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Few Happy With 3 Sites Weighed for High School

January 11, 1987|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

Rosemead residents and city officials are considering legal action to stop construction of a high school in their city, while Monterey Park parents are threatening to go to court because the school is not earmarked for their city.

The Alhambra High School District has narrowed its long and controversial search for a new high school to three sites, all in Rosemead. But few seem happy with the choices.

Rosemead Mayor Jay Imperial said the city is developing its legal strategy and he is uncertain when a lawsuit might be filed, but if the school board insists on locating a new high school in Rosemead, "the reaction is going to be litigation."

Imperial said all the proposed sites are unsatisfactory because they would uproot hundreds of residents.

Growth Is Elsewhere

Besides, there is no reason to build a high school in Rosemead, he said, when most of the population growth in the Alhambra High School District is occurring in Monterey Park and Alhambra.

The district, which serves all of Alhambra, nearly all of San Gabriel and parts of Rosemead and Monterey Park, has three comprehensive high schools, Alhambra, Mark Keppel and San Gabriel, plus a continuation school. All are within the city limits of Alhambra.

Not only is the Rosemead City Council exploring legal options, according to Roosemead Councilman Bob Bruesch, but many property owners and residents are talking to lawyers, too. "The passions are running high," he said.

Bruesch said the dissatisfaction extends from Rosemead residents who would lose their homes to a new high school to Monterey Park parents who have been fighting unsuccessfully to get a high school in their city.

Cindy Yee said she and other Monterey Park parents are considering legal action on the grounds that failing to build a high school in Monterey Park amounts to discrimination against the city's residents. Residents there have been demanding a high school for 20 years, she said, but the Alhambra board has ignored the request.

Yee said attorneys are being consulted to find out if there is a basis for a discrimination suit. Alhambra, San Gabriel and Rosemead all have their own high schools, even though San Gabriel High is technically in the City of Alhambra and Rosemead High is part of the El Monte Union High School District, which serves part of Rosemead. "We are the only city in the Alhambra school district without a high school," she said. Monterey Park students attend Alhambra and Mark Keppel.

Meanwhile, the owners of a 32-acre hillside site in Monterey Park that was considered as a high school site and rejected are considering a suit alleging slander of title because, they claim, a school district report drastically understated the value of their property.

Litigation Talk Expected

All this talk of litigation is to be expected, said Ron Apperson, an attorney with the Los Angeles Unified School District who has been on the Alhambra school board for 10 years. Apperson said residents whose homes might be taken for a school and who do not want to move are naturally going to object. In fact, he said, the Alhambra board has been hearing threats of litigation ever since it began targeting potential school sites two years ago.

Alhambra, Mark Keppel and San Gabriel high schools were designed to house a total of 6,500 students but now serve more than 9,600. Alhambra High is so crowded that some classes meet off campus in nearby churches. School district officials expect overcrowding to worsen in the next few years, with high school enrollment reaching 10,319 by 1991.

Apperson said he is convinced that the school district has acted properly in its search for a site for a new high school.

Apperson said the school board looked carefully at enrollment growth patterns two years ago before concentrating its site search in the southeast part of the district. But the sites that were initially proposed in 1985 drew such strong opposition that the district expanded the site search districtwide. However, all three sites that emerged as finalists last month are in the southeast corner.

A Help to Many Students

Board President Dora Padilla said that putting the high school in the southeast part of the district will help many students in that area who now walk more than two miles to school. And, she said many Rosemead parents would welcome a high school even though they have not been as vocal as Monterey Park parents.

Bruesch, a teacher who has been on the Rosemead City Council for three years, said he finds it incredible that the board is determined to put a high school in the eastern part of the district even though the cities with rapid population growth--Alhambra and Monterey Park--are on the west side. He noted that Rosemead has adopted planning policies that inhibit growth.

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