HomeCommunity NewsSurvey Yields Ideas on Recreation Dept. Overhaul

Survey Yields Ideas on Recreation Dept. Overhaul

Thanks to a needs assessment survey conducted late last year, the San Marino City Council now has a better idea of what might be of interest to residents in the municipality’s soon-to-be revamped Recreation Department.
Armed with that information, the Recreation Commission is now expected to meet with a blue-ribbon panel tasked by the council with carving out that revamp, to be executed by the recently hired community services director.
Art Thatcher, a project consultant at GreenPlay LLC, presented findings from the survey at Friday’s council meeting. From approximately 2,000 mailed surveys, 203 were filled out and returned, and another 190 were completed through an online portal.
“We’ll begin to take these and look at these to begin developing those recommendations as the final phase of this,” Thatcher said of the survey results.
Surprising no one, key findings were that Lacy Park and Crowell Public Library are the most popular facilities among San Marino residents, in terms of use and satisfaction. Respondents indicated that the city generally communicates information about its recreation programming well and that the Stoneman Center — which houses the Recreation Department — was important enough to be upgraded and maintained in some capacity. Residents also showed a desire for more robust trails and pathways, fitness and wellness programs, and cultural and heritage programs.
In terms of adding to what San Marino offers, respondents said a farmers market and better-lighted athletic courts and fields ranked high among their preferences. Renovating the San Marino Center also emerged as a popular item.
The full report can viewed on the city website, CityOfSanMarino.org.
In other business on Friday, the City Council approved contracts with the city’s labor unions and voiced strong support for taking care of its employees, amid some speculation aired by residents during discussion of the topic.
Resident Hal Harrigian specifically questioned which other cities were used for comparison during labor negotiations, as he felt some of the benefits increases seemed outside of the normal scope. Andrew Ko, who ran an unsuccessful write-in candidacy for the council last year, charged that the increase in funding for employee insurance purchases by more than $1,000 for each of the next three years did not square with what health insurance plans on the Covered California market cost. For this region, Ko said, a silver-level plan for a 40-year-old ranged from $327 to $439 per month.
“I think we need more detail that you can share with the public so that we feel comfortable that the homework’s been done properly,” Harrigian said. “I think we need some details to support the numbers that you’re putting on.”
Councilman Steve Talt said he would reveal more about how the negotiations produced the numbers they did once legal counsel had OK’d what information could be shared publicly. Public entities conduct labor negotiations entirely in closed-door meetings.
Other members of the panel defended the agreements, which were all unanimously approved.
“Our residents expect a lot from city staff, so we need to have a city staff that is there to go the extra for our public,” Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey said. “When we looked at those [other cities], we made decisions to make sure our good employees stay here and that we respect the work that they do. We ask them to be the utmost professionals and give extra, because we are trying to manage a service business. We want to deliver excellence to our community, and by doing, we need excellent and professional employees. In my mind, that means we need to catch them up to market, to recognize where there’s been errors in the past and make sure that we retain our employees.”
Councilwoman Susan Jakubowski, retired from employment with Los Angeles County, pointed out public sectors often make use of a “cafeteria plan” in which employees are given funding to select from a variety of insurance options the ones that best suit them. Negotiations, she added, were not a simple matter, as they kicked off last July.
“I think we keep decent decorum [when in public session] and you hear us sometimes disagree in our voting,” she said. “We had some pretty heated sessions [during labor negotiations] with the give-and-take. This isn’t something where we just walk in and automatically agree. There have been some line items that we’ve spent an hour on.”
Councilman Steven Huang added that unlike many other items the body votes on, this wasn’t simply a staff recommendation.
“It’s not just a recommendation from the city manager,” he said. “It’s actually a decision from all of us.”


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