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A South Pasadena Couple Quietly Keeps the City Clean

The straws, cigarette butts, plastic bags, and dog feces that Bruce and Diane Crum find on the streets of South Pasadena may not alarm city residents, but the number of diapers and hypodermic needles that the couple disposes into orange sanitation bags each week might raise some eyebrows.

Most probably don’t know that the South Pasadena High School Class of 1960 graduate and her husband spend four to five mornings a week cleaning up the city’s streets and sidewalks. The retired Los Angeles County Transportation Authority (Metro) employees, who met at their former employer and married in 1990, keep a low profile, preferring to work in the quiet morning hours to beat the heat.

“I was a bit surprised that they were willing to be interviewed,” said Peggy O’Leary, referring to the Crums’ reticence to be recognized publicly for their efforts. Peggy reconnected with Diane just four years ago after the two graduated from SPHS together, and has, along with her fiancée John Vandercook, become close friends with the couple. O’Leary added, “They do the work they do because they enjoy living in a clean city, and we all benefit from their efforts.”

Some of the areas Diane and Bruce frequently target include the half-mile stretch of Arroyo Drive and Pasadena Avenue that hugs the outskirts of the golf course and nature park, the Arroyo Seco itself—from Stoney Drive to San Pasqual Avenue, the Avenue 60 onramp, the alleyway behind Bank of America on El Centro Street, and most challenging of all, the Marmion Way off-ramp of the 110 Freeway.

“There is a congregation point on our city’s side of the freeway. People dump their refrigerators and couches, and they don’t get picked up,” said Bruce. Marmion Way is also where the couple finds the dirty diapers, needles and occasionally even human feces.

“South Pasadena is just a city to pass through for many surrounding communities,” said Diane. “We just wish people would take care of their own property and businesses.”

After working for Metro for decades, the Crums now find themselves badgering their former employer, at times begging it to clean up properties it owns in South Pasadena. Oftentimes, they are rebuked or ignored, but they take these struggles in stride. And they always try to call the department and thank it.

The Crums have experienced a couple of serious health scares since they began this project in 2012, including Diane’s breast cancer diagnosis that same year. However, these scares have actually reinvigorated them.

Last October, while walking up Marmion Way to begin a morning cleanup, Bruce began to struggle for breath. He felt his heart “was in a vice,” and asked Diane to rush him to the hospital. An angiogram showed that one of his arteries was nearly completely blocked. “It was a wake-up call, like, ‘Dude, you’re mortal,’” Bruce remembered.

But months later he was back out on the streets, cleaning up the city.

In addition to their sanitation efforts, Bruce and Diane are members of various community organizations. Bruce joined the South Pasadena Kiwanis Club in 2012. He has already served as the club’s president twice and is currently its secretary. Bruce is also a member of the American Legion in Alhambra and the Oneonta Club of South Pasadena. Diane is a member of both the South Pasadena Women’s Club and Women Involved in South Pasadena Political Action (WISPPA).

Both are members of South Pasadena Beautiful.

AGZA Green Zone

 

City of South Pasadena First City in Nation to Convert
Maintenance of Golf Course to Gas-Free Equipment

South Pasadena Mayor Michael Cacciotti called it “another first in our region, in the state and the nation” as he proudly talked about the City’s latest effort to become a leader in cleaning up the air.

South Pasadena has become the first city in the country to convert its municipal golf course using gas-free equipment and reach AGZA Green Zone certification.

Cacciotti joined other elected officials, an American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA) representative, and individuals from health and environmental organizations in celebrating the achievement during a ceremony last Friday morning at the city’s 18-hole, 3-par Arroyo Seco Golf Course.

“South Pasadena continues to be a leader in sustainability and reducing the harmful health and environmental impacts of its municipal operations,” said Cacciotti. “We’re proud to have partnered with AGZA, the Air Quality Management District, and Donovan Brothers Golf [operators of Arroyo Seco Golf Course] to provide cleaner, healthier air, and more peace and quiet to everyone who lives in, works in, or visits our city.”

