Monthly Archives: March, 2019
The Starbucks coffee shop located on the northeast corner of San Gabriel Boulevard and Huntington Drive that shares a parking lot with Trader Joe’s abruptly closed last Friday evening. A note placed on a message board earlier in the week gave the only indication that the store was going out of business. “We are permanently closed,” reads a sign on the front door of what used to be Starbucks. “Thank you for being a part of this community for 20 years! We hope to see you at a neighboring store.” A work crew was busy inside the space. Keith Glassman, a representative of Starbucks who has represented its interests in San Marino in the past, did not respond to two contact attempts. San Marino Planning and Building Director Aldo Cervantes told The Tribune he did not recall Glassman mentioning the Pasadena Starbucks location during recent presentations on the San Marino Starbucks to the city. He first heard about the Pasadena location closing via “a rumor.” An online customer service representative of Starbucks, Juan O., said he was unable to provide reasons on why the store closed. Meanwhile, teachers and other staff members at San Marino’s Carver Elementary School, which is located directly across the street, were upset at the news, as many said they visited the coffee shop on an almost daily basis.
This past weekend, San Marino High School’s Titanium Robotics attended the Orange County Regional with their robot Galacc. This competition was held in Costa...
Though you would never know it by the weather, the spring sports season is upon us and—maybe for once—San Marino High School’s boys’ volleyball team is glad they play their games inside a gym. But though the weather may be different, the song is still the same for most of the school’s coaches: “We lost a lot of seniors from last year’s team.” This week’s soloist is Tony Chou, now entering his fourth season as head coach after playing for the Titan spikers up until his graduation in 2005. But the subject of “graduation is not a pleasant one for Chou, who lost five starters to the diploma from last year’s Rio Hondo League co-champions. Expectations are low but achievement is high early in the season as the Titans have shown flashes of brilliance in early season play. Such was the case Tuesday afternoon, when San Marino hosted powerful Flintridge Prep in what turned out to be a surprisingly close contest before the Rebels won in three straight sets. “I think we are doing pretty well,” Chou said. “We had that huge class graduate last year but Michael Baldocchi and Kyle Yu are two surprising additions to this year’s team.” Chou thought the Flintridge Prep contest was “a pretty good showcase of who we are. Kyle and Michael have played maybe one month of volleyball so far and even though we lost, it was a very competitive game.” Chou elected to introduce his team by starting with the younger players first, and there’s Yu—a setter—who is just a freshman. “Kyle has never even set before but a few of us coaches noticed his natural athleticism,” Chou said. “So we brought him up and he is doing an excellent job.” Along with that rare freshman, Chou has several sophomores who have been making early contributions. Aaron Lu is backing up Yu at setter. “Aaron has stepped up a lot and has an excellent grasp of the offense we are trying to run,” Chou said. “He is doing very well.” Outside hitter Justin Suimanjaya is getting a lot of playing time. “Justin is a very competitive kid and has played well in our tournaments,” said the coach. He is a very solid all-around player. I have really high hopes for Justin and what he can do for this program.” Likewise, lanky sophomore Johnny Luo. “Johnny is adapting and learning really quickly,” Chou said. “He mixes in at middle blocker and opposite hitter. He is going to be a very good player for us at either one of those positions.” Sophomore Victor Fuan rotates between outside hitter and defensive specialist. “Victor is very, very athletic and works hard to get to his spots. Has a very good understanding of the game, especially for a sophomore.” Sophomore Christofer Duenas is the starting libero during the early weeks of the season. “Christopher has been very integral in anchoring our defense and he is also a very good all-around player,’ Chou told The Tribune. Brandon Kar is another sophomore who makes a living on defense. Kar plays both libero and defensive specialist. “Brandon has a very good reach playing defense,” Chou exclaimed. “He and Chris will dictate how well we do this year. With Brandon, it’s just a matter of building confidence and he will improve. I look forward to seeing how far he advances in this sport.” Junior Matthew Harlan, a lefthander, is pushing for playing time at the right side hitter spot. “We are really glad to have Matt back,” Chou said. “He considered dedicating himself to wrestling full time but eventually decided to play volleyball this year. I actually think that wrestling has helped him. Matt has a very high volleyball IQ and wrestling has contributed to his endurance.” Junior Mitchell Cootauco has excelled at outside hitter and played well in Tuesday’s loss. “Mitchell plays middle blocker for his club team and he has made adjustments for us,” said Chou. “He is doing really well attacking the ball and is also very active in defense. Mitchell is a very important player for us.” Junior Joshua Hom also switches back and forth between libero and defensive specialist. Joshua is very eager to play and is very active on his feet,” said Chou. “With Josh, it’s just a matter of making some small tweaks and he will be a huge help on the defensive end of the court.” Junior Seth Matzumoto was