Sagebrush map

Sagebrush map (Steve Greenberg / Times Community News / February 15, 2014)

The long simmering issue over the Sagebrush territory in La Cañada — an area whose students have historically been served by Glendale Unified — is still ongoing, school board members confirmed this week.

The decades-old battle on behalf of La Cañada residents to match that city’s school boundaries with its city limits was reignited by Sagebrush resident Tom Smith last year.

For La Cañada school board President Ellen Multari, the end goal is to incorporate the La Cañada territory into that city’s school district.

“Our negotiations are ongoing,” she said. “Both districts are still talking.”

“It’s a slow process,” Multari added. “It’s a complicated issue. It’s something we want to do correctly.”

Smith’s effort, with support from La Cañada city and school officials, gained momentum last summer and spurred La Cañada and Glendale school officials to meet over the matter.

By the time the holidays approached, discussion over the Sagebrush issue appeared to reach a slower pace. In La Cañada, three new residents joined the La Cañada school board, taking their official seats in December.

On Tuesday, the La Cañada Flintridge City Council met behind closed doors to negotiate with Glendale Unified School District the price and terms of payment for a parcel of land in the 4900 block of Oceanview Boulevard, a property that leads to Mountain Avenue Elementary School in La Crescenta and is used to access the campus by Sagebrush area students. The city’s potential purchase of this property at a fair market value was identified in the fall as a potential bargaining chip during the negotiations process, but no announcements of an agreed purchase price were made following this week’s closed session.

Also on Tuesday, the superintendent of La Cañada Unified, Wendy Sinnette, said during a meeting of the school board that “both parties are working together to meet the concerns and interests of the other.” She said the next step is to schedule a subcommittee meeting, and after that, more information will be revealed to the public.

In Glendale, the last time the school board publicly discussed the territory transfer was in October.

That month, Smith, who has no children attending schools in either district but says he is working to make La Cañada more cohesive, said he hoped the two school districts would have reached an agreement by then.

Now months later, school board members in Glendale and La Cañada say the issue is ongoing.

Partly at stake is the $500 million in assessed value and $210,000 in annual property taxes Glendale Unified receives from the Sagebrush area.

Making things additionally complicated is the $46 per assessed $100,000 in property taxes Glendale Unified receives each year to pay for Measure S, a $270-million school bond voters approved two years ago. Officials have said they are unclear what exactly would happen to assessments from that area if the Sagebrush area moved under La Cañada Unified’s jurisdiction.

In early January, La Cañada’s school board, with three new members, re-adopted a resolution supporting the transfer.

Glendale school board member Greg Krikorian said Glendale school officials may hold community meetings on the Sagebrush issue in the upcoming weeks for residents in La Crescenta and La Cañada.

“We have to definitely get input and feedback to make sure everyone has a chance to weigh in,” he said.

Editor's Note: This article was updated Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 5:15 p.m. to include information about closed door negotiations between Glendale and La Cañada school districts.

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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