The local golf course is now maintained using all-electric equipment, replacing gas-powered lawn mowers, blowers, trimmers, and hedge clippers. “We’re now a healthier, cleaner, quieter community because of this effort,” said Cacciotti. “Our actions are simple, but profound and far-reaching. We have established a model for all American cities to follow as we reduce pollution and harmful emissions.”

Dan Mabe is the founder and president of AGZA, which bills itself as the global leader in zero-emission sustainable grounds maintenance strategies. “Our mission is to transition the lawn care and grounds maintenance of all communities away from noisy, dirty fossil fuels and into quieter, zero-emission electric operations,” he said. “I want to congratulate the City of South Pasadena and Donovan Brothers Golf Management for becoming the first AGZA certified golf course in the nation, and perhaps world. Once again, South Pasadena’s vision, dedication, and ability to lead the rest of the country and world are on full display. AGZA receives emails from Europe, South America, Australia and Asia referencing South Pasadena’s Green Zone city. They all ask, ‘how did they do it and how can we do it here?’ It is your leadership and call to action that has emboldened other communities to follow the same path.”

By certifying the nation’s first AGZA Green Zone Golf Course, Mabe says Arroyo Seco and the City of South Pasadena are taking bold steps to demonstrate “that you can have clean quiet golf greens without the noise, health and environmental damage inherent with gasoline-powered equipment. Golf is a sport and a lifestyle that prides itself on pristine landscaping and quiet beauty, which until now have been marred by small gas engines – the least efficient, dirtiest, and most polluting mechanisms around.”

Joining Cacciotti and Mabe at the ceremony and recognizing the City of South Pasadena for its achievement were California State Senator Anthony Portantino, Michael Donovan of Donovan Brothers Golf, Inc., Nidia Erceg from the Coalition of Clean Air, American Lung representative John Yi, the Sierra Club’s Don Bremner and Ted Rueter from Noise Free America.

“Let’s give it up for South Pasadena,” said Portantino, making his remarks after praising the city’s effort in being a good steward when taking on environmental issues. “If this was ordinary we wouldn’t be here. This is extraordinary. The City of South Pasadena has been a local leader and a state leader in implementing cutting edge green programs. This is the first-ever total green golf course. It’s awesome. All cities can do this. Let’s hope that word filters out that this is a place where you can come with your family and not only enjoy outdoor entertainment, but do it in such a way where people are being respectful to the environment.”

In September 2016, South Pasadena became the first AGZA Green Zone city in the United States with certification given to Arroyo Seco Park, meaning grounds maintenance — mowing, hedging, edging, trimming, sawing, and blowing — are serviced exclusively with low-noise zero-emission battery-electric machinery and manual hand tools. The same honor was awarded Garfield Park in South Pasadena in 2015.

Eliminating toxic, carcinogenic and particulate emissions from gas combustion is the next goal for Arroyo Seco Golf Course after the City’s most recent action.

“The Pasadena Group of the Sierra Club commends the City of South Pasadena for using only emission-free electric equipment to maintain its golf course and median strips,” said Bremner of the Sierra Club. “Emissions from gasoline-powered lawn and landscape maintenance equipment are a significant source of nitrogen oxide and other pollutants that are precursors to ozone formation in the Los Angeles air basin. Reducing these emissions is an important step in addressing the region’s serious air pollution. Becoming the first Green Zone Golf Course underscores the significance of this achievement.”

Paul Riddle Selected as City’s New Chief of Fire Department

Paul Riddle, a 24-year veteran of the South Pasadena Fire Department, became the city’s newest fire chief.

Riddle’s promotion from deputy chief comes at a time when a tri-city agreement, which called for one fire chief to govern over three cities, including South Pasadena, San Marino and San Gabriel, officially ended last Friday.