a beast on the football field as one of the Titans’ leading tacklers. He is now working to contribute in a sport where contact with an opponent is not only discouraged, it’s often illegal. “Seth can play any position on the court and that allows us to have depth everywhere,” Chou said. “It will be up to the coaching staff to decide where to play him. Seth is very well rounded.” Junior Carver Weirick is beginning to come into his own as an elite level volleyball player. The junior outside hitter had 13 kills and six blocks against the Rebels and also shined on defense. “Carver has really developed his skill set and understands how to be more efficient on the court,” Chou explained. “He is also improving his serving game and defense and that makes us a much more competitive team.” Outside hitter Kai Barra, also a junior, is one of the mainstays from last season’s squad. “Kai has improved from last year in a leadership capacity to where he can delegate a little and not carry al of the weight on his shoulders,” Chou said. “He is also the most consistent player we have from a statistical standpoint.” Just two seniors suit up for the Titans and one of them has never played volleyball in his life. Michael Baldocchi recently ended a solid four-year basketball career and decided to try another game that requires an extensive vertical jump. The early returns are fantastic. “We are really glad to have Michael and what is interesting is he might be one of the most coachable players I have ever had,” said Chou, who is not prone to hyperbole. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a new strategy or technique, Michael is very open to suggestion. He could develop into a very valid middle blocker for us.” Last but certainly not least is senior middle blocker Eric Fu, who also plays basketball and volleyball. Fu recorded six kills and four blocks in Tuesday’s contest. “Eric is finding his rhythm especially offensively,” Chou explained. “He is able to put the ball down and is also a top all-around threat. Eric is a very impactful player offensively and defensively.” Chou will need as many “impact players” he can roll out onto the court if the Titans are going to match last year’s performance. San Marino ended last year’s campaign as co-champions of the Rio Hondo League with South Pasadena, and the Tigers are loaded again. “South Pasadena is probably still the strongest team, but everyone in the league is very young,” Chou said. “But I really think we can compete. We have a lot of dynamic young players and I think it will be a very competitive and entertaining season. But we need more consistent passing.” Spoken like a true coach.
A San Marino High School senior was arrested Monday morning after a text the student sent to a group of friends threatening extreme physical harm to...
The two events couldn’t be more different, yet they are held by the same organization and take place just twenty-four hours apart. The frenetic pace of Little League Opening Day, replete with uniformed youngsters dashing this way and that, at Huntington Middle School on Saturday morning, balanced by the Little League Past Presidents brunch at San Gabriel Country Club a day later, which is, shall we say “staid” by comparison. Both took place last weekend under ideal conditions though it’s difficult to guess when the environs at SGCC could be considered anything other than “ideal.” Though the current year’s leader was chosen months ago, the Past President’s Brunch includes a literal and metaphorical passing of the torch, or—more appropriately in this case—the transfer of an old, wooden Hank Aaron baseball bat that for some reason has a broom attached to the business end. “That’s to gently sweep away the problems,” one SMNLL president said years ago, as he handed it to his successor. Jim Ukropina, the 1979 president who was in attendance last Sunday, believes the tradition began in 1973 during the presidency of Paul Crowley, that great beginner of local traditions. For decades, even long after Crowley was involved in the league, the annual draft was held in Crowley’s basement as a matter of tradition. Whenever its genesis, the handing over of the ceremonial bat survives to this very day. “Whatever you do, don’t lose that,” said 2018 President Jay Fuerst as he handed the stick to Dan Giddings, the current head man. “That was the biggest worry of my term.” In handing the reins to Giddings, Fuerst also mentioned that he felt the main job of the president of San Marino National Little League was to serve as its chief ambassador. Giddings, believed to be just the third in the town’s history to be a player in and later president of San Marino National Little League, harkened back to his days as a player and told a story about his experience as a ten-year-old. “We didn’t have enough coaches, so the league just drafted another team,” Giddings said, as the room erupted in laughter. “They eventually found a dad to serve as our manager, but he didn’t know much about baseball, so I essentially served as player-coach. I made all the substitutions and changed all the pitchers.” Giddings then acknowledged many in the room who he looked up to as a mentor including Ukropina and Dr. Bill Dietrick, who was president while Giddings played on a championship-winning team with Dietrick’s son, Todd. If Fuerst served under the banner of ambassador, Giddings preached the theme of friendship. “That is what it is all about,” Giddings said. “The friendships that are made through Little League are what make it so special in this community.” He spoke of the “fraternity” among past presidents and the many changes that have transpired over the years, including a recent switch to