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Schools : School Board Kills Proposal for Multicultural Youth Center

October 27, 1994|KEVIN UHRICH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Controversial plans to build a multicultural youth center on a Rosemead elementary school campus have been scrapped, sparking concern that the $700,000 county grant awarded for the project may be lost.

The Asian Youth Center's proposal to build a multicultural center on the Arlene Bitely School campus ranked second among 53 grant applications submitted last spring to the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.

However, the high score was based on the Asian Youth Center's contention that part of the Bitely campus would be bought in a joint partnership with Garvey School District and then developed into a 6,500-square-foot multicultural center for at-risk children and young adults.

The Garvey School District Board of Education last week voted 3-0 to scuttle the youth center's plans for the Bitely school site. School board members David Lau, who was a member of the Asian Youth Center board of directors, and John Nunez abstained from voting.

Youth center officials will have to develop another plan, which in turn will have to be re-evaluated, said county administrator Ilona Volkmann. That could mean the youth center will not have enough time to qualify for any grant money this year, Volkmann said.

"We have a duty to others" who didn't win a grant this year, Volkmann said.

The Asian Youth Center has been operating out of United Methodist Church on Rosemead Boulevard for the past four years. Youth center officials pitched the new facility in April as a multicultural center, and told county officials the school district was ready to sell a portion of the Bitely school site.

In an April 28 letter, Supt. Anita Suazo said the school district was interested in the idea but not ready to make a commitment.

Asian Youth Center board chairwoman Judy Chu said she is confident a private site or another school property can be acquired and developed. Chu, who is the mayor of Monterey Park, said if another site can be found quickly, there is still a chance to qualify for the grant. Chu said youth center officials are looking at Hillcrest Elementary School in Monterey Park as a possible alternative.

The 13-campus Garvey School District serves Monterey Park, Rosemead and San Gabriel. Of the district's 7,697 kindergartners through eighth-graders, 44% are of Asian descent.

"Unfortunately, there was so much misunderstanding," Chu said of the controversy. Some opponents expressed concerns over at-risk youths and possible gang activity at the new center. Others said the Bitely site was acquired through bitterly contested eminent domain proceedings 12 years ago and should be used only to expand the existing school.

"I think there were a lot of stereotypes about what at-risk meant," Chu said. "Right now I'm relieved. I don't want to be at a site where residents don't want it."

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