The City of South Pasadena has now entered into a two-city agreement for fire services with the City of San Marino. While Riddle will oversee the South Pasadena Fire Department, Mario Rueda becomes the fire chief for the City of San Marino. Rueda served as fire chief for the now defunct tri-city agreement, which began in 2014.

“It’s hard to point to one single reason why the tri-city agreement was unsuccessful,” said Riddle. “Very simply, it just didn’t meet the expectations of the three city managers in the three communities. Each of the three communities had separate identities and specific needs, and the tri-city agreement just failed to meet the initial expectations.”

Carefully analyzing the new two-city agreement, Riddle said his department “took the successes from it and we’re confident it will be much more effective. In our agreement with San Marino, we will continue to provide the highest level of customer service.”

Riddle has risen to the top of the South Pasadena Fire Department after beginning his career in the city at age 21 in 1992 as a volunteer auxiliary firefighter.

“I want to draw on the experience of the previous chiefs I’ve worked under,” said Riddle, looking at his personal goals for the new challenge. “Now the baton has been passed on to me. It’s an honor.”

With that honor, explained Riddle, comes “a lot of responsibility,” he said. “Small communities like South Pasadena are very fortunate to keep their own municipal fire departments. Sometimes financial constraints make that very difficult. Smaller cities often have to contract out for services with larger agencies like L.A. City.”

He will oversee a staff of 21 personnel, including two division chiefs, three captains, six engineers, nine firefighters/paramedics and one administrative aide. Riddle becomes the 17th fire chief in the 110-year history of the fire department.

“I will be overseeing all aspects of the F.D., including management of the budget and making sure we are fiscally responsible. We will continue to meet the needs of the community with quick responses,” he said.

Riddle resides in Murrieta with wife, Lynn. The couple have two daughters, Jessica, 22 and Janice, 19. Under the new agreement, San Marino and South Pasadena will share one division chief position.

A Letter to the Editor from Laurie Narro: Hopes that Defaced Sign Creates Conversation

Dr. Laurie Narro

Letter to the Editor:

If you drive by my home, you’ll see a defaced lawn sign on my parkway. As I leave my driveway and return every day, I read this sign and contemplate what it means.

It makes me think about the community in which I live, and California, the state in which I was born (as was my father, his mother, and grandmother before him). I think of the U.S., a nation of immigrants and refugees, a country with a Bill of Rights that grants its citizens freedom of speech. It reminds me of my faith in others, as well as my faith in a higher being.

In April, a friend of mine and I went to the Pasadena Jewish Temple to hear Judy Chu, our congresswoman, speak about what was happening in Washington D.C. It was there that I picked up my sign. It read: “Immigrants and Refugees Welcome,” and quoted Leviticus, “We must not stand idly by.”

I placed the sign in my parkway because I had grown fearful after a number of things had occurred: the travel ban imposed by our government, ICE beginning to arrest undocumented immigrants, and DACA students becoming at risk of deportation. I planted the sign because most of the people with whom I had met had shared that the anti-immigration policies ranked among their greatest fears.

I’ve kept the sign up, on display for a number of reasons.

The defaced sign reminds me every day that there are people who are afraid there are not enough resources available for everyone to be granted human rights. There are people who fear a voice that speaks another language even if it is a language of inclusion.   There are people who are so afraid that they have lost control that the only semblance of control they can exert is to deface another person’s property.

I’ll keep the sign up and have already looked into getting some additional signs so that this message is not obscured. I hope that the sign will create conversation and dialogue that will begin to dispel fears and misinformation, and that it will signal that in South Pasadena, All are Welcome.

Laurie Narro, Ed.D.

South Pasadena Resident

Three Fire Departments Respond to Fire on La France Avenue Monday

Following reports of smoke coming from the roof of a structure in the 2000 block of La France Avenue, fire department officials knocked down a fire in minutes after fielding a call at about 2:15 p.m. on Monday.

