The Alhambra school board served noticed on Tuesday night that it will consider abandoning one proposed high school site in Rosemead to give further study to building a high school on a hillside in Monterey Park.
Dora Padilla, board president, said the board was unable to act on the proposal at this week's meeting because it was not listed in advance on the agenda. But she said the proposal, by board member Phyllis J. Rutherford, will be considered March 17 and "I would guess there would be at least four votes (out of five) for it."
The board's reconsideration comes after months of controversy over three proposed sites in Rosemead that would require the demolition of 100 homes or more. Rosemead leaders and residents have hotly disputed the need for a school in their city.
The move to include Monterey Park in the final list of potential high school sites was hailed by residents who have been campaigning to bring a high school to that city. One of the parents, Cindy Yee, said, "All we're asking for is a fair look at the hillside."
She said most of the population growth of the Alhambra high school district has been in the western part of the district and that's where the school should be built. The district serves Alhambra, San Gabriel and parts of Monterey Park and Rosemead.
The school board late last year narrowed its list of potential sites for a new high school to three, all in Rosemead, and instructed district officials to seek environmental impact studies on all three.
But both Rutherford and Padilla said they are convinced that at least one of the Rosemead sites, property along the Rio Hondo flood control channel, south of Garvey Avenue, is impractical.
Padilla said the Rosemead site was included on the list mainly because the Garvey school board recommended it a year ago. But it lies at the eastern edge of the high school district, far from many of the students it would serve.
Rutherford said she suggested replacing the Rio Hondo site in the environmental impact studies with a hillside site that lies a block west of Atlantic Boulevard, south of Cadiz Street. The site had been recommended by residents of Monterey Park and Rosemead earlier, but rejected by district consultants.
"I think we need another viable option," Rutherford said.
The hillside property has several advantages. Much of it is vacant land. Even with the addition of about 40 adjoining homes, the site would require demolition of far fewer homes than any other site under consideration. In addition, the site is in Monterey Park, where a group of parents is seeking a high school, and not in Rosemead, where the City Council says a high school is unnecessary and has threatened court action to block construction.
Alhambra school officials have questioned whether it is feasible to build the high school on steep terrain. Padilla said she remains skeptical, citing reports by site experts that raise doubts about the practicality of carving a suitable site out of the Monterey Park hills.
Rutherford said the original proposal, to create a high school and an adjoining park on 32 acres of vacant land, is unworkable. She said the school district has no interest in acquiring parkland and the site suitable for building would be too small for a high school. But it might be possible to create a site by using the suitable vacant land and demolishing about 40 nearby homes, she said.
Only a full environmental impact report will show whether the site can be used, Rutherford said. "It needs to be proved," she said.
The other Rosemead locations that have been targeted for environmental impact study are designated in school district reports as Site A, covering 46 acres south of Emerson Avenue between Del Mar Avenue and the Alhambra Wash, and Site I, which contains 36 acres south of Garvey Avenue and west of San Gabriel Boulevard.