Preliminary Report regarding the Yuge – Waldorf Controversy

Drafted July 28, 2015 (Referenced in the Fall 2015 Newsletter)

20-frontentryWhen William Scripps Kellogg died in 1977, he willed the five-acre Scripps Hall estate on Mariposa Street as an unrestricted gift to Scripps Home for the Aged on Calaveras. In the mid 1980s, the Home decided to sell the property to a developer, who agreed to save the Scripps Hall mansion but wanted to subdivide the rest of the property for new residential development. Scripps Hall was one of the last great Altadena estates, and Altadena Heritage (AH) originated as an Altadena Town Council committee formed specifically to save the estate as a whole. A letter-writing campaign successfully convinced the Scripps Home board to sell Scripps Hall not to the highest bidder but to someone who would preserve the estate.

That someone was the Pasadena Waldorf School (PWS). At the time of the sale, Takeo and Fumiko Yuge were living on approximately one acre of the estate, where Takeo had been the caretaker for many years – both before and after the family’s internment during World War II. Although the terms of the property gift to Scripps Home for the Aged included no provision conveying this part of the estate to the Yuges, the Pasadena Waldorf School (PWS) formalized a contract allowing them to remain on this land until their deaths. Takeo Yuge died two years later, in 1989, but his wife, Fumiko, lived another 26 years, dying at 100 years old on November 29, 2014. According to the contract, the house and land would revert to PWS on May 25, 2015, 28 years after the school had purchased the land.

In March 2015, AH launched a new program to recognize significant trees in the community. We announced the program at a workshop on tree preservation in March, where we handed out forms and presented a video on how to nominate a tree. Both the form and the video clearly stated that nominators had to have the owner’s permission to nominate a tree that was not on their property.

The Yuge sisters filed a form nominating the Torrey pine planted by their father, listing themselves as its owners. We contacted them, asking that they obtain permission from PWS as required on the nomination form. PWS initially refused the permission, but AH worked with administrators to allow the tree’s nomination. The school accepted the award at the Golden Poppy celebration on May 31, 