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Officials Clash Over Alhambra School Plan

February 19, 1987|SUE AVERY | Times Staff Writer

A draft proposal by Alhambra city officials suggesting that land occupied by Mark Keppel High School be considered for commercial development sparked a bitter debate during an Alhambra school board meeting Tuesday.

Members of the school board denied that they knew about the draft proposal, which was never adopted by the city.

Rosemead officials raised the issue as part of their effort to block the Alhambra district's plan to build a new high school in their city. The Rosemead officials complained that school board members should have known about the draft proposal, which came at a time when the district desperately needs an additional school.

Board members, who have angered Rosemead residents by selecting three sites in that city as possible locations for a new school, said they had no contact with Alhambra city officials about the proposal.

'School Will Be Kept'

"What the city does is of no interest to us, but the school will be kept," said board President Dora Padilla. "We will this week contact the City Council and hopefully get them to rescind that paragraph."

The paragraph, part of a June draft of a general plan for the city of Alhambra, had designated three areas in the city, including Mark Keppel High School, that might have long-term potential as regional commercial areas. That paragraph already has been deleted and does not appear in the final plan adopted Nov. 10, City Manager Kevin Murphy said in an interview.

"It was considered as an option to increase the school tax base," Murphy said. "The proposal was to remove the school, develop the land into a sub-regional shopping center and build a new school in Monterey Park."

The Mark Keppel site and two other areas were identified in the draft document "only as areas with potential for regional commercial land use. Comprehensive special studies would have to first be prepared to determine economic feasibility and relocation of existing uses."

Jim Smith, a member of the Rosemead-based Garvey School District board that oversees schools with grades kindergarten through eight, brought a copy of the draft proposal to Tuesday's Alhambra school board meeting.

Emotional Clashes

In recent months Alhambra board meetings have been packed with emotional Rosemead residents upset over the prospect that many of them will lose their homes if any of the three sites are chosen. Board members and Rosemead residents have clashed repeatedly in emotional exchanges that have sometimes led to bitter shouting matches.

At Tuesday's meeting, about 200 Rosemead residents waved placards, cat-called, stomped and yelled throughout the two-hour session.

Rosemead Mayor Jay Imperial and school board member Ron Apperson began shouting at each other when Imperial said: "You have given the people a chance to speak but you have not heard them."

Earlier, when Smith was speaking, Apperson said, "Hitler initiated the big-lie concept," and the audience yelled, "You should know."

When Rosemead Councilman Robert Bruesch told the board, "This (general plan draft) is a public document available to anyone and we had to do the homework you should have done," Padilla snapped back, "That has no validity with this board."

Variety of Complaints

Rosemead residents had a variety of complaints. They told the board that they did not want Monterey Park children in their city, that the board was prejudiced because most of the people who would be displaced by a new school are Latino and that the board had not acted properly in making the decision.

"At the last meeting I hated you people," one woman told the board.

A man accused the board of "acting insane. You insult us and give us smug looks."

The board did not respond to those types of comments from the residents.

Disclosure of the city document was the latest development in a long-running battle between Rosemead residents and the Alhambra school district, which serves high school students in Alhambra, San Gabriel, part of Monterey Park and the southern portion of Rosemead.

Argument Over Location

Rosemead residents argue that since most of the growth in the district is occurring in Monterey Park and Alhambra, the new school should be located in one of those cities.

Some Monterey Park parents also want the school in their city.

School officials have defended their selection of the three Rosemead sites by pointing out that the three existing high schools are all within the city limits of Alhambra. Critics respond that Mark Keppel borders both Rosemead and Monterey Park and that San Gabriel High is on the border of San Gabriel.

The district also contends that a hillside site in Monterey Park, favored by many Rosemead and Monterey Park residents because no homes would be demolished, is too steep to build on.

The struggle over the site began more than two years ago, when Rosemead residents protested the initial decision to pick three sites in their city.

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