Monday, October 20, 2008

Point Fermin Elementary School Power/View/Safety Matter
By Russell Jeans

Since my contribution to Diana’s blog, some additional facts have come to light and some new "spin" is going on. I hope you read through this and click on any links referenced if you need verification.

The view challenges have been popular as to the significance of the view issue. An early email received by the school district was sent by James, my neighbor, on March 17, 2006. Quoting, in part:"I am contacting you … to find a solution to a problem we are experiencing in our neighborhood regarding the placement of several new power poles that are adversely affecting our view and, in addition are a threat to the schools children' safety..." "Because of LAUSD's generated need for all of this electrical power, four new 50 foot high power poles have been erected carrying high voltage overhead lines and thus devaluating (sic) many of the homeowner's (sic) property at a real estate market value of about $200,000 each." (He makes no mention of who made that evaluation and on what it was based.)James lives a block away and claims he has no harbor view, as it is obstructed by a building in front of him. That has been repeated elsewhere and is a salient point on another blog.

Quoting the blog: “Mr. Campeau stated factually that out of the front of his home he has a good clear view of the stucco walls of a condominium building and cannot even see the school unless he stands on his roof.”

The blog continues: "Now here are some true facts (Me - true facts?? Are there any other kind? Just a little humor):Mr. Campeau's view is of the stucco wall of a condominium building and he has no real view of the school site.."

Actually, standing anywhere on the south half of the school yard and also standing on Kerckhoff Ave., you can look towards James’ house and see directly into all the east facing windows of the house. Therefore, not only does he have a view of the school yard, he also can see more of the harbor than some of his neighbors. So much for true facts.

Pressure Politics

When you can’t win on the merits, create a web.
The March 17, 2006 email concludes, "If LAUSD is not willing to be a good neighbor and do the right thing, very in-depth investigations will be made...that might include the media and/or costly litigation taking this matter to another level which all of us probably do not want to see." (That sentence was blatantly inflammatory. At that point, his complaint was baseless.)

The Daily Breeze article ( included this: "If LAUSD doesn't remove the wires, Campeau said he may appeal to the district's Office of the Inspector General, or even to Jerry Brown, the state attorney general."

So far, he has gone to the city’s DWP, Street Services and Engineering in Public Works, the LAUSD, the councilwoman’s office, the newspaper, the local neighborhood council, NOISE, the city’s mayor’s office, the school PTO and says he wants to be on the school’s School Site Council.

The “very in-depth investigations”Well, the "very in-depth investigations" found a property right issue regarding right-of-way. (I would be interested to know who actually did these "very in-depth investigations", who suggested such a strategy and why. Are these just vain questions or are real answers going to be told?)

I am not in any way implying here that determining property rights is wrong. I am saying that he was trying to look at property rights of others - in this case public agencies – hopefully to find something that might be twisted to his personal advantage.

The occupation of the right-of-way

The existence of the right-of-way is indisputable. The city owns it and the school district is using it. The LAUSD notified the city that a permit was issued in 1931 for use of the right-of-way. The City cannot find the original permit; although there is no dispute that the permit was issued. (I wish the “very in-depth investigations” would include the search for the permit.)

The right-of-way was fenced about 1961 for the security of the school children. The lunch awning was installed about 2000 on the right-of-way to allow maximum use of the playground area. There are no known disputes on any of that until James had a view issue.

On June 25, 1999, DWP approved the current location of the transformer that was to be installed for Fire Life Safety upgrades, technology upgrades and air-conditioning upgrades. According to the LAUSD letter to the City, the transformer location was selected by the DWP.

The power apparently will not be connected to the school until the current complaint is resolved; as the equipment location and line configuration are directly tied to resolving the complaint.

The new fire alarm system is supplied from the lower, current power. In the long term, the system could be compromised if the higher voltage is not connected. (That from a LAUSD technician very familiar with the fire system.) Obviously, the point being the higher voltage is required for the school even without the air-conditioning.

Meanwhile, the City issued a Notice to Abate Nuisance or Correct Violation order on July 6, 2006. The notice states: “You are hereby notified to comply with the requirements of the LAMC by obtaining a revocable permit from the Dept. of Engineering…” (Claims have been made that the LAUSD is trying to force the city to issue a permit.)

On August 24, 2007, the LAUSD in a letter to the City listed the improvements on the right-of-way and stated the specific reasons for doing so (e.g., security, maximum use of playground, necessary upgrades and noise reduction). The letter also notified the city the LAUSD was requesting the issuance of the permit.

