Montrose Junior High School?
Montrose Community Park is tucked away behind some businesses that face Verdugo Road to the southeast of the Montrose shopping area. The 15-acre park has a full array of features such as tennis courts, a playground, basketball courts, ball fields and lots of grassy open space. It was completed in 1987 but, before that, the site had a variety of suggested uses, including as the site of the proposed Montrose Junior High.
In 1964, voters approved a huge school building bond for Glendale in response to the post-war baby-boom. Looking ahead, the school district was projecting enrollment as high as 50,000 students in coming years (current enrollment is 26,000). Additions to existing schools were quickly planned by the school board, as was the construction of new schools. The two newest local junior highs, Rosemont and Clark, were already overcrowded, so a new junior high was proposed for the southern part of the Crescenta Valley. The 12-acre Sparr Heights Debris Basin was settled on as its location.
Several debris basins had been constructed in CV to handle flood runoff, but the Sparr Heights Debris Basin southeast of Montrose had become redundant due to other flood control projects. By the 1960s it was only being used as a dumpsite by county flood control, and it seemed a natural location for a new school site. In 1965 the GUSD worked up a plan for Montrose Junior High to be built on three levels, which included athletic fields and an outdoor amphitheater. In 1966 the GUSD began the process of acquiring the land from county flood control, but there were many hoops to jump through. The County needed to find another dumpsite (it settled on the west side of Dunsmore Canyon, today’s Deukmejian Park), and GUSD needed to figure how to remove the 500,000 yards of debris that had already been dumped at Sparr Heights. The GUSD bought the 12 acres in 1968 for $117,000, along with a few other adjoining parcels to bring the site to 14 acres.
But the immediate plans to construct the school were put on hold with a targeted build date of the late-’70s, and the land sat empty. Trouble brewed when the GUSD leased the property to three adjacent businesses. A moving company stored its trucks there, a car dealership used it for new cars and a towing company created an impound yard. As well, a makeshift baseball diamond was created. Neighbors to the south in Montecito Park complained about noise, and it was discovered that GUSD was in violation of several zoning issues; it was not zoned for commercial use. The District applied for variances to continue leasing the property for auto storage.
About this time, the tail end of the baby-boom was passing through our schools and enrollment began to decline. It was obvious that the GUSD’s predictions of 50,000 students would not happen after all and by 1973, the GUSD was actually looking to close several local schools. Lowell, Montrose and La Crescenta elementary schools were all considered, with Lowell and Montrose being sold to private school interests.
In 1975, the Montrose Junior High proposal was officially declared dead. The land was offered for sale, which began a string of proposed developments. First up was a skateboard park. Two local guys proposed building the skate park with the City of Glendale, but the City declined due to a combination of local objections and insurance liability issues. In 1979 the community fought down a proposal for 200 units of federally funded low-income housing. The next year, Glendale-based Los Angeles College of Chiropractic eyed the property for new college campus to serve 700 students; however, the costs to build a new campus there were prohibitive, so the college passed on it.
Finally, in 1985 the City of Glendale proposed the community park, which pleased both the neighbors to the south in Montecito Park and the Montrose merchants. Half the $850,000 cost for the park was funded by state grants. In 1987 the park opened, and has been a vital recreational outlet for our community ever since.
The concept of Montrose Junior High became a mere footnote in our valley’s history.