Joining the South Pasadena Fire Department at the scene were units from Alhambra and Pasadena.

According to Battalion Chief Eric Zanteson, fire officials found a fire in the attic. “It turned out to be smoke coming from a converted living quarters in the attic of the second story of what would normally be a single-family residence,” he said, noting that firefighters “made quick work of applying water to the second story area and extinguished the flames.”

Battalion Chief Eric Zanteson

Firefighters opened up the roof “to allow the heat to get out while crews on the exterior extinguished the fire,” Zanteson explained, saying that there were no injuries as no one was inside of the home at the time of the fire.

The battalion chief said flames were not visible from the exterior, only heavy smoke.

Zanteson said the loss is unknown. An investigator was on the scene to determine the cause of fire.

South Pas Football Prepares for Full Pads Practice

The South Pasadena High School Football team will take a one week break at the end of July before it begins to practice in full pads in August. The Tigers are a young group, with new starters in most of the skill positions. A wide receiver last year, senior Sydney Luna-Lung is currently slated to start at quarterback. Justin Huff, whom Head Coach Jeff Chi believes has potential to be a star kicker, is his backup. Offensive lineman Ben Martinez will lead the effort to protect the Tigers’ QB.

Justin Huff, left, and Sydney Luna-Lung are competing for the Tigers’ starting QB position.
South Pasadena’s offensive line, from left, Michael Blanco, Marlon Rosales, Nathan Quirk, Joshua Saucado, and Ben Martinez.

Two Sides Meet to Discuss Mobility Through Region

South Pasadena City Councilmember Dr. Marina Khubesrian called it “a step in the right direction” as the two sides of the 710 Freeway issue met last week to address transportation issues through the corridor in wake of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s unanimous 12-0 vote to pursue strategic, sustainable, multi-modal projects over a tunnel under El Sereno, South Pasadena and Pasadena.

L.A. County Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda Solis, and John Fasana, a former LA Metro Board chairman and current mayor pro tem for the City of Duarte, scheduled the meeting in downtown Los Angeles.  Key officials in the 710 Freeway corridor, which includes the cities of South Pasadena, Pasadena, Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel and San Marino, were present.

Mayor Michael Cacciotti and Khubesrian, who stressed that all parties involved set a tone of cooperation for working toward consensus, represented South Pasadena.   “What came out of the meeting was an opportunity for the cities that have been on opposite sides of the freeway issue to sit down together,” explained Khubesrian. “We talked about how we could work together to use the available resources to solve mobility problems and address traffic flow in the region.”

Much of the meeting addressed moving people to their destinations in the region and ceasing traffic congestion during rush hour between the 710 Freeway terminus at Valley Boulevard, just outside the Alhambra border, and the 134/210 interchange in Pasadena. Currently, vehicles are backed up, bumper-to-bumper, early morning and late afternoons on weekdays, causing major congestion at various bottlenecks.

Khubesrian said both parties agree, “There are traffic issues created by the current configuration of the 710 Freeway ending at Valley Boulevard.  The Beyond the 710 proposal lists some projects we can fund now and looks at the corridor communities from a modern transportation and land use perspective to not only address rush hour flow and bottlenecks but to provide economic growth and other opportunities. ”

Beyond the 710 includes organizations that have come together to find solutions to relieve traffic, connect communities, promote smart growth, and help individuals get to their jobs, schools, shopping, and recreation destinations.  The councilmember stressed, “We need to take a really good look at how we can improve mobility for all modes, reduce demand for vehicle miles and use modern transportation consultants to look at better ways to use our funds. We look forward to working with all the corridor cities to develop a list of projects that will better serve the needs of our communities and the region, to relieve traffic and provide more options for people to travel to their homes, jobs, schools, and doctors’ appointments.”