On March 25, 2008, the Coastal Neighborhood Council sent its list of motions to Janice Hahn’s office for that month. (See minutes where motion passed unanimously )

Motion #12 begins, “At Point Fermin Elementary School, The Board of Public Works Bureau of Street Services Investigation and Enforcement Division has determined that Los Angeles Unified School District has built and installed into public right of way on Carolina Street a school lunch shelter area, chain link fencing, a new high voltage power substation, and air conditioning condenser units without a permit…

“…WE…ADVISE that the Board of Public Works deny any permit request by Los Angeles Unified School District concerning right of way encroachments at Point Fermin Elementary School, and that The Board of Public Works directs LAUSD to immediately remove any structures (bold added by me) from the public right of way.

The City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Engineering and Bureau of Street Services issued a joint report with the follow recommendation:

“Authorize the City Engineer to issue a Revocable Permit to the Los Angeles Unified School District to allow an existing lunch shelter, air conditioning condenser units, a ground transformer and chain link enclosure to remain in the public right-of-way along a portion of Carolina Street in San Pedro until such time that funds are available to widen Carolina Street.”

(BTW, widening Carolina Street will never happen because to do so would result in removing all of the improvements encroaching on the right-of-way by all the property owners up and down the street.)

Quoting more from the report regarding safety:

“Based on…information from the DWP, there is no engineering or safety-related basis to deny the LAUSD’s request for a Revocable Permit.”

“It is the Bureau of Engineering’s recommendation that the Board approve this request for a Revocable Permit to allow the existing perimeter fencing, transformers, condensers and lunch shelter to remain in the public right-of-way…”

There it is. The violations? Improvements encroaching on right-of-way that was assumed by both agencies to be school district property. Not one safety code violation. Not one building code violation, other than building on the right-of-way – and that without objection from anyone until now. Not anything other that a matter of property rights – and the rightful property owner’s (the city) technical advising bureaus can find no reasonable objection to issuing a permit. In fact, they fully recommend the issuance with the current configuration.

Well, after all of these years of being neighbors to the school and not once pushing for any safety improvements to the school, a view issue motivates a concern for safety. The concern? A sidewalk. They want a continuous sidewalk on the east side of the street. That means replacing the walk way off of the street (within the existing right-of-way) that gives safe access to the back of the school. They think the construction of the continuous sidewalk on the right-of-way is safer and of greater value than the current right-of-way improvements they want removed.

I used that walk way for several years as I took my son to school. When I was doing that, I always felt we were safer being off of the street than if a continuous sidewalk existed there. (That was my thinking long before all of this mess.) Moreover, as noted above, the preferred route (and safest, with or without a continuous sidewalk) is from Carolina, down 34th and to the main entrance on Kerckhoff. The sidewalk is uninterrupted and 34th is a dead end street.

The actions of the school district and the city have created safer conditions than the recommendations and concerns for sidewalk safety of a few neighbors and the local neighborhood council.

Again, I have used that part of the street as a parent taking my son to school and always felt safer doing so than if a continuous sidewalk replaced it. I still use it personally sometimes when I walk down to the school today and feel really good while doing it.

What’s really going on?

The neighbor’s single issue is his view. Some will object to my saying that. But, not a peep came from him to the school about school safety in the four years I was on the school site council. We always include the opportunity for public comment on the agenda. There has never been a continuous sidewalk on the east side of Carolina St.

Yep. He made safety complaints to the school district officials at the time he complained about his view obstructions. The safety complaints were power pole and line related. They were there to put pressure on the district to act on his view issue. There were no violations noted. There were suggestions to spend more money to redo the installation – suggestions that would conveniently solve his view concerns.

There was no concern, no mention, no issue regarding the continuous sidewalk until the right-of-way issue was discovered.

There were wires on utility poles adjacent to the lunch awning from the time the awning was erected. The voltage carried on those wires could kill a person in a heartbeat, just as sure as the higher voltage. There was no objection when the awning was installed.

He also has no objection if the poles’ heights are restored to that of the original poles. For him, there is no safety remedy that doesn’t include eliminating the higher utility poles from his view.

Some of his supporters have their own agenda. Their aversion to the school district is so strong that irrational and nonsensical positions are taken and statements are made so that knowledge and facts become their enemies.

The neighborhood council should have known better. Their mean-spirited motion would do nothing for the betterment of the education of the neighborhood children (and their parents) the advisory council represents.

The councilwoman’s divisiveness and partisanship have kept the matter going on as long as it has. When all the facts were made known to the city’s and the school district’s appropriate personnel, they acted reasonably and responsibly. She should have backed them. She should have, herself, gone down to the public counter and requested a permit that would have been immediately issued. Instead, she opted to protect the view issue of one individual.

At one time, James had an attorney involved. That apparently is no longer true. I suspect he was advised there is no legal issue for him and continuing to pay an attorney would be throwing money away.

