Walnut, residents sue Mt. SAC over parking garage

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The city and concerned residents filed separate lawsuits against Mount San Antonio College this week, claiming the community college is violating the city’s zoning ordinance and breaking environmental laws. It is the latest attempt by the City Council and residents to stop construction of a controversial $48.5-million parking structure off Mountaineer Road.

“We have to hold their feet to the fire, they’re not complying with the law,” said Councilman Bob Pacheco after the City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to sue Mt. SAC. “We have to challenge their actions because the college has not been straight with us.”

Mt. SAC began construction March 18, one week after receiving approval from the Division of the State Architect. On Wednesday, work continued, as workers cut down campus trees facing Mountaineer Road to make way for the parking garage.

“They want to play hardball and be obnoxious about it. They are marching ahead and shoving it in the public’s face. But they know this is going to get overturned,” said Craig Sherman, San Diego-based attorney for United Walnut Taxpayers.

The residents’ lawsuit claims the college violated the California Environmental Quality Act by not crafting a separate environmental impact report on the 2,300-space garage project. It also argues the city did not present voters of Measure RR, a $353-million bond issue adopted in 2008 with a full description of the project, a violation of Proposition 39. The third cause of action mimics the city’s lawsuit and claims Mt. SAC should not be exempt from city zoning laws.

“I think we got them dead to rights,” Sherman said.

In an interview Thursday, Mt. SAC President William Scroggins said the college received the residents’ lawsuit and its attorneys are preparing a response to present to the Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday. “We feel we have a good basis in both statute and case laws that support our position,” he said.

As an educational institution, Mt. SAC contends it is exempt from city zoning laws and therefore, only needs approval from the state architect.

“We’ve done each of the required steps in terms of environmental impact, traffic studies, the construction design and approval by the state,” he wrote in a news release.

Scroggins said the college does not plan on stopping construction. Sherman said his group, made up mostly of Timberline residents whose homes would be as close as 120 feet from the structure, may ask for an injunction if construction doesn’t stop immediately.

For more, read Rich Irwin’s and Steve Scauzillo’s story LAWSUIT.

34 spellers advance to finals of Inland Valley Regional Spelling Bee


By Inland Valley Regional Spelling Bee

Facing the possibility of heavy rain on the day of the preliminaries, the volunteers of the Inland Valley Regional Spelling Bee planned for the worst. But as luck would have it, partly cloudy skies and bright sunshine  prevailed.

Excited spellers and their families, friends and teachers piled into the Design Technology Center at Mt. SAC early Saturday morning.

After the throngs of school champions were registered and given their T-shirts, they lined up and marched into the auditorium to the strains of their favorite music.

Marsha Hawkins, Spelling Bee Director introduced the announcer Ken Mok, who explained what was going to happen that day. The spellers were separated into their red, blue and yellow color groups and escorted to their venues – written spelling, written vocabulary or oral spelling.

After three tense hours the tests were corrected and the points were tallied. The excited spellers were asked to come up to the stage where they were presented with medallions signifying their successful advancement to the final rounds.

These lucky spellers will spend this week studying hard and fast to be ready to face their competitors early Saturday morning, March 7.

Among those advancing to the finals are Rebecca Norden-Bright of Pioneer Jr. High in Upland, who has participated for the last six years, Hannah Sylvestro of St. Margaret Mary School in Chino, our champion in 2013 and Thordar Han of South Point Middle School in Diamond Bar who is making her second appearance at the Bee.

The finals will take place at 8 a.m. in the auditorium at the DTC. All 35 finalists will be seated on stage, where they will be called up one at a time to spell their word.

If they are correct, they will sit back down. If they fail to spell correctly, they will join their parents in the audience. This will go on until one student is able to out-spell all the others.

The finals of the IVRSB have always been exciting and the children are the show. They are funny, bright, excited and above all dedicated.

Champions compete at Inland Valley Regional Spelling Bee


On Feb. 28,  106 school champions will gather at the Design Technology Center on the campus of Mount San Antonio College to compete in the eighth annual Inland Valley Regional Spelling Bee.

Spellers represent cities from all over the Inland area: Baldwin Park to Fontana and the foothill cities to Ontario and Chino,  south of Hwy 60. 

