School Zone

This past Monday a group of over twenty parents from a local elementary school, Verdugo Woodlands, attended a Special Meeting of the  Glendale Unified School District (GUSD) Board meeting. The meeting was scheduled to discuss ORG Money that addresses the removal of the portable classrooms (some of which have been on site since World War II). GUSD is planning on removing the portables and building new construction of classrooms.

The parents of Verdugo Woodlands Elementary School spoke up and shared with the School Board their concerns about the growth of the student body and traffic safety. They explained that they didn’t understand how the school could expand to such a size and that they didn’t think that the new building that is planned for the site would be large enough. The parents were also very vocal about their concerns about the students safety in regard to the high traffic that surrounds the school. One of the parents, Stephen O’Bryan said “we want to partner with the Board of Education in finding real solutions to the issues surrounding our local school and our community. We want to have real solutions to these very real problems while maintaining our sense of community.”

Was it safe?

When is it safe to go to school?

[slideshow id=1]

You see I’m a little unhappy that the Glendale Unified School District waited until 8:30 Thursday morning to issue a press release saying that the schools are open. I’m sure that most of Glendale was aware of the severe wind storm  this past Wednesday evening. In fact according to the National Weather Service Forecast Office winds were spotted up to 60 miles per hour  in the hills above Glendale.  I didn’t check back but it appeared to me that the winds continued to pick up. Here is some info from the National Weather Forecast Office from Wednesday night.

 1040 PM     NON-TSTM WND GST 2 NNE GLENDALE          34.20N 118.24W
 11/30/2011  M60.00 MPH       LOS ANGELES        CA   TRAINED SPOTTER 


 1053 PM     NON-TSTM WND GST 2 WNW BURBANK           34.20N 118.36W
 11/30/2011  M55.00 MPH       LOS ANGELES        CA   ASOS            


There is no doubt that there was quite a bit of storm damage to our community. At the time of writing this I haven’t seen any reports about injury or fatalities and I hope everyone is okay. However many trees were blown down in the storm blocking streets and sidewalks. Power lines were knocked down causing at least one electrical flare up but I suspect more.

My question is how do we know when is it safe to go to school? What criteria does the Glendale Unified School District use to determine if the schools should stay open or closed? Why did it take until 15 minutes after school to start for GUSD to say that the schools would be open? After so much wide spread tree damage to the community how do we know if the school campuses are safe for students to attend. Is it wrong to question the safety of school site when tree’s have been damaged and need to be removed? I personally don’t think it is wrong.

You see The Pasadena Unified School District issued this statement on their website:

Due to severe wind damage in Pasadena, ALL PUSD schools are closed today, December 1.  All afterschool programs are cancelled today.
Again I ask. When is it safe to go to school and what criteria does the district use to make that determination and when they do can they let the community know sooner.
I I finally saw this notice on the GUSD Website.
NEWS ADVISORY, as of 8:30 a.m.
Glendale schools OPEN after windstorm
All Glendale and La Crescenta public schools open for classes
GLENDALE, CA --  The Glendale Unified School District is open and operating this morning after the
overnight windstorm of November30-December 1.
The Glendale school district includes all public schools in Glendale and La Crescenta.
Crescenta Valley High School, La Crescenta Elementary School and Glenoaks Elementary School are
currently without electrical power but telephones are working and classes are in session.
Students are being advised to avoid storm debris and steer clear of any downed power lines.
The Glendale Unified School District includes of 20 elementary schools, four middle schools, five high
schools and two program facilities for independent learners and for special needs students.

