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City Will Revisit Funding for Tax Renewal Polling

The City Council narrowly agreed to spend nearly $25,000 on public polling to gauge how residents feel about renewing the user utility tax, which could come before voters as early as November.

Chamber, Local Company Team Up to Help Businesses

Photo by Mitch Lehman / The Review
South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Sam Hernandez (from left), Chamber President/CEO Laurie Wheeler, The Print Spot owner Wende Lee, chamber board member John Vandercook and communications manager Nichole Clark display window signs that are available for local businesses.

The South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce has partnered with The Print Spot to produce signs for local storefront windows to help describe how a customer should place an order.
Businesses in South Pasadena are invited to provide a logo or simply the business name and have the option of signs announcing that the establishment is open, taking orders or closed.

Saeta’s Bid for Olympic Gold Is Put On Hold

Photo courtesy Michael Saeta
Former South Pasadena Mayor David Saeta (from left), with sons Michael and Matt at the volleyball World Cup this past summer.

Michael Saeta’s dream of winning an Olympic gold medal will have to wait, with those aspirations just another in a long line of disappointments in the era of COVID-19.
Under normal circumstances, the South Pasadena native would be battling for a spot on the final 12-man roster of the United States Olympic volleyball team and prepping for the 2020 Summer Games in Japan; that has ground to a screeching halt. Instead, Saeta spends his abundant amount of his free time Zooming with potential teammates who hope to wear the red, white and blue when — and if — the Tokyo Games launch as scheduled on July 23, 2021.
Though he was in the discussion four years ago, Saeta did not make the final roster in 2016, when the United States men took the bronze medal in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. Since then, he has steadily climbed up the ranks and was hoping to be selected to the USA’s final roster when the Tokyo Games were postponed on March 24.

Photos courtesy Michael Saeta
South Pasadena native Michael Saeta as a senior at Pasadena Poly, where he was twice named the CIF-SS Division 5 Player of the Year.

“I have been a part of the national team for a few years, trying to fight my way to the actual ‘A’ team,” Saeta said. “There is a sophisticated development structure where around 50 players would consider themselves to be members of the national team, but really only a roster of around 20 guys make the final squad with only 12 on the final squad. Over the past few years, I have battled to earn a spot on that team, and only recently did I achieve my childhood goal of making and traveling as part of the official roster. I had previously competed in the Pan American Cup in Canada, played in the World University Games in both South Korea and Taiwan, and had even made the Volley Nations League roster in 2019, but it wasn’t till this past summer that I got to travel to Japan to play in the World Cup. We earned a bronze medal, which was pretty special.”

Michael Saeta serving for his professional volleyball team in France.

Originally a competitive swimmer, Saeta literally grew into the sport as a teenager.
“I started playing volleyball when I was in 7th and 8th grade, but I grew up around the game as my dad was a collegiate athlete at Stanford and has played in adult volleyball national events for the past 30-plus years,” said Saeta of his father, former South Pasadena Mayor David Saeta. “When I wanted to start playing, my dad actually called all of his friends who had ‘tall’ sons and we put together a team with the San Gabriel Volleyball Club.”
Saeta admits he “wasn’t very good” at the time, and wasn’t even very tall in a sport that rewards physical altitude.
“I didn’t grow until I was a junior in high school,” Saeta said. “My driver’s license had me at 5’4” and now I am 6’5,” so I had to be patient with the game before I was able to show any signs of being able to play at a level that was required for Division 1 collegiate programs.”
Saeta attended high school at Polytechnic in Pasadena, where he was twice named Prep League Most Valuable Player and CIF Division 5 Player of the Year before graduating in 2012. Saeta accepted a scholarship offer at the University of California, Irvine. He redshirted for the 2013 season, when the Anteaters won the national championship. In the next four years, Saeta started at setter and the opposite hitter position, set a school single-season record in service aces, earned All-American honors and was named to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation’s first team as a senior. He has also excelled in the beach version of the sport, teaming with USC star Lucas Yoder to win the 2017 USA Volleyball collegiate beach championship and earning a spot on a USA Volleyball collegiate beach national team.
Saeta graduated with a degree in business economics and has since earned his master’s degree in philosophy, political science and economics. He is currently working on a restaurant finance start-up and staying in shape for that day when they resume bumping, setting and spiking.