The freeway fight has been going on for more than 60 years and a meeting between adversaries was a historic first. Over the years, the City of South Pasadena has spent millions in court costs, taking on proponents of the proposed 4.5-mile surface route. The South Pasadena City Council has aggressively fought a tunnel route, estimated at $5 billion, which Fasana also recognized was not viable, saying the huge amount of money should be put to better use.

To ease local congestion, the South Pasadena City Council hopes to improve traffic around the heavily congested 110 corridor on Fair Oaks Avenue by adding a “hook ramp.” The ramp would allow vehicles to turn right at State Street into 110 Freeway southbound traffic. The new configuration would eliminate cars making a left hand turn in its current form.

Dawn Tull Could Be in Line for LA County Teacher of the Year

When Dawn Tull talks about her joy of teaching and how she feels about her students, it’s easy to understand why she was selected the South Pasadena Unified School District teacher of the year.

“I love kids,” said Tull, who teaches a combined 4th and 5th grade class at Monterey Hills Elementary School. “I tell people all the time that I have the best job in the world. I can’t wait until the school year starts.”

She still has about a month before the 2017-18 school year begins, but Tull is way ahead of the game, already preparing for students to return in the fall. “My family is saying, ‘Really? Could you go on vacation?’” But she has no plans to get away. “I’ve been sitting at home planning for the new school year,” she said. “I’ve got books and papers all over the place as I get ready.”

Tull, who has been in the teaching profession for 31 years, including 17 at Monterey Hills School, explains her dedication to the profession as not wanting “to do anything halfway. I give it 100 percent. My kids know that I care and it’s important to me. I have high expectations for them.”

College students on spring break who had Tull as a teacher often visit her classroom to say hello and thank her for passing along her classroom knowledge. “I’m always touched,” she said, “They have a week at home and they’re spending part of that time coming by and seeing me. It feels great.”

As the SPUSD teacher of the year, Tull recently completed a mountain of paperwork to potentially earn the same honor in Los Angeles County. “I had to write about 10 pages of essays about myself,” she said with a laugh. “I got letters of recommendation from people. It was a ton of work. If I make that cut, then I go through an interview process.” From there, she could join a group of 16 who would become L.A. County teachers of the year. There’s also a state and national competition. “But I’m not thinking about that,” Tull said, downplaying the idea she could be selected one of the top teachers in the United States. “I doubt it,” said Tull laughing. “In theory, yes, but I doubt it.”

Two of Tull’s former students, Aidan Bar-Cohen and Levi Bar-Cohen, believe they know how she earned the teacher of the year honor in South Pasadena. “Before I had Ms. Tull, I wasn’t a great student,” said Aidan, 13, now going into the 8th grade at South Pasadena Middle School. “I was less than mediocre, but after the two years I had her as my teacher, I became an outstanding student. Being in her class gave me a lot of confidence in my my ability. I’m now at the highest level of academics.” Aidan’s younger brother, Levi, 11, just finished two years of study under Tull and is now headed to sixth grade. “She always cared and helped me,” said Levi, explaining that Tull spent long hours with him so that he could understand math, especially fractions.

Chief of Police Reflects on Tragedy

April 22, 2017 is likely a day South Pasadena Police Chief Art Miller will never forget.

“When I was notified that there was a father who was passed out in Arroyo Seco Park and a young boy was missing, something just didn’t feel right about it,” said Miller, looking back on that April morning when he was called to the scene to help in a major investigation.

Miller was at the park within a hour after hearing about the incident and said that “it was gut-wrenching that no one knew where the boy was and the father wasn’t being cooperative,” reflecting on the case of the disappearance of Aramazd Andressian Jr., whose body was found last month near Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County. The boy’s father, Aramazd Andressian Sr., 35, has been taken into custody, accused of murdering his son.

On the day the youth went missing, about 120 law enforcement officials scoured Arroyo Seco Park with the aid of police helicopters and canines. “I think that everyone felt the father knew something about it, but he didn’t give anything up,” recalled Miller. “He didn’t give us any information. He was very incooporative.”