Note that the time of the press release is 15 minutes after most schools are scheduled to begin. So 15 minutes after school started GUSD advised students “to avoid storm debris and steer clear of any power lines.” In my opinion thats too little, too late.” Most students and their families had already made their decisions to go to school. We rely on our School District to do a better job communicating with us about these matters. The GUSD website has a General Emergency Information page but it only addresses the issue of dissemination of information via:

Using the telephone – In an earthquake or other major emergency, telephones may not be operating or lines may be too busy to call the schools. In this case, do not use the phone. Go to the school and pick up your child(ren) as soon as possible. When phones are operating, the district will put on its 24-Hour Emergency Information “Hot” Line. The number is 818-241-3111.
Cable television & city radio – Emergency information and updates related to the schools will appear as soon as possible on Charter Cable Channel 15 (Glendale Schools education channel) or AT&T U-verse GREG-tv. Cable Channel 6 (City of Glendale) will provide community-related information. Note: Cable TV access restricted to Charter Communications subscribers in Glendale. The City of Glendale also operates a limited signal radio station (1680-AM), which can be heard within the city (effective June 2003).
School district web site – As possible, emergency information and updates will be posted on the school district’s website. The address is: The home page will direct users to the proper location on the site.

Radio & Television – If possible, the district will send information to radio stations KFWB (AM-980) and KNX (AM-1070), along with other radio and TV stations. The district will make every attempt to communicate accurate information to the media but cannot guarantee the accuracy of what goes on the air.

Newspapers – Emergency information will appear in newspapers serving the district, including the Glendale News-PressDaily News and CV Weekly. Efforts will be made to place information in foreign language newspapers that publish in Spanish, Armenian and Korean.

Why are there no Social Media outlets? Why nothing about Facebook (The number 2 website in the world) YouTube (The number 3 website in the world) and Twitter (which has 175 Million Users).

I witnessed students pathways being blocked on both sides of the road by trees and debris and students climbing over and through the debris in order to get to school. Traffic was backed up for blocks in some areas, and cars were running red lights which makes it even more dangerous to walk or drive to school.

Glendale has a wonderful education system and I applaud everyone who works in the school district for their hard work and dedication to the students and their families. No one is perfect and GUSD does a very admirable job in creating such a wonderful education system. I do think that this is an opportunity for GUSD to take a long hard look at it’s self and to consider how it can do better next time.


This just came in from the  Verdugo Woodlands West Homeowners Association. We encourage everyone in the Verdugo Woodlands area of Glendale to take this very seriously and to be safe.


Actually, it’s much more than that. Very early Friday morning, a resident on Bonita heard scuffling outside in the back yard. Upon looking out her window, she saw large mountain and began screaming, realizing that her small dog was sleeping in its dog house outside. The lion took the dog from its dog house, jumped the 6-ft-high wall and took it away. The woman’s husband who also saw the mountain lion, reports it is a large one, approximately 200 pounds.

Upon hearing of this, your homeowners association advised the police that we would send an e-blast to our membership and requested that a mobile trailer with a reader board be positioned on Opechee so that everyone, members who do not regularly open their e-mails, and non-members alike, will be aware of the current situation. Informational flyers will soon be distributed throughout the neighborhood.

We all appreciate the pro ific wildlife in the Woodlands and from time to time we’ve all heard reports of mountain lion sightings. For many reasons, it is disturbing to hear of one as far down as Bonita.

Please be extra vigilant. We’ll keep you apprised of any further information that comes our way.

Verdugo Woodlands West Homeowners Association



Please do your part to prevent repeat visits. The animal will remain in the area if it finds food.

Don’t leave small children or pets outside unattended.

Don’t allow pets outside when mountain lions are most active—dawn, dusk, and at night.

Bring pet food inside to avoid attracting raccoons, opossums and other potential mountain lion prey.

Do not hike, bike, or jog alone.

Trim overgrown landscaping.

Never water your lawn at night.

If you encounter a mountain lion, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms; throw rocks or other objects. Pick up small children.

If attacked, fight back.

If a mountain lion attacks a person, immediately call 911.

For more information, contact Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA 626/792-7151 –

Real estate’s class divide…


…seen from the other side

At any party or social gathering in Glendale, the topic of conversation invariably gets around to real estate. Nothing unique to Glendale — mortgage rates and the price of homes have been a national obsession for years. But it has been particularly manic here in Southern California, home to one of the biggest real estate bubbles of all time.

