any specific goals in mind for the chamber this year and she said she and the board would particularly like to build the residential membership. Business membership, as one might expect, is solid in this town where there is just a 4% vacancy rate in the commercial area, but out of roughly 7,200 households, a paltry 158 are currently on the chamber’s membership roster.

“I ask people, ‘why would you not want to spend $40 on a residential membership?’” Kim told me. She invites us all to think about what the town would be like without the portion of the chamber’s work that is not strictly business-oriented, but is designed to engage the general public: It sponsors the farmers market every Saturday, stages the Fiesta Days extravaganza each May, holds the Festival in Lights kickoff event in Memorial Park in early December and provides youth with learning experiences and scholarships through the Miss La Cañada Flintridge and internship programs. All of these efforts bring us together as a community, Kim points out.

I’m not aware of any phone banks in the works to build the chamber’s residential membership, although I know that one of its directors, Gary Stibal, has been trying to drum up participation. But if you feel you can give $40 a year to help the chamber pay for the community events it provides us all, don’t wait for a call. Dial the chamber’s office: (818) 790-4289.

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CAROL CORMACI is the managing editor. Email her at carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

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