From left, South Pasadena Mayor Dr. Marina Khubesrian, L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and So Pas Councilmember Diana Mahmud. Photo by Steve Whitmore

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger met with the South Pasadena City Council recently to discuss three important items concerning water, homelessness and the demise of the 710 extension.

The discussion in open joint session April 18, part of Barger’s itinerary for representing the 5th district, focused on the funds connected to two measures and the funds now available due to the demise of the 710 extension–specifically, how to ensure that So Pas gets its fair share in an appropriate way.

“It’s a pleasure to meet with my city partners as often as I can,” Barger said in an email to The Review. “We have formal meetings with each of the 22 cities in the 5th District, such as the one in South Pasadena on April 18, at least once a year. Even when we’re not having formal sit-down meetings, we are still in constant communication, and the city councils and city staff know they can reach out to me and my team whenever they need (to).”

So Pas Councilmember Diana Mahmud echoed Barger’s comments, saying her involvement was essential especially when it came to free up money from the county coffers.

“There are a lot of important things for us, particularly important for us as a small city to partner with other regions and other cities and in particular the county,” Councilwoman Diana Mahmud said during the joint session. “Your presence here is very important and we look forward to continuing our partnership that we have established thus far.”

As an example, Mahmud discussed Measure W, the Safe, Clean Water Initiative, that was recently approved by the voters. Measure W is a parcel tax that will pay for projects, infrastructure, and programs to capture, treat, and recycle rainwater. Revenue generated from Measure W will be used to pay for regional and municipal projects that improve water quality and may also increase water supply and provide community benefits such as parks or wetlands.

“One of my concerns is that we’ve seen a very aggressive schedule for implementation,” Mahmud said. “We have a lot of money that is anticipated with this measure; $300 million is a lot of money and it takes a long time to develop the projects that will eventually be funded through this measure.”

Mahmud told Barger that she didn’t want South Pasadena to be left behind because local projects are not fully developed. She wants some of the funds to be set aside and guaranteed for the city so that when the projects are fully developed the funds are still available. She also wants county officials to help smaller cities with technical help to move projects forward.

“Regarding storm water, I expressed concern regarding the county’s proposed implementation of Measure W, which will favor larger entities such as the county and the City of LA,” Mahmud said in an email to The Review.  “As a direct response to my concern, she is going to seek to have the Flood Control District provide technical assistance to smaller cities such as ours so that we can start work hopefully this year on storm water projects in advance of our receipt of the 40 percent local return which won’t occur until February or March of 2020.”

Barger countered by saying that government is often criticized for moving at a “snail’s pace,” and now it’s being cautioned for moving too fast.

“I was actually pleasantly surprised to know that they were very aggressive as to how they were going to do it,” Barger said during the joint session, referring to funding water projects. “The money is going to get us to 2020. The goal was to get those projects out.”

Barger said she was going to see if there was a way to extend approval to projects that were preliminary so cities like So Pas would not miss out on funding. County officials said they would have technical assistance available for projects to help move them forward so they will be ready for the funding.

The next issue that was addressed was the homelessness issue in South Pasadena as it relates to Measure H, the ¼ percent increase to the county’s sales tax to provide an ongoing revenue stream–an estimated $355 million per year for 10 years—to fund services, rental subsidies and housing for the homeless. 

Mayor Pro Tem Robert Joe presented the issue during the joint session.

“The city of South Pasadena currently has 12 homeless that call the city home,” Joe said during the joint session. “It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of the South Pasadena Police Department calls for service are regarding homeless individuals …The Police Department would like to receive 15 to 20 hotel vouchers, which is about $2,000. We have transients coming in and out of the Gold Line in need of services. We have a good working relationship with the nonprofits and faith-based organizations…All of this is to really ask you, if possible, to have the services of our outreach from our Police Department to be somewhat funded somehow through Measure H.”

Barger countered by saying she wanted to ensure that So Pas was not sending its homeless to other cities, as she said she knew they weren’t. So Pas has no hotels.

“We recognize that in the San Gabriel Valley, law enforcement is, at least in our neck of the woods, was/is a partner in this,” Barger said during the joint session. “I have to really commend your Police Department. One of the things I’ve learned is that is probably the most important point of contact as it relates to services because on a day-in-day-out basis they are coming in contact and they have developed the trust with the person, which again is the salute to your rank-and-file and your chief.”

Furthermore, the homeless count last year was put at 22, not 12, according to Ashlee Oh with the homeless initiative of the Los Angeles County chief executive office. The homeless count was conducted last year and serves as the official count.

The last issue that was discussed was the money left over after the 710 Freeway extension was defeated. That money can now be used for other traffic mitigating factors, according to officials.

“I expressed concern to Supervisor Barger regarding exacerbation of traffic on Fair Oaks Avenue due to the bulb outs (the curb extensions at intersections), and learned she shares that concern, and will support our application to obtain funding from Metro to remove them,” Mahmud said. “We made progress on other fronts, the above are just an example. Supervisor Barger was engaged and receptive to our concerns.”

The nearly two-hour meeting was applauded by all that were involved, saying they are a valuable tool for getting the pieces of government to work more smoothly.

“Having Supervisor Barger at the Special City Council meeting allows us to have direct dialogue with the Supervisor on matters effecting the city,” Mayor Pro Tem Robert Joe said in an email to The Review. “We were able to call attention to three key issues that the County has oversight and funding authority over. Continued dialogue with the Supervisor provides her with greater insight to our City and allows us to share our community’s perspective.”

Mayor Dr. Marina Khubesrian said the meetings are vital in the continued success of working with other municipalities.

“Our City Council stays heavily engaged in regional issues that have significant local impact,” Khubesrian said in an email to The Review. “Many of us serve of multiple regional boards and have been instrumental in key policy around water, energy, transportation, etc.. This type of forum allows us to highlight the fronts on these key issues and advance them as possible…These joint meetings allow for exchange of concerns and ideas. They foster stronger team building our city and county officials.” 

Barger agreed, saying it’s also a privilege.

“It really is a privilege to have the opportunity to meet with my city partners,” Barger said. “We both care immensely about serving the South Pasadena community, and we are most effective when we work together.”

Mahmud concurred, saying joint meetings are essential to advancing projects essential to South Pasadena.

“City council members attend many more meetings beyond our City Council meetings to advance city issues and interests,” Mahmud said. “Attendance at those meetings is not only important to learn information and express concerns, but also to build credibility and develop relationships with our peers and funding agencies. This is but one of those meetings. We need to make sure our next meeting with the Supervisor occurs in about a year.”

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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