I’ve been in dozens of those conversations. “Did you hear what the Jones’s house sold for?” “Have you refinanced?” “I’m thinking of getting a broker’s license.”

In the last three years, of course, the tone of the conversations has changed. Now it’s “There’s another foreclosure on our block.” “We’re under water, but hanging in there.” “Do you think the market’s turning around?”

Back in the heady days of 2006, my wife and I were homeowners in Glendale’s Verdugo-Woodlands neighborhood. Like everyone else in our situation, we watched our home value soar and our home equity cushion grow. That was going to help fund our retirement and our kids’ college education.

We had bought our little two-bedroom bungalow in 1998 for $289,000, and eventually put another $100,000 into it, including an addition with a third bedroom. Even with a big home equity loan on top of a mortgage, by 2006 we were way ahead of the game, so far above water we couldn’t see the waves. We and our neighbors toasted our good fortune.

But not all of our friends were hoisting glasses. Some were renters, and for them it was an entirely different conversation. Their dream of home ownership was slipping out of reach. Those conversations could get a little uncomfortable, as our dream of fat home equity cushions became their nightmare of unaffordable housing. And their hope of a real estate crash bringing prices back within their reach was our nightmare.

Reading real estate blogs in 2006 (didn’t everyone?) was a sobering experience: Homeowners cheered the bubble and rooted for more price gains, denying the possibility of a crash. Renters, angry at being priced out of the party, excoriated the greed of home sellers. They predicted an armageddon that would punish the avaricious and reward those who waited on the sidelines. It was out-and-out class warfare: land owners vs. serfs.

That same year, I accepted a transfer from my employer and we moved to Washington, D.C. We sold our house in V-W at the top of the market, and packed what seemed like suitcases full of cash (figuratively) for our move back East.

Put simply, we were drunk on home equity. We bought a 3,200-square-foot house in suburban Vienna, Virginia. We knew we were paying too much and that prices were not likely to keep moving up. But we could afford it, we told ourselves, and felt we deserved it after living in small houses for 18 years. Plus, we were planning to live there for many years, not trying to flip it.

Then came the crash of 2008. I lost my job, and we ended up back in Glendale. We couldn’t sell our house in Virginia, but we managed to keep up the huge mortgage and tax payments and avoid foreclosure by renting it out.

We put it on the market for sale three times over a two-year period as its value eroded, before we finally sold it in 2010. We were luckier than many — we weren’t under water, but we lost almost half of that big home equity pile we had accumulated over two decades of home ownership.

Today we are renting a little Spanish bungalow in Verdugo-Woodlands, about six blocks from the home we once owned — which, to add insult to injury, has been painted a hideous lime green by the new owners.

These days, I see those Glendale real estate conversations in a different light. I sympathize with our neighbors who are struggling to hold onto their homes, or have seen their nest eggs evaporate. They talk hopefully of a market rebound, a day when prices resume their upward climb and make them whole again.

That’s when the conversation becomes a little uncomfortable — for me. I know that our only hope of getting back into home ownership is for prices to keep falling, maybe another 10 or even 20 percent. We still have a decent sum in the bank, but not enough for a prudent down payment and a manageable mortgage at current prices.

In truth, given our age (mid-50s) and with two kids to put through college, I’m not sure it will ever make sense for us to be homeowners again. Those are the cold, hard financial facts, but emotionally it’s hard to give up on the dream of owning your own little patch of the Earth, especially when you had one for 20 years.

Economists talk about a possible double-dip recession in 2012, and another wave of foreclosures waiting to flood the market. What a miserable prospect — and what a hopeful sign for us. It gives me no pleasure to think that, but there it is.

Among friends, I keep my thoughts to myself. I don’t rant on blogs about greedy home sellers, having been one myself. I sit silently on the sidelines, a renter in the neighborhood where I was once an owner, waiting and watching from the other side of the property class divide.

That’s my Glendale real estate story. What’s yours?