We are pleased to announce that Manuel Baca, Professor and Member of the Board at Mt. San Antonio College and Carolyn Anderson, Community Relations Director for Waste Management will join Chief Judge, Steve Lambert as judges for the finals to be held at the DTC on March 7.

Our champion will go on to Washington DC to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May. There, our winner will face close to 300 of the best spellers from all over the English speaking world. It’s an exciting time for all these spellers and the experience they gain will help them grow into knowledgable adults.

The atmosphere at the IVRSB is always electric and this year will be no exception. Hannah Sylvestro, our winner from 2013 is returning along with several others who have competed before and are back with a new commitment to win.

We will be hosting spellers ranging in age from a seven-year-old first-grader  to 14-year-old Rebeccah Norden-Bright, who will be returning for her 6th competition.

When the competitors arrive at 7:30 a.m. they will be divided into three groups. Over the next four and a half hours they will compete in three venues: Oral spelling, written spelling and written vocabulary.

At the end of the morning spellers with the top 30 scores will go on the finals on March 7. At that event they will participate in a traditional spell-off, competing head to head until one speller is left.

The top speller will be presented with the traveling trophy, a copy of Mirriam Webster’s Third Edition and an all expense paid trip to Washington DC provided by Quest Literacy Consortium.

Walnut to consider legal action against Mt. SAC for parking structure

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

Walnut City Council will meet in closed session tonight to consider whether to sue Mount San Antonio College for going ahead with construction of a five-story, $45 million parking garage directly across the street from homes.

The consideration of “possible litigation — status report on proposed parking structure, Mt. SAC” by the council may have been precipitated by two actions taken by the school’s governing board on Feb. 11.

First, the board passed a resolution saying the college does not have to abide by City of Walnut zoning laws because the parking structure will be an educational facility owned and operated by the district.

And second, the college board approved an $8.4 million contract with Tilden-Coil Constructors, Inc. for work on the first phase of the new parking structure, including relocation of utility lines, demolition, grading and soil movement.

The college, located in Walnut, has put up numerous new buildings that didn’t require approval from the city. Colleges and university projects are approved by the state architect. Also, the college’s resolution notes it doesn’t have to meet Walnut zoning codes because they do not address the location of schools.

If the facility is not considered educational, it is possible a city would have a say, but the resolution states the parking structure will also be used “for student instruction in subjects such as astronomy, administration of justice and fire technology.”

The City Council voted in August to oppose building a parking structure at the location, finding it would cause air pollution, traffic and potential ingress and egress problems for emergency vehicles, as cars would be using Mountaineer Road to access the structure — the same street used by hundreds of residents of Timberline, a neighborhood in north Walnut.

Read more in Steve Scauzillo’s story PARKING.

Mt SAC studies options for new parking structure

Mount San Antonio College trustees learned it would cost $14.5 million to move the controversial 2,200 spot parking structure planned for the community college.

Another study to downsize the $45 million parking garage said it would cost almost $6 million to eliminate one of the parking levels in one section. That would only cut 200 stalls.

“The cost is not feasible to redo the parking structure,” concluded Mt. SAC President and CEO Bill Scroggins. “After the multi-millions spent on the design, it would not be a good shepherding of tax dollars.”

Mt. SAC’s Director of Facilities Gary Nellesen explained the costs involved to move the parking garage from Parking Lot A to Lot F. His staff calculated it would take three years and $14,470,000 to relocate the parking garage now planned off Mountaineer Road along Edinger Way. And the easier option of cutting one section would cost $5,820,000.

“The biggest cost would be inflation caused by the delay,” Nellesen said. “We use the same number we use for all our projects … about 4 percent per year. Because this redesign effort would take 18 months, we’re figuring about a year and a half of cost inflation on the rest of the structure.”

That would add $2.4 million to the cost of the smaller structure. Deleting one level and replacing it with surface parking would save $2 million.

“We’d have to pay for a redesign of the darn thing,” Nellesen said.

He said the college learned a lesson back in 2003, when bids for the new science building came in over budget.

“We did an extensive effort to reduce the cost of the project. By the time we got it approved and put it up for bid, we got less for more money,” Nellesen recalled.

He said using Lot F would add 40 months to the project in order to start all over again with the environmental impact report, new design and the state approval process. Inflation would add $5.6 million to the costs.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story PARKING

Mt. SAC holds community volunteer fair today

The Mt. San Antonio College Student Life Office will hold a Community Volunteer Fair for local organizations that would like to recruit student volunteers on Thursday, Nov. 6, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Student Life Center patio area, building 9C. 