Although professional volleyball is basically nonexistent in the United States, it’s a burgeoning enterprise across Europe; Saeta signed a contract right out of college with Chaumont Volleyball, an elite squad located in France.
“In my first year we won the French Super Cup and made it to the finals of both the French Cup and the French Championship,” Saeta said. “I know that probably means nothing to anyone in the States, but it was pretty cool as a first-year player.”
In his second season, Saeta led the team back to finals appearances in in both the French Cup and the Championship.
“That just made my silver medal count way too high,” he quipped.
Saeta chose not to go back overseas this year so he could prepare for his bid to Tokyo.
Michael credits his father for building his interest in the sport, which he developed at an early age.

Saeta prepares to serve. If he is able to earn a roster spot for the United States Olympic volleyball team, it will be as a result of his excellence in this facet of the game.

“My dad never pushed me to play, but rather when we were kids, every year he would take one of his three boys to his adult national tournaments to watch him play,” said Michael. “We were lucky enough to skip school, so I always loved traveling with him every third year.”
Following his career at Stanford, David Saeta was slated to play professionally in Italy before he suffered a torn ACL.
“Because of that, there was always a deep-seated desire in my heart to play professionally overseas for the both of us, and it brought tears to my eyes the first time he got to watch me play abroad,” Michael said.
Though she never played volleyball, Michael’s mother, Leslie, is an acclaimed home décor influencer. Andrew, Michael’s 29-year-old brother, was an All-American swimmer at Stanford and is currently training for his fourth Olympic trials. Brother Matt, 27, was a Division 1 collegiate pitcher at Davidson and “claims to have been my volleyball coach ever since I was young, and apparently all of my success is due to his unique coaching style,” Michael said with a laugh. “Actually, he has one of the greatest work ethics of anyone I have ever met, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the person I am without him.”
Dad and the three Saeta brothers play volleyball almost daily.
Michael hopes that same family dedication and support will earn him an Olympic team jersey and a ticket to Tokyo next summer. Saeta is an exceptional server and his previous national team appearances have come as a serving specialist, which is not an official position but is rather someone who performs at the will of the coach, if that skill is deemed necessary at that specific time.
“That is what put me on the roster for the World Cup,” said Saeta. “I work very hard on my serving and have developed three different styles, so we’ll just see.”
Many will be watching along with him, that’s for sure.

School District Anticipates ‘Painful’ Budget Revise

As school district officials prepared this week to dive into the May budget revise from the state that was unveiled Thursday, they steeled themselves for the difficult decisions that might be necessary to retain solvency.

Parks Closed Sunday; City Eyes Next Steps

South Pasadena joined the county and neighboring cities this week in closing public parks on Mothers’ Day this coming Sunday to pre-empt the potential for family gatherings that would likely run astray of social distancing requirements imposed to impede the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city announced the closure on Monday this week, citing consistency with Los Angeles County’s decision in its statement. South Pasadena had similarly closed its parks for Easter Sunday in anticipation of family gatherings crowding to the park for respite from the isolation created by the pandemic. The South Paws-adena Dog Park, the Skate Park, the Arroyo Seco Trails and Horse Trail, and the tennis courts at Orange Grove and Garfield parks remain closed indefinitely.
Those indefinite closures may see a sunset date soon, however, as Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday floated the possibility of reopening certain nonessential businesses and public spaces as early as today, with certain restrictions in place.

SPPD Nabs Man for Allegedly Setting Brush Fires Sunday

Photo courtesy South Pasadena Police Department
Firefighters extinguished a series of brush fires on San Pascual Avenue and Arroyo Drive early Sunday morning before they could threaten nearby structures.

