HomeCity NewsYEAR IN REVIEW: City Celebrates History, Change in 2023

YEAR IN REVIEW: City Celebrates History, Change in 2023

As 2023 comes to a close and residents gear up for the new year, here is a look back at a year full of changes and milestones for the city of La Cañada Flintridge.
Here are some of the Outlook Valley Sun’s top stories chronicling 2023:

The year started off strong for the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce and the LCF Royal Court, who were able, for the first time, walk in the 134th annual Rose Parade on New Year’s Day.
“I was honored to have the opportunity to represent my hometown while being an out walker with the LCF float in the Rose Parade,” said then-LCF Queen Erin Carney.
The LCF Rose Parade float, titled “Secondhand Shenanigans,” also won the Mayor’s Trophy at this year’s parade.
The Chamber also started off the year with great passion for its organization and the city of LCF by celebrating and gearing up to celebrate 50 years of Fiesta Days.
The “Golden Jubilee,” which took place during Memorial Day weekend, brought together queens and princesses from 1973 to the present to be honored as the Grand Marshals.
Royal Court adviser Katherine Markgraf initially came up with the great idea during the height of the pandemic, when many events were cancelled for the 2020 court to attend.
The first car in the parade featured the first LCF Royal Court queen — from 1973 — Susan LeFevre Crossan, and current Queen Hannah Kiang.
Although the day of the parade started off with rain, many LCF residents showed up to support the event.
“It’s a great parade no matter what, rain or drizzle. So, I am glad to see people out here even when it is drizzling out,” said Karen Hunt, who attended the parade with her mother and son.
The lineup consisted of about 76 participants, which included the LCF City Council.
“I feel like we’re getting back to where we were prior to COVID,” said then-Mayor Keith Eich. “But I felt like this year was fantastic, and better than last year. I feel like every year we get better.”
Markgraf was able to gather more than 30 royal court members.
“Going down the parade route, Ellen Johnson Hawthorne’s 90-plus year-old mother was on the sidewalk, cheering her daughter on. Ellen was a princess in 1976. The look on her mother’s face said it all. … right then Ellen was 17 years old again and her mom was so enthusiastically clapping and waving at her,” said Markgraf.

Former LCF Royal Court queens and princesses with signs representing the years that they participated were the grand marshals of the 2023 Fiesta Days parade Photo by Mary Emily Myers Outlook Valley Sun

The back-and-forth game of pickleball settled after the La Cañada Flintridge City Council and the La Cañada Unified School District came to a new agreement for the community at a school board meeting in March.
Community members thought pickleball was a thing of the past when the district did not pass the initiative to develop courts at the skate park in December 2022, but Councilwoman Terry Walker came up with an easier solution.
At a Joint Use Commission meeting on March 9, the city presented the solution, which said that the city would pay for all the expenses needed to shape up the skate park for pickleball through their general fund, rather than changing anything in the then-existing skate park agreement.
After much discussion from both the Board of Education and the City Council, on March 21, the City Council approved the pickleball initiative, which was approved by the Board on March 28.
“I understand the frustration of our pickleball community. You guys are getting bounced around back and forth between the school district and the city for months or longer now. We feel the same thing on our side. We’ve been bouncing back and forth trying to resolve this issue. I don’t think it’s time for us to put it on pickleball community anymore. I think it’s time to move forward. I think that we have to trust our city to do the right thing,” said Board member Dan Jeffries.
Currently plans are underway for the project and conversion.
Director of Public Works Pat DeChellis gave an update at the Nov. 21 City Council meeting, with the project design expected to be completed by the end of the year, and construction to start in spring 2024.