This is about preferential treatment. The replacement power poles are no different than most of the other poles in the neighborhood. You can see a photo here of a utility pole really obstructing a view a block from the school. The property owner asked the city if it were possible if the city could move the pole. They told him they could do that, but he would have to pay for it. He asked how much and they said $25,000. He didn’t pay.

James wants the poles moved, cut or removed. He doesn’t want to pay. He wants you to pay by using public funds. He is my neighbor, a very good neighbor and very nice. But, on this matter, he is also very wrong.


M Richards said...

Mr. Jeans,

I was amazed to watch you leave the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council meeting without taking even one of the two opportunities you and every other audience member had to address the Governing Board.

You did not avail yourself of the opportunities other parents of kids attending Point Fermin Elementary School did in speaking directly to the Board.

I read this post when you handed me a paper copy last night and then again several times today.

First, you correctly copied and pasted a portion of an Email that stated that views from more than one person were involved and there is no mention specifically of Mr. Campeau's view.

Later on in the post you then claim it is all about Mr. Campeau's view and only his view.

Which of these two 'facts' are true?

The Email stated "we" and I have never heard Mr. Campeau refer to himself in the third person.

An opinion you seem to claim as 'fact' is that this is about one person's view. Where are the real facts to back that up?

I will provide evidence below that suggests Mr. Campeau feels his view is not blocked by the placement of the poles.

You have your thoughts and 'facts' as you believe them to be and you really should have risen up and talked to YOUR Board about these very important matters.

As you are so very involved in the situation, your thought are extremely important to be heard by the Board and other Stakeholders of Coastal.

Had you stayed around to listen during the SECOND set of comments, no relating to anything on the agenda, you would have heard great examples of much support from Board members, especially the President of the Board, and every one's resolve to try to find the best solutions for the problems at hand.

What the 'facts' are depends on what someone believes to be true.

For centuries the facts were that the Earth is the center of the Universe, is flat, and it people travel to the edge of the earth, they will fall off.

'Facts' change in the minds of people only when they are willing to accept those changes provided by others.

Mr. Jeans''facts' can be disputed by a number of individuals so I cannot accept all of Mr. Jeans' 'facts' as being totally true. I can also contend that my 'facts' may also be in dispute by Mr. Jeans and I can certainly accept that.

Prior to the start of the Coastal meeting, I faced both Mr. Jeans and Mr. Campeau. I asked Mr. Campear, right in front of Mr. Jeans, the following question;

Is your view obstructed by any poles at the school?

His direct answer was "NO".

Whether Mr. Jeans wishes to believe Mr. Campeau's answer or not is up to Mr. Jeans.

Mr. Jeans claims that anyone can go to various places on the site of the school and look directly onto the east-facing side of Mr. Campeau's home.

Anyone is welcome to do that, I guess, but I still contend that Mr. Campeau did not bring his issues to various parties because of HIS view.

Mr. Campeau took up the cause of neighbors who live near him. They don't want to be identified because of what is turning out to be very abundantly clear: too many people are defaming Mr. Campeau and are not willing to believe Mr. Campeau's position, reasoning, and care for the students, faculty, parents, and others at Point Fermin Elementary School.

In a conference call I participated in with representatives of LAUSD, one of the issues dealt with the problems facing Point Fermin Elementary School.

One person who spoke to us, and 'us' included the Local Superintedent of Area 8, the person acknowledge that the original problems that created the 'ball that rolled down hill' was created back in 1999 and never corrected.

If LAUSD acknowledges that they originally created the problems that ultimately led to the situation that everyone is facing, why shouldn't LAUSD be responsible for fixing the probles with funds they surely must have or may have after November 4?

Mr. Campeau, the DWP, the students, the parents, the faculty, and others did not originally create the problems that we now are facing today. LAUSD created the problems and they should pay to fix them.

Nobody I know of wants to have the lunch shelter removed. During the conference call all of us agreed that there must never be a removal of the lunch shelter until the entire school is finally closed.

Plans partially created by Mr. Campeau, a contractor, allow for the placement of a sidewalk along the east side of Carolina Street WITHOUT moving or removing the lunch shelter and the other items in the public right of way easement.

All I am asking for is that LAUSD pay their portion of placing the cables underground, whether Mr. Jeans believes it is necessary or not, and allow for the placement of a sidewalk next to the fence by the lunch shelter that would not harm the shelter in any way.

It was great to see a number of parents attending the Coastal meeting, speaking about the problems, and staying quite late to discuss the situations with members of the Board individually and with others from the audience.

Mr. Jeans, for whatever reason, left after not taking his opportunity to speak during the first set of comments on items not on the agenda and before he had the opportunity to speak again at the end of the meeting.