A 34-year-old man will be arraigned later this month on seven felony counts after being arrested on suspicion of lighting several brush fires in South Pasadena neighborhoods early Sunday morning.
In observance of the COVID-19 pandemic, the suspect is undergoing quarantine protocol at Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles, under custody of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, after initially being booked into the Alhambra jail on Sunday morning. According to investigators, the arrest represented a parole violation for the suspect, so he was denied bail when the arraignment was scheduled.

Portantino: ‘Every Idea’ on the Table for Recovery

Photo courtesy Anthony Portantino
State Sen. Anthony Portantino, shown here at a prior speaking event, recently discussed how lawmakers were planning recovery from the pandemic.

In a recent public appearance — well, virtual public appearance — state Sen. Anthony Portantino offered a glimpse at what reopening California is slated to look like and how Sacramento is trying to prepare for it.
One of the few crystal clear details is that it’s going to be expensive. The state senator noted how on March 16 alone, state lawmakers appropriated through SB89 $1 billion in general fund dollars for the state’s disaster response to the COVID-19 pandemic and added in another $1.4 billion from the existing disaster response line item. Another item, SB117, applied similar relief to the state’s school districts that largely shut doors in March.

Busick to Become Middle School’s Principal

Cheryl Busick

Cheryl Busick, who has been principal at Arroyo Vista Elementary School for nine years, will continue her administrative career with South Pasadena Unified School District as principal of South Pasadena Middle School. The district announced the move on Tuesday, noting that Busick’s official first day as the SPMS principal will be July 1.
Busick replaces David Kubela, who recently left to become principal of High Desert School in Acton after a dozen years at SPMS. In the meantime, the district will begin the hiring process to replace Busick at Arroyo Vista.
“We are thrilled to announce that Cheryl Busick will take the lead at South Pasadena Middle School,” said Superintendent Geoff Yantz in a statement. “Mrs. Busick’s proven leadership skills within the district and her track record of developing a positive learning experience for students, a supportive teaching environment for faculty and staff, and an engaged parent community will serve our middle school well.”
During Busick’s nine years at Arroyo Vista, the school earned a National Blue Ribbon School award in 2019, the California Distinguished School award in 2017 and 2014, and the California Gold Ribbon School award in 2015.

Middle School Hosts Virtual Spirit Week

South Pasadena Middle School students last week followed business almost as usual, as the school’s ASB hosted a virtual spirit week to help boost morale. Students were encouraged to don the appropriate attire each day last week to post on Instagram with the applicable hashtag (for example, #spmsspiritmonday), or to send them to the school to be shared on the school library’s website. On Monday, students wore orange, white or black for the Tigers’ Spirit Day. Tiger Tuesday had students wearing anything with stripes. Students wore comfy or cozy clothes for Relaxed Wednesday. On Thankful Thursday, everyone was encouraged to wear shirts with heart on them. Finally, on Fandom Friday, everyone showed off what they were fans of most.
According to the school, SPMS is also sharing weekly versions of the school bulletin in Google classrooms to keep students informed and connected. This bulletin recreates what used to be the daily morning announcements. Tiger Cub News adds to the bulletin with online broadcasts about school events. Upstanders, the SPMS peer mediation group, also uses the new bulletin to promote social-emotional wellness events for students.

Arroyo Vista Teachers’ Messages Inspire Students

Photos courtesy Arroyo Vista Elementary School
Arroyo Vista teachers continued to spread joy to their students and families during the pandemic by creating inspirational sidewalk messages.

Arroyo Vista Elementary School teachers recently added inspirational messages for students to the sidewalk in front of the school on El Centro Street.
Knowing that students and families are taking more walks together in the neighborhood, the teachers — who followed social distancing practices while creating the messages — believed that students would benefit from messages of hope and encouragement during this uncertain time.
The messages also were added to the teachers’ Google classrooms so everyone had a chance to view the messages of love and hope during the crisis.