The Susanville Planning Commission approved a use permit, giving the Lassen High School District the go-ahead they need for an eight-foot fence, surrounding most of the campus. The first phase is due for an October completion date.
The decision came after many calls to install the fence and gates around the entirety of Lassen High School for safety concerns.
City codes determine the district needed to bring the matter to the commission to exceed the standard height allowance in a PF zone on the property. The commission passed the use permit unanimously at its Aug. 13 meeting.
“The proposal,” said Susanville City Planner Marlin Johnson, “is to enhance security at the school.”
The black, chain link fencing will go along portions of the east and west sides of the high school, in addition to a portion of the north side. Six foot black, decorative fencing is proposed for the majority of the front of the high school. Rolling vehicle as well as pedestrian gates will be incorporated throughout the fencing.
However, the city staff realize the city holds no authority over issuing permits. Rather, it will come from the Division of State Architects.
Johnson clarified the matter, “The permit for for a fence over the six feet of height will not come through the city. This is more of a design review to exceed the standard height allowance.”
Dean Ross, who works for high school as the supervisor of maintenance and operations, highly recommended the commission approve the fence height allowance. He shared his firsthand experience with instances of belligerent people entering the campus and then refusing to leave. Ross emphasized that it even happens during the summer.
Commissioner Wayne Jambois asked Ross whether the eight-foot fence compared to a six-foot fence would alleviate problems of trespassing.
Ross responded to Jambios, “It would be harder to get over it … at six feet, they can almost just grab the top and jump.”
Ross told the commission the district had reached out to their student body through the process, which has taken several years. Most of the comments they heard centered on a desire to not look like a prison, the possibility at the inability to leave the campus for lunch break.
“You might have heard rumors that are in the paper that the school is looking at changing the open campus for students, but it’s based on grades,” said Ross. “So, if you keep your academics up, then they’ll be free to leave. The ones that need some help with academics won’t be able to leave for lunch until they get their grades up.”
Commissioner Melanie Westbrook inquired of Ross how many vehicle entrances the plans accounted for on campus.
Referring to the campus’ back parking lot, Ross shared, “Both the entrance off of Weatherlow … and the entrance off of Main Street, coming down the hill, will both have gates on them. The one by Frontier … where our parking lot starts, our next phase we want to put electric gates in there. This phase there won’t be any gates.”
In the front of the campus, closest to the building by the school’s main parking will have a rolling decorative gate.
Westbrook also raised the issue of possible bottlenecks on Main Street. Ross explained the rolling gate will be open during the morning for students “and parents to drop off students.”
However, the gate would be closed after the start of the day.
Commission president Linda Robinette asked Ross if the parking lot would still be available for those attending events at the Veterans Hall across the street. Ross confirmed the parking lot would still be available — they would just need to come to the campus to check out a key.
Commissioner Alan Dowdy referred to the recent incidents at a barbecue festival in Gilroy, where a person broke through the perimeter leaving three people dead and a dozen injured. Dowdy said, “The entrance point where this person came in was a weak spot in the fence. It was not maintained,” and asked Ross, “Will there be … daily surveillance of the whole fence line.”
Ross told the commission efforts were already planned as a joint effort between the custodial, maintenance and security departments.