The boy’s father told officials someone attacked him and took the 5-year-old. Miller said the father’s story was filled with inconsistencies. Authorities said the inside of the car Andressian Sr. was driving was found saturated with gasoline.

The father was taken into custody but eventually released when police said they had a lack of evidence. However, as the search for the boy continued and clues turned up during the investigation, the suspect was booked at Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department with a bail of $10 million dollars. He was flown to Los Angeles after an arraignment hearing and charged with murder.

“I got asked about the case every single day, whether I was on duty or off duty,” said Miller. “Where’s the boy, where’s Aramazd Andressian Jr.? Surprisingly, I got asked by police officers. Everywhere I went, I was asked about it. Of course, I couldn’t give any information, because it was being handled by the Sheriff’s Department.”

Looking back, Miller said he personalized the case as a parent. “It really tore me up. When I got the notification they found the boy, I was home, late at night, and I remember taking the notes and being so sad.” The call came from a high-level chief at the Sheriff’s Department. He credited Sheriff’s officials for keeping him and the South Pasadena Police Department informed of the latest details surrounding the case. While the Sheriff’s Department took over the case, Miller said “they never made us feel like we were insignificant. They just had more resources than we did. Yet, quite frankly, we did a lot of work on the front end that made their job a lot easier.”

During a briefing with Sheriff’s officials on April 22, the day after the boy went missing, Miller said, “They were really impressed with all the work we had already done. Our officers did a really good job.” Taking calls regarding the case at home had an effect on his wife, Linda, Miller said, “It was eating her up. We’d be out for dinner and someone would ask about it. Personally, it was always on my mind – the whole case. There wasn’t a whole lot I could do but to offer support for the mother and family.” While the case was in the hands of the Sheriff’s Department, Miller said it was the efforts of the SPPD that resulted in a second search of Lake Cachuma, which included a team of 260 officials looking for the boy. Three chiefs of police and a commander from the Los Angeles Police Department came in on his day off to support the search.

Personnel from the governor’s office joined the Ventura, Sierra Madre and Sheriff’s Search and Rescue teams. Information about the case that day, June 10, was delivered to authorities as they were inside the gymnasium at St. Inez High School.

“Imagine every seat filled at South Pasadena High’s gym bleachers, then people standing on the sides,” said Miller, talking about the amount of people searching for the boy. “What really struck me were all the different uniforms and disciplines that were there.”

A third visit to the area a few weeks later led to the discovery of the boy’s body. The emotions of the case drained many involved in the search who had been there from the start.

“Knowing what the sheriffs were doing, I knew we were doing everything we could to locate him. That was frustrating, because the sheriffs couldn’t say anything, I couldn’t say anything, but I knew things were getting done. I was very pleased with that, with how they systematically went about their investigation, leaving no stone unturned.” Miller would like it known that “homicide investigators are special people,” noting that he’s met many over the years. “They’re methodical, calm, caring and, quite frankly, they have to be the voice of the victim. They’re just professional and compassionate. They had to keep the mom informed, but at the same time part of the information going out was the boy may not be found alive. How do you balance that out?”

Miller reminds himself all the time that police officers are in the people business. “The mother and the boy were not just another statistic,” Miller said. “The boy was a human being and I internalize it by wondering if it was somebody really close to me. How would I feel? I know this case has touched a whole lot of people. I just know it. I just can’t imagine from day one how the mother felt. First of all, she felt like the father was hiding her son. Why wasn’t he giving information? She was angry, but very cooperative. She always called the detectives, giving information and asking, ‘Have you tried this?’ She never gave up. I can’t imagine how horrible she must feel.”

Little has changed since April 22 when Miller took that early morning call. “I think about the boy and his family every single day, every waking moment. It’s sad, it’s tragic and we all wish it never would have happened.”