City Manager Mark Alexander, who worked for the city for nearly 34 years, retired in June.
He was the sixth city manager for the town and held other positions here prior, which included assistant city manager, deputy city attorney, assistant to the city manager and administrative assistant. Serving the city since 1988, Alexander became city manager in 2003.
The city celebrated Alexander with a special party on April 13, where guests enjoyed the sound of Beatles music from a live band and the opportunity to meet USC’s Traveler, the mascot from Alexander’s alma mater.
Friends, family and colleagues congratulated Alexander in his long-held position, which included state Sen. Anthony Portantino, former LCF Mayor Steve Del Guercio, LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette and officials from the Los Angeles County Fire and Sheriff’s departments to name a few.
LCF Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Pat Anderson was among the crowd and teared up while giving her speech about Alexander.
“Mark and I started our jobs on the same day, and so, June 16 of 2003 has always been an anniversary for us and it’s going to be strange not celebrating that going forward. But thank you for all those years,” said Anderson, who wished Alexander the very best for the future.
Alexander shared a few words, which left him emotional.
“If I get a little emotional during this, I apologize but this is only because this makes it all the more real. Doing the work that I’ve loved and doing over these past 40 years and seeing and working with the people who I’ve truly enjoyed working with every day. … It’s becoming real. It’s truly coming to an end,” said Alexander.
Since, his retirement party, the city was on the hunt to find the “perfect fit” for a new city manager, and in May, the city announced Daniel Jordan to assume the role.
Jordan returned to LCF in June, after previously serving as the city’s finance director for nine years, leaving in 2017 to assume the director of finance position for the city of Westlake Village.
Jordan marked his first 100 days on the job in October and is fitting in nicely in the city.
“I don’t think I’ve worked in a community where there is such a mix of strengths, whether it’s in our staff here, whether it’s in the City Council, who are all extremely thoughtful, wise and accomplished people, [or in the community],” said Jordan.
“Where this community excels, there’s very few others like it,” he added.

Former City Manager Mark Alexander second from left who retired in June is shown at his retirement party with Chamber of Commerce CEO Pat Anderson state Sen Anthony Portantino and Margaret Alexander Photo by Mary Emily Myers Outlook Valley Sun

Student athletics in LCF had its shining moments over the year as well.
In February, the legendary career of La Cañada High School varsity boys’ basketball coach Tom Hofman added yet another accolade.
The Spartans’ victory over Temple City was Hofman’s 800th career win as a coach, putting him in an exclusive group of winners. The victory also sealed the team’s 10th consecutive Rio Hondo League title.
Coaching since 1986, Hofman boasted an 800-255 overall career record entering the CIF playoffs at the time. He has guided the Spartans to two CIF titles.
“If I didn’t have fun, I wouldn’t be standing here. It’s a lot of fun and like I said, the support we get here, the kids, and I can’t emphasize my wife [Cindy] enough because she does more than I do right now. As long as I get that type of support, I’m going to keep doing it. I think it keeps me young,” he said.
In August, the La Cañada 14-and-under All-Stars softball team, consisting of players representing the La Cañada Baseball Softball Association, completed its remarkable summer tournament run at the 14U Class B Western National Championship tournament in Roseville.
The win against Long Beach yielded La Cañada a 14U Western Nationals Class B championship, finishing first out of 27 teams. They concluded the summer with a record of 36-5, winning all four tournaments it entered, finishing second in the Western District, winning the Southern California B States championship and ending it all with the Nationals title.
In November, the La Cañada High School varsity girls’ volleyball team extended their magical run in the CIF State Division I playoffs into the regional finals. The No. 14-seeded Spartans faced the No. 4 Palos Verdes and battled, but ultimately fell 21-25, 23-25, 21-25. The CIF Division I Regional Final was the furthest the Spartans had journeyed in the postseason.
“It was definitely a season I will never forget,” said La Cañada coach Laura Browder. “From start to finish, we had a very competitive schedule.”
La Cañada was on the road during the duration of the CIF State playoffs. The Spartans concluded their campaign as Rio Hondo League co-champions with a 7-1 record (30-13 overall).
The St. Francis boys’ cross-country team completed another triple-crown season. Last year, the Golden Knights won the Mission League, CIF Southern Section Division IV, and CIF State Division IV titles, and they expected to complete another title-winning season this fall.
St. Francis lived up to its expectations and swept all three competitions on the way to securing a second straight CIF State crown.
“I’m so proud of these guys and so proud of what they’ve accomplished,” St. Francis coach Pat Donovan said. “They came into it as their goal and wanted to show everybody we were the best Division IV team in the state and have all other guys chase us.”

Tom Hofman center in his 37th year as La Cañada High Schools varsity boys basketball head coach earned his 800th career victory after guiding the Spartans to a 72 41 victory over Temple City in February Photo by Sebastian Moore Outlook Valley Sun

