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East Valley Focus

SHERMAN OAKS : Parole Office Will Return to Old Site

October 27, 1994|ERIC SLATER

Booted around like a political football, a state parole office located in Sherman Oaks for just 10 months is being kicked back to its former home in North Hollywood.

Sherman Oaks residents are thrilled. North Hollywood residents are not.

"We always get the shaft," said Ann Hoyt of the 300-member North Hollywood Residents Assn. "We're the dumping ground."

Sherman Oaks activists, however, said leaving the office at its current location--across the street from the Sherman Oaks/Van Nuys Park and Recreation Center--would have been not only irresponsible, but also in violation of the state Department of Corrections' own regulations.

"The guidelines provide that there should be no parks within a quarter of a mile, and there's a park across the street," said Richard Close, president of the powerful Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn., which represents about 1,600 households.

"We didn't write the guidelines."

Between 30 and 70 parolees a day will visit the office when it moves back to 6736 Laurel Canyon Blvd. from its current home at 5121 Van Nuys Blvd., said field parole administrator Frank Marino. The move should begin by Feb. 1, and state administrative offices will then move into the Sherman Oaks building.

After spending some $2 million on a search for larger facilities, according to Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar), who represents the North Hollywood neighborhood, the parole office moved to Sherman Oaks in April.

The new neighbors quickly cried foul, however, and political wrangling ensued, with residents demanding the state Department of Corrections move the office.

Now, some North Hollywood residents call the office's return to their community an example of politicians pandering to more affluent areas such as Sherman Oaks.

"The Cadillac versus the Volkswagen," said North Hollywood activist Dave Mills.

Katz said North Hollywood was simply outgunned, with officials ranging from Assemblywoman Barbara Friedman (D-Los Angeles) to staffers in Gov. Pete Wilson's office working on behalf of Sherman Oaks.

Friedman, whose district includes Sherman Oaks, said she was simply looking out for her constituents.

"I can't think of a worse place to locate a parole office than directly across the street from a park that is completely visible and is used by senior citizens and kids," she said. "It was trouble waiting to happen.

"Between the two sites, I think that (moving it back to North Hollywood) was the most appropriate decision."

While having the parole office as a neighbor has been unpopular in both communities, police officials who oversee the areas say they have been unable to tie any increase in crime to its tenure in either.

When the parole office returns to North Hollywood, it will move back into the same building it used to call home.

But because corrections officials have leased an additional floor of the building, the office will double in size.

Parole administrator Marino said he will miss the Sherman Oaks site. In North Hollywood, he said, the building is shared with retail outlets, making security more difficult. The North Hollywood location is also less accessible by bus, he noted.

Marino is also not looking forward to moving again.

"It's a problem, no doubt about it," he said.

"We've got 60 employees here."

The move itself cost about $5,000, according to the Department of Corrections. The return trip should cost about the same.

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