Positive news in the equity markets



The stock market was up again this week and with that mortgage rates increased slightly as well. That being said, interest rates remain extremely low and if you are considering refinancing or purchasing a new home rates in the 3’s and 4’s won’t last forever. This is probably the last week to apply if you would like to refinance prior to the end of the year in order to take advantage of potential tax savings on your 2011 returns.  I am still offering no points/no closing cost loans as well as the $250 donation to the school or charity of your choice. Hope you have a great Halloween weekend!!!

The stock market rallied…

This week in the market:

during the week which resulted in a slight mortgage rate increase from last week’s all time lows as Investors grew more optimistic about US economic growth and less concerned about the European debt situation.

In addition, the FOMC Minutes from the September 21 Fed meeting revealed that Fed officials expect the economy to avoid recession. In recent weeks, investors have been gradually upgrading their economic outlook. Stronger growth is good for the economy, but it increases inflationary pressures, which is negative for mortgage rates.

All that being said, mortgage rates are unbelievably low right now. Please contact me for a free rate quote and don’t forget I will donate $250 to your charity of choice (Dad’s club and any of the local grade schools included) upon successful closing of a refinance or purchase money financing.

Until next week,

Loan Originator

Capital Mortgage Services

NMLS # 274423

DRE #01364801

(323) 864-7784 Direct

(323) 386-4300 Fax

Motherhood, TSA Style


Sometimes I am amazed at what comes out of my mouth. Seriously. While helping our six year old get ready for his shower, I had to tug at his pants to get them free after a long day of playing outside. While tugging,  I also started patting him down TSA style and asked if he had anything in his pockets I needed to take out, as I did not want my washing machine destroyed by rocks, metal objects, paper clips, and other random things that he ends up adopting throughout the day. It was then that I could be heard saying, “Do you have a shank in here too?” Such is life.

Re-thinking Glendale High


It was late 2005 when it finally hit us: Our son, an 8th-grader at Wilson Middle School in Glendale, was fast approaching The High School Years. It just sort of snuck up on us.

When we moved to Southern California from the Midwest in 1998, my wife and I chose to live in Glendale—Verdugo-Woodlands in particular—over the alternatives of Los Angeles and Pasadena because of the public schools. V-W Elementary is a special place, as everyone in that neighborhood knows. Wilson: pretty good, too.

Then there is Glendale High. We were warned by friends and neighbors and Realtors that we might not want to send our kids there. But in 1998, our kids were 6 and 4, and high school was years away. We figured we’d deal with that then.

Suddenly, it was then. Like a lot of parents we knew who were in the same boat, we started to panic. We had heard all the horror stories about GHS – the overcrowding, the low test scores, the kids from troubled homes, the gangs, the fights.

So we did what many of our friends were doing: we started looking at private schools. We read the brochures, took the open house tours, and applied our son to Harvard-Westlake, Pasadena Poly and Flintridge Prep, among others. He was accepted to all three, and suddenly we were staring down the barrel of $20,000 a year in private school tuition, no matter which one we chose. That’s 80 grand for high school, even before we started thinking about paying for college. Not to mention the education of our daughter, just two years behind her brother.

Some of our friends had chosen a third route: They moved to Montrose or La Crescenta to get their kids into C-V High School. For reasons too numerous to go into here, that was not a practical option for us.

We were a two-income household, but working in newspapers and higher education, we could just barely afford to live in Verdugo-Woodlands, but probably not also send our kids to private school. Even with an offer of assistance from my Mom, we were facing a crushing financial burden.

Then fate intervened. In the spring on 2006, I was offered a transfer by my employer to Washington, D.C. It seemed the perfect solution on so many levels: a dream job for me, a chance to return home to the East Coast and be near my family, and some of the best public schools in the nation for our kids.

We settled in suburban Fairfax County, Virginia, and were amazed by the quality of the schools and the money invested in public education. (If California’s public schools were funded and operated like Fairfax County’s, Glendale would have five high schools, not three, with two new ones built in the last 20 years.) Yes, the property taxes were astronomical – no Proposition 13 in Virginia – but still a bargain compared to private school tuition. Bullet dodged.