The year has been a milestone one for the La Cañada Unified School District, which opened up the first College and Career Center, signed a license agreement with a new soccer team and started renovations at various school sites, to name a few accomplishments.
Along with its achievement of coming to an agreement for adding pickleball courts in the city, the district opened the doors to the first college and career center at LCHS in February.
“Whether you are a student trying to find your path and fit into life or a parent trying to help your child navigate the often-intimidating world of college and career prep, this center is a resource for both of you,” said then-La Cañada Unified School District Board President Joe Radabaugh.
LCHS counselor Lisa Chung is at the forefront of the center and is thrilled on how it came to be. Then-Board Vice President Josh Epstein also played an instrumental role.
Part of his campaign involved listening to parents about what they wanted to see for their students. This is when the idea of a College and Career Center was born, and after he was elected, Epstein approached LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette about it.
“This, to me, just represents everything that is great about the district and our community,” said Epstein.
In a more controversial decision, the district in July unanimously voted to pick the Los Angeles Soccer Club to sign a one-year license for weekend field usage only, giving weekday priority to district students and sport teams that have long contended with sharing the space with a third-party user.
For about 20 years, LA Surf had signed a license with the district for the usage of the LCHS stadium field, but the Board chose the L.A. Soccer Club over two other bids from longtime tenant LA Surf and the La Cañada Spartan Booster Club after asking all three for a weekend-only field usage proposal.
The debate whether the LCHS stadium field should solely go toward LCHS students and athletics or to a shared system with a third party has been a year-to-year ordeal, and one that continuously received impassioned pleas among community parents, staff and club members at district meetings.
“We look forward to being a good partner to the school district and hopefully to help the community in any way we can,” said L.A. Soccer Club Executive Director Brian Waltrip. “We’re thankful to be able to use the field and we want to make sure that we not only say that but show it. We do believe that school takes first priority, and it is their field. We want to make sure that we work together with them and provide them with the space that they need.”
Board member Dan Jeffries responded to public comments and said that student athletes are the district’s highest priority.
“The highest priority is making sure that we can find time on the field for our student athletes, but we also have a fiduciary duty to our district to try and maximize the revenue,” said Jeffries.
This year was also full of renovations and upgrades for the majority of the district school sites.
La Cañada Elementary, according to Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations, received the fewest number of renovations this year, since it is one of the newer school sites.
“In the last year, LCE has seen new (multipurpose use room) flooring, security cameras, wellness room, new conference room, and additional small projects throughout campus,” said Greenwood. “We are also in the process of updating the projectors as well as some cabinets, flooring and white boards throughout various classrooms.”
Renovations to buildings A and B at Palm Crest Elementary School were completed in April and further renovations are 95% complete.
“Renovations included new flooring, windows, doors, door locks, lighting, HVAC, plumbing, fire alarm, clock/bell system, cabinetry, and painting,” said Greenwood. “The remaining work includes cabinetry, carpeting and vinyl wall covering. ADA ramps are in progress and will be completed by the end of December.”
Paradise Canyon Elementary School is looking to see a lot of changes, with demolition of old buildings and renovations to others.
Phase I of the project has already been completed, where the consultants have bought temporary portables for students to use during construction.
Phase II started in the summer with the demolition of buildings P and N to then start construction on new buildings consisting of 20 classrooms.
Phase III, which originally included the renovation of multiple classroom buildings changed in December when the Board, community members and PCY staff decided to replace the buildings rather than renovating them, since the cost of the renovation exceeded 50% replacement value of the buildings.

Celebrating the inauguration of La Cañada High Schools new College and Career Center in February were school staff donors and Board members including Melissa Greenwood Lisa Chung Kelly Proctor Octavia Thuss Anais Wenn Caroline Anderson Superintendent Wendy Sinnette Josh Epstein Joe Radabaugh Dan Jeffries and Jamie Lewsadder Photo courtesy Tobias Lewsadder