The fair provides an opportunity for students to engage in public service, obtain hands-on learning experiences, and make a difference in the community.

Some of the organizations that will participate in this year’s event include the AmeriCorps, Covina Public Library, Inland Empire United Way, House of Ruth, Inland Valley Hope Partners, Just Us 4 Youth, Parent’s Place Family Resource & Empowerment Center, Rowland Unified School District Family Resource Center, Think Together, VITAS Innovative Hospice Care, and more. 

Paola Mendoza sworn in as student trustee at Mt SAC in Walnut

Mt. San Antonio College student Paola Mendoza was sworn in as the new student trustee for the 2014-15 academic year during the Mt. SAC Board of Trustees’ July 23 meeting. 

As student trustee, Mendoza, 19, will present the student perspective on policy issues before Mt. SAC’s governing board.

She will have only an advisory vote, which does not count toward the passage or failure of a motion. The advisory vote helps the board know how the student trustee stands on issues and strengthens the student role in the college’s shared governance process.

Mendoza, a resident of Ontario, is a psychology major and carries a 3.6 GPA. She has served as a senator with the Mt. SAC Associated Students (student government) and holds memberships in the campus Psychology Club and IDEAS Club, which serves as an advocate for undocumented students.

After she graduates from Mt. SAC, she plans to transfer to UCLA as a psychology major.

City of Walnut drops red light traffic cameras

The only red light cameras in Walnut have hit a stop sign. The City Council voted unanimously to allow a contract with RedFlex Traffic Systems to expire on May 27.

The controversial cameras were installed in 2007 at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Amar Road, next to Mt. San Antonio College. Since then, the digital detectives have caught thousands of unwary motorists, with many complaining about the city’s photo enforcement program. In fact, the city issued more than 5,000 citations in 2013, according to RedFlex reports.

There was no discussion of the consent calendar item, but later Mayor Tony Cartagena said, “the statistical review of the RedFlex camera program did not reflect a reduction of traffic accidents, nor could the data support the cameras made the intersections safer.”

“A great number of residents and public officials here and in other cities no longer support them,” Cartagena added.

During the public comment earlier, RedFlex Program Director Robert Warner disagreed and asked for a one-year extension.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story CAMERAS.

Walnut residents rue new parking structure at Mt SAC

Residents of Timberline came out Thursday night to protest Mount San Antonio College’s plans for a new $45 million parking structure across from their homes in Walnut.

The community college says the five-story garage will solve some of the parking problems at the bustling campus. Neighbors claim it will cause more traffic, crime and pollution.

Mt. SAC presented plans for a large parking garage with 2,200 parking spaces. The structure would be sited on the current 600-spot parking lot along Mountaineer Way at the north-west edge of the campus.

The proposal brought out the ire of homeowners across the street.

“We have been impacted by Mt. SAC’s quest to become the biggest community college in California. You keep adding, adding and adding students,” complained Linda Hiti.

Hiti said Mt. SAC students park in front of their homes on Granite Wells Drive, leaking oil and leaving their garbage.

“Walnut has been a good neighbor, but you keep growing to the detriment of the city,” Hiti concluded.

Mt. SAC President Bill Scroggins disagreed: “California is growing, growth is going to happen.”

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story PARKING.

Mt. SAC exhibits artwork of former professor in Walnut

The Mt. San Antonio College Art Gallery will present an exhibit featuring the artwork of former Mt. SAC art professor and art department chairperson Ron Ownbey, “From Mind Thru Hand: A 60-Year Retrospective,” which will run March 13 through April 17 at the campus Art Gallery. This exhibit is free and open to the public.

Sixty years in the making, “From Mind Thru Hand” showcases work that embodies a style described as “embracing the breadth of modern artistic practice.” This survey of Ownbey’s art provides an insight into the man who helped bring the Mt. SAC Art Department into the 21stCentury. Ownbey is credited for the introduction of digital media at the college.

A special opening reception will be held Thursday, March 13, 4 to 6 p.m., in the Art Gallery. Gallery hours are Tuesdays through Thursdays,11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Tuesday nights, 5 to 7:30 p.m.

For more information, call the Art Gallery at (909) 274-4328 or visit the gallery’s website at www.mtsac.edu/artgallery.