Then came The Crash of 2008. Long story short: we ended up back in Glendale, both unemployed, no money for private schools, and two teenagers insisting on being reunited with their V-W and Wilson friends at Glendale High. Despite some residual misgivings, we relented, with the proviso that they would take mostly AP and Honors classes and focus on college prep.

My first impressions of GHS were not good. It was during our first Open House, in September 2008. With its windowless façade and high security fences with iron bars, the place looked like a penitentiary. Just getting on campus as a parent felt like visiting your kid in jail. Inside the gates, a sea of concrete and asphalt, it was not exactly clean. The physical plant was obviously stressed from overcrowding and underfunding. I made disparaging comments–which I now regret–about GHS in front of my kids, lamenting what we had left behind in Virginia.

But over time, I came to realize that many of the negative stereotypes about GHS were just that, stereotypes. Gangs? Fights? A myth. Drugs? Practically non-existent. Academics? Yes, some teachers seemed to be just going through the motions, but many others were terrific. Some would even call us at home if our kids had missed a few days of school or were behind in their homework assignments. (Special shout-outs to Holly Ciotti and Amy Rangel, who made lasting impressions on us and our kids.)

The AP and Honors classes were especially challenging. My kids were surprised how hard they had to work. Coming from Fairfax County, where the school curriculum is a full year ahead of Glendale’s, they thought GHS would be a breeze. Wrong. They both have struggled mightily at times with the workload.

Much is made about the ethnic Balkanization at GHS. But that, too, is exaggerated. In the big center courtyard during breaks, it’s true that many kids tend to cluster with their cultural groups – the Mexicans over here, the Armenians over there, the Anglos over that way, etc. But teenagers tend to form cliques no matter where they go to school. In my high school in the ‘70s, there was zero ethnic diversity, but we split up into the jocks and stoners and nerds.

My son’s circle of friends at GHS included kids with Anglo, Japanese, Iranian, Armenian, Filipino, Indian and Mexican backgrounds. It’s a similar mix with my daughter’s group. To them, ethnicity is no big deal, just another trait like being tall, short, male or female. Having grown up in the Southern California melting pot, our kids thought the white-bread suburban scene in Virginia was a little weird and unnatural.

Three years on from that first Open House, our son is a proud graduate of GHS and starting his sophomore year at a major West Coast university. Our daughter is a senior at GHS, a strong student who has her sights set on UC next year. Despite my initial misgivings about GHS, both of our kids have turned out beautifully. They made good choices, made friends with other good kids, stayed out of trouble, and are well on their ways to college and adulthood.

I don’t want to sugarcoat it. Glendale High has problems. It’s woefully underfunded and overcrowded. And at times it seems like it’s being run by airport security guards from the TSA.

I am also aware that my change of heart about GHS could be perceived as simply a matter of lowered expectations, of learning to accept what we ended up with and not dwell on what could have been. But I don’t think so. The truth is GHS exceeded expectations because it really is better than people think. F or me, it’s been a lesson in perception vs. reality, and the importance of giving people and institutions a chance to prove themselves.

I am not trying to promote Glendale High, or influence other parents’ decisions. We are almost done with our GHS years, so I have no personal stake in how the school fares going forward, or what school choices other parents make. And if not for the turn of events, we might have followed the private schools path as many of our friends did. But we didn’t, and things have turned out fine.

That’s my Glendale schools story. What’s yours?





The Dad Beats!

Did you know that the Verdugo Woodlands has it’s very own Rock Band? Yup it’s true! The Dad Beats are the world famous, Fathers’ Follies Rock Band. It’s a rock band made up completely of Dads from the Verdugo Woodlands community. These brave Dads will be performing this Saturday Night, October 8th, 2011 at Leo’s All Star Sports Bar at 2941 Honolulu Avenue, La Crescenta, CA 91214.

(The image on the home page states October 15th.  This is incorrect.  The scheduled performance is for Saturday, October 8, 2011)

Here is a video of the Dad Beats practicing a while back.

Social Widgets powered by