The city of LCF went through a whirlwind of challenges this year resulting from its state-mandated housing element and the 600 Foothill Blvd. project application.
After submitting a revised version of the city’s October 2022 housing element in February to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the city thought it was officially done.
Then in May, the owners of the 600 Foothill Blvd. property — Alexandra Hack, Garret Weyand and former Mayor Jonathan Curtis — came to a City Council meeting to appeal their application denial with a builder’s remedy but was rejected by the Council.
The then-proposal outlined a five-story building with 80 residential mixed-income units, 12 hotel rooms, nearly 7,800 square feet of office space and two levels of underground parking.
The owners submitted the application on Nov. 14, 2022, using the logic that the city’s housing element was not compliant at the time. However, the city stated that it was compliant as of Oct. 4, 2022.
“So, there were very limited revisions to the housing element between the second and the third version. So again, the second version was adopted in October 2022, [and] the third version [on] February of 2023,” said Director of Community Development Susan Koleda.
The 600 Foothill owners and attorney expressed great displeasure with the argument and was surprised that “the city would violate the law.”
In the coming months, the city would receive a letter from HCD stating that it is in violation of State Housing Element Law and the Housing Accountability Act. The city would also acquire three lawsuits relating to its housing element and rejection of the 600 Foothill project.
The first lawsuit, entitled “Californians for Homeownership Inc. v. City of La Cañada Flintridge,” had a hearing on July 11, where the judge on the case determined that the city failed to adopt a substantially compliant housing element, since the city hasn’t done the proper rezoning to comply with building more housing units.
“You just didn’t do it,” said Chalfant in the hearing to the attorneys representing the city.
The other two lawsuits came from the owners of the 600 Foothill Blvd. project and the California Housing Defense Fund, a California nonprofit public benefit corporation, both of which are still in progress.
The judgment given to the city from the first lawsuit was received in September, which required the city to complete the adoption of its rezoning ordinance within 60 days, and to file a notice with the court confirming that rezoning is done within 90 days of the date.
“The judgment entered today was as the city expected,” Guerra told the Outlook Valley Sun in September. “As we have consistently stated to the court, the city has complied with state law and will comply with its obligation to rezone as provided in state law.”
In the background, updating the zoning plan was happening in the city within the planning committee, which saw changes to land use maps, to the city zoning map and the zoning code, to name a few.
“We didn’t rezone whole areas,” said Koleda. “We just identified those sites that needed to be included in these new zones.”
The rezoning changes under the General Plan Amendment, the Zoning Code and the Downtown Village Specific Plan Amendment, or DVSP were officially approved by the City Council in September.
“While we do not always agree with the state legislature, once laws are passed, we work as hard as we know how to make sure we follow along,” said Mayor Rick Gunter in his opening remarks. “And that’s who we are as a city — we always followed the law.”
The new zoning became effective 30 days after approval, and HCD sent a letter in November to the city stating that that city’s Feb. 23 adopted element was in substantial compliance as of Nov. 17.
By the end of November, the city informed the public that its housing element was in substantial compliance with state housing law.
In December, leaders from the state, including the governor, attorney general and HCD, announced that they will file a request to intervene in a lawsuit filed by the California Housing Defense Fund against the city for its housing element and denial of the 600 Foothill project.
The city was not pleased with the announcement and said it will partner with the state to implement its state-approved housing plan.

Organic waste was one of the top priority items in the city of LCF for the year of 2023 as residents still expressed confusion on what to do with each respective trash hauler.
Questions on social media from residents ranged from “Can animal byproducts be recycled?” to “Where do pizza boxes go?” Others wanted to know how to keep animals out of their now very smelly green bins.
LCF’s Public Works Department is at the forefront of the organics recycling initiative, but after issuing some guidance, has come to understand that each trash hauler in town — Athens, NASA or Republic Services — have different procedures for their clients in the way it is collected.
Management analyst Joshua Jeffrey has been leading the charge on the organics waste management for LCF and has increased the number of resources that are available for residents.
The city issued information in their monthly newsletters and held town hall meetings in partnership with the LCF Chamber of Commerce to educate residents on organic waste.
Though the meetings were mainly focused on organics recycling, “Residents were encouraged to ask any questions they might have on solid waste,” said Jeffrey.
To push the initiative further, the city introduced its new city trash bins toward the end of October, which has three sources of waste separation.
“The new bins are being deployed citywide,” Jeffrey told the Outlook Valley Sun. “There were originally 76 concrete bins. We are installing 44 bins in the first phase and will be installing the rest throughout the end of the year.”
This year, the city has started the process of updating its Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, which is being led by Blue Strike Environmental.
The last climate plan that the city had was in 2016 and the consultants identified 58 strategies in order to update the new plan, which will be voted on next year.
The top-10 items presented by the consultants included transitioning to 100% renewable energy, creating educational campaigns, joining the Clean Power Alliance and reducing vehicular traffic, to name a few.
In October, the consultants put out a draft of the new plan for the public to view on the city’s website.
The city has since joined the Clean Power Alliance, which is an electricity provider and would help the city achieve its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050. Also in November, the city extended the completion date for the plan to April 16, instead of the original date of this past Oct. 16.
The city also started the process of updating its Local Hazard Mitigation Plan for initial review on June 1 to the governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
“This plan guides the city’s safety measures and ensures that we qualify for federal disaster funds after a disaster or emergency,” Emergency Coordinator Jared Hartel said at an October Public Safety Commission meeting.
The city is looking at various hazards to add to the updated plan such as cybersecurity, civil unrest, public health crisis, terrorism, sites in the city and climate change.
In November, community stakeholders met to discuss the plan and go over ways to address mitigation efforts in the city.

New triple stream trash bins have been installed by the city of La Cañada Flintridge along Foothill Boulevard The installation started in late October to encourage residents to separate their waste Photo by Mia Alva Outlook Valley Sun

First published in the December 28 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.


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