Mr. Jeans, for whatever reason, also left before he could educate at least one Board member who was not that knowledgeable concerning the issues with Point Fermin.

With the help of Mr. Campeau, the President of the Point Fermin PTO and myself, we helped educate that Board member using individuals several sides of the issue, not just from one side.

If folks care enough to participate in helping to solve the problems currently facing two classrooms (no heat) and all the students and faculty and staff and parents at the school, may I suggest they really participate.

It is probably not enough to sling arrows, claim your 'facts' are the real facts, and not be more involved in finding solutions.

If Mr. Jeans wishes to not fully participate in finding solutions to these problems he is thoughtful and passionate about, perhaps he might allow others to discuss, consider, challenge, mitigate, and find solutions.

Mr. Jeans has his side of the story and he claims it is the 'factual' side and that is that.

I find that disheartening when I have learned so much recently by trying to work with the parents, faculty, and LAUSD at trying to quickly solve the problems without blaming anyone or any group other than the Facilities Division of LAUSD, the folks who brought us all to where we are today.

It is long overdue that we seem to finally find room to come TOGETHER at working to fix the problems.

As evidenced by last night's meeting, and for reasons I do not know, Mr. Jeans elected to not participate as so many others did.

For historical records, The Jeans family and the Wells family go way, way back to the First Presbyterian Church and I am pretty sure Mr. Jeans and I both attended Crestwood Street School back in the day when it was not air conditioned.

I think we both can agree that the weather in the Summer was hotter at Crestwood and warmer in the Winter than Point Fermin was and is.

The fog lifted much earlier in the day at Crestwood than it does at Point Fermin.

I hope Mr. Jeans becomes more willing to work more closely together with all parties concerned about the issues.

Russell Jeans said...

Oh, boy. I don't know who is reading this, but I produced copious quotes to show the right path is to immediately correct an oversight and issue a revocable permit. The people who want to obstruct that process are doing so because they are unhappy with the current improvements that are completely legal absent a permit to use the right-of-way. By M Richards' own admission, the permit issue is their only recourse to force the school district and the city to do the work they want, spending additional funds needlessly at a time of severe budget constraints for both agencies.

Speaking with M. Richards and some of the board prior to the meeting, I felt it was clear the board and M. Richards still support the original motion passed by the board. I saw my speaking to the board at the time as being seen as a he said/he said between two neighbors. (I was repeatedly told before in our pre board meeting discussion that I have my view and they have their view. That means, to me, you are not going to listen to facts produced by others that I use while shifting to what you see as my personal bias. Actually, M. Richards' comments here and similar comments by others confirms that.) Later, I regretted not speaking. It would have been succinct, but I probably should have said something.

BTW, I told those I knew sitting close to me that I had to go make sure my son did his homework. He was just getting out of a scout meeting and he had had a dentist appointment after school, so the time was limited. It is the only night of the school week I am home to help him. The meeting discussion at that point didn't pique my interest, so I thought it a good time to get.

Again, I ask M. Richards. Go to Kerckhoff Ave. in front of the south side of the school and look west. You will see James' house with one of the poles in the view as you look directly into his east facing windows. You might ask James to invite you into his home so you can determine for yourself what is seen of the school and the harbor and the pole(s). When you do that, you can decide for yourself the facts. I know of no other residence that is impacted by the poles that was not already impacted by the previous poles. He said he was speaking for "us', but it was only his email on the issue. Back in 2006, I didn't know anything about this other than a view complaint had been made and that others were handling it.

Since that time James and I have talked many times. He knows my son attended the school and I believe he knew I was on the council. He never once mentioned the issue.

For whatever interpretation you are giving this, it is not a personal attack on James. I was shocked when I learned of his involvement. It was when I read the DB article I first learned more fully what was going on. For almost two years I thought the thing was a dead issue. I read that article, saw clearly what the right thing to do was and called Bonnie the next morning to tell her I wanted to attend that meeting. I learned of James involvement at the beginning of that meeting when I asked him his last name. (I didn't even know the name of who was involved until I saw the article) You know the old saying - You could have knocked me over with a feather at that moment.

I stand by my article and I stand by my last comment about James in the article.

BTW, my father thinks I hit the councilwoman too hard. After what I have learned about some of the comments she has said to others, off the record, I don't think I was out of line and still think at least she should stand aside and let the Board of Public Works issue the permit.

Russell Jeans said...

Whoops. I make mistakes, but fortunately they are usually just academic ones.

I asked that M. Richards go to the south side of the school for a view verification. I meant the north side. Sometimes I don't know my north from my south, but the lapse is usually only momentary.