electronic scorekeeping and custom made uniforms, which elicited many headshakes from the wives in the audience. Anne Hogeboom, wife of Bob, who was president in 1991, said that the scorekeeping duties occupied three people during those days. Dietrick recalled his wife, Joan, dutifully mending uniforms at the end of a season so they could be handed over to the next team. No more. Giddings was proud of his focus on rebuilding the Little League softball program and his founding of a local baseball team called the Isotopes, which was created to keep local kids together and discourage them from leaving to travel ball squads. Isotopes is currently on its seventh rendition, by the way. Giddings has worked on recruiting young adults to coach the older Little Leaguers in the High School Prep league and has cut a deal with San Marino High School that allows Little League to hold Saturday games on those fields when the Titans and Lady Titans are not scheduled. He also resurrected what he called “an old-school all-star game” for the Majors that allows the players to vote for the teams. He then thanked his wife, Cathy—herself an accomplished athlete and high school softball player—for her support and dedication to the league. Al three Giddings children play in San Marino National Little League and participated in the ceremonial first pitch. “I couldn’t believe that that I was giving a speech and these guys were listening to me,” Giddings said a few days later of the past presidents event. “As a kid I looked up to so many of them.” Giddings said that the entire Opening Day experience “was like Christmas morning.’ “Looking at all of the kids in their colorful uniforms was like looking at gifts,” Giddings said. “They are like presents under the tree and you don’t know what you are going to get with each team. So many of my friends are coaching and my own kids are playing and I just can’t wait to see how it all unfolds. Like Christmas, there is drama, some family drama, and you have to roll with it. For Christmas, you know it is going to be a great day and for Little League, you know it is going to be a great three months.” There was one more appropriate comparison to the holiday. “I was exhausted,” Giddings said of the morning after. “Exhausted, but with a smile on my face.” Let’s hope it stays there. We’re confident it will.
San Marino voters on Tuesday approved the renewal of Measure R, a parcel tax that brings $1.6 million annually to the San Marino Unified School District. Titled Measure R–for “renewal”–the tax directly supports 13.4 “instructional and instructional support positions,” according to information provided by the SMUSD. A group of about a dozen citizens gathered at the district office Tuesday night as the results were made available at about 8:15 p.m. “Did we win?” said Nam Jack, a former San Marino School Board Member, who in November agreed to chair Citizens for San Marino Schools, the grassroots campaign to help pass the parcel tax, as data appeared on a long-dormant television screen in the office of Superintendent Loren Kleinrock. She didn’t have to wait long for the answer, as Measure R received 1,562 affirmative votes (69.12%) while 698 voters (30.88%) opposed the measure. The parcel tax needed 66% to pass and just 2,260 of the 9,569 registered voters who live within SMUSD boundaries returned ballots in the mail-in election. Measure R was first passed in 1991. The current annual assessment per parcel is $366.40. The assessment is adjusted annually by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Statistical Area Consumer Price Index for a six-year term for those parcels located within the boundaries of the San Marino Unified School District. Before Tuesday’s vote, the parcel tax was most recently renewed in March, 2013 when it received 71.6% of the vote. “I would like to thank each and everyone who helped with the passage of this measure and everyone who voted ‘yes’ to renew a parcel tax that has been in existence since 1991,” Jack told The Tribune. “It truly is a win-win for everyone. Parents can be assured of a stable source of funding so the District can continue to provide the highest quality education, which in turn helps our community maintain our high property values. For those who may be on a fixed income, specifically seniors and homeowners with disabilities, there is an exemption.” Jack and her committee touted the parcel tax’s cost of just $1 per to justify its support, especially when compared to the shortfall that would be caused by its failure. School Board President Lisa Link is pleased that she didn’t have to add that to her already full to-do list. “On behalf of the Board of Education, we are very grateful to the San Marino community for its continued financial support of the District and its students,” Link said Wednesday morning. “With the renewal of the Measure R parcel tax, San Marino voters affirmed that they value the 13.4 instructional and enrichment positions that lower class sizes and provide enhanced educational opportunities for our students in the areas of instruction, counseling, libraries and technology. The Board is also extremely appreciative of the leadership of our former colleague, Nam Jack, and the efforts of her hard working team of Citizens for San Marino Schools volunteers and supporters.” The district currently receives additional funding from a second parcel tax, Measure E, which will come before voters for renewal in the Spring of 2021. First approved by voters in 2009, Measure E generates $4.1 million annually from residents of San Marino and the San Marino Unified School District at a current rate of $924 per parcel, funding 33 positions at the SMUSD.
