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Community Center searches for way forward

Major repairs are needed, but a way to pay for them is elusive.

July 06, 2011|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com
  • La Canada Community Center has damage that plagues the entire roof of the 63-yr. old complex on Chevy Chase Drive in La Canada Flintridge on Friday, July 1, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
La Canada Community Center has damage that plagues the…

A leaky roof that board members say is in serious need of fixing before the next rainy season has reignited controversy over the future of the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge.

During budget hearings last week, center board member Meredith Reynolds urged the La Cañada Flintridge City Council to put up $118,000 in city funds to replace the more than 60-year-old structure’s 9,500-square-foot roof.

Instead, council members — who already provide nearly $50,000 per year for Community Center upkeep and activities — held tightly to their purse strings, saying the issue requires taking a longer view to assess the building’s many and various needs.

In the coming weeks, two council members will be appointed to reconvene an ad hoc committee on Community Center issues, said Mayor Dave Spence.

While minor building repairs have long been handled by volunteers or a part-time handyman, the roof is now too far gone for anything short of a total rebuild, according to Reynolds and Executive Director Megan Nordvedt.

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“We can’t get a handle on it ourselves. We’re beyond the point of patching and tarping and having volunteers help us solve this problem,” said Nordvedt.

Other structural issues include rotting wood, uneven doors, a network of outdoor walkways that are difficult to navigate and a general lack of modern amenities.

Although the Community Center is municipal property, a 1996 operating agreement between the city and the center’s board (known then as the La Cañada Youth Council) relieves City Hall of any obligation, “in any manner whatsoever, to repair and maintain” the building.

But becoming the kind of organization that raises large sums of money for capital projects was never the Community Center board’s intent — and, at this point, is beyond its capacity, according to Reynolds.

Even the structure itself, the original 1950s floor plan and multiple makeshift add-ons over the decades, was built by local volunteers, rather than by professionals.

“This organization has always run as a way to provide very affordable programs, some of them free. The original idea was that kids could come here and hang out after school and not really pay anything,” Reynolds said.

For that to suddenly change now while continuing to serve approximately 2,000 visits per week, “we’d have to raise our fees a lot and become something we’re not,” Reynolds said.

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