The San Marino Police Department prides itself on its dedication to the community and “Pride in Service,” with that slogan noted on the patrol cars which circulate throughout the city. But the department currently has five officer and two cadet vacancies, according to Chief of Police John Incontro, and is currently processing several officer candidates. Of those candidates, background checks have already started and hirings are expected between the months of April and May. Due to the vacancies, the department has had to backfill with about 17-20 overtime details per month. “So there’s a considerable overtime use with these vacancies,” Incontro shared with The Tribune. “The officers are filling in and still working very hard.” The SMPD currently is comprised of one chief, two commanders, five sergeants (two of whom are detectives), four corporals (one of whom is a detective) and eleven officers (two of whom are detectives). There are four cadets, one of whom is currently deployed in Kuwait in the Air National Guard. In addition, there is a records dispatch manager, four full-time dispatchers and one part-time dispatcher. The department is seeking to make the part-time dispatcher into a full-time position, according to Incontro. “The dispatcher position is also a clerk position,” said Incontro. “So we can use the dispatcher for a multitude of uses and it’ll help us with a lot of our records needs and reporting—a lot of different things. It’s a big benefit to us if we can make this a full-time position.” Patrol in the SMPD is referred to as “flat deployment,” according to Incontro, where the deployment of four teams of four are built to be the same. A deployment is comprised of one sergeant, one corporal and two officers. Each has their own squad car. The corporal and officers are on active patrol during the shift, while the sergeant is either on patrol as well or back at the station. “Unless the officers are hailing a call for service or out completing a report, investigation or even having lunch, the officers are always out in the field,” said Incontro. “We don’t wait for a call at the station to respond. We’re doing proactive policing and preventative policing by patrolling areas of the city.” Most calls can be answered by one officer. With serious calls, SMPD responds with a minimum of two officers, if not more, depending on the situation. The patrol shifts recently changed in the past month. A shift is 12 hours and previously SMPD worked on 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shifts. The adjusted start time is now 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Incontro said that with school starting between 7:50 a.m. and 8 a.m., the needs of the schools were better served by starting an hour earlier. Traffic infractions were also greater in the 7 a.m. hour and the change ensures that officers are out working during that time instead of being between shifts. “We did that because we did a study of our calls for service and found that our calls for service started to increase around 7 a.m., so we were not getting to as many calls for service,” said Incontro. Incontro shared that the amount of work has steadily increased over the past several years due to various legislative mandates. There will be a new reporting process for the completion of crime reports. The department will be shifting from the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to a program called the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). The new program has additional requirements that work to ensure officers have added key details in the reports. In the report review before the reports reach detectives, about 75 more questions have to be answered. “There will be a lot more data through these questions but it’s requiring a lot more work,” said Incontro. With the additional workload, Incontro shared that a goal for next year’s budget is for the department to increase by two officers. “It’s primarily a recruitment and retention issue because agencies across the country, every single agency, is struggling to find officers and to obtain them, and we’re not different,” said Incontro. Incontro also detailed the “special community” that San Marino is, and the recruitment of officers is carefully undertaken to make sure officers are a good fit. “We’re a unique place because the type of agency we are, what kind of work our officers do, the fact that there may not be as many options of types of work,” said Incontro. “We’re fortunate. We have relatively no violent crime, we don’t have gangs, we don’t have shootings. It’s property crime. We’re very connected to the community, and so not every officer applicant would fit in our agency. So we have to make sure that’s the kind of person that wants to be engaged in the community very closely.” In the department’s work to provide the best service possible in the most efficient ways, Incontro said that he’s careful to consider the bigger picture. “We are always mindful of the cost and requirements of funding a police department,” said Incontro. “We want to make sure we’re very diligent and careful in the use of the city funds because it’s not just the police department that makes the city—it’s the fire department, it’s the library and the other city departments and the public works that are required to make sure the city stays the same.” “We have to be a part of a team so we’re always mindful of trying to do the best we can with whatever’s available.”
We are halfway through one of the better rivalries in the regional wresting, and San Marino High School’s Luka Wick can’t wait to get started. Wick is a sophomore, but then again, so is Cael Valencia of St. John Bosco. Both most recently competed in the 145-pound weight class, and Valencia—for the second consecutive year—got the better of his counterpart. Wick rolled through the competition in winning Rio Hondo League and CIF championships, but Valencia won the title match at CIF Masters and, last weekend, edged Wick in the CIF State meet, where Wick eventually finished fifth. But the future is still bright for the son of Milena and Bill Wick. Luka is currently ranked #16 in the country for his weight class and is also #34 in the nation for the entire high school graduating class of 2021, regardless of weight class. If the name sounds familiar, it should. His older brothers, twins Evan and Zander, won just about every trophy, belt or hat while at San Marino High School before graduating in 2015. They now compete at the highest collegiate level as members of the Wisconsin wrestling team. A member of San Marino’s Titan Mercury Wrestling Club, Luka finished second in the prestigious Battle for the Belt tournament and placed in the Carter Classic. He also placed on the Super 32, which brings together the nations finest wrestlers. Though the high school wrestling season is now complete, Luka still has the 2019 nationals and what Bob Wick calls “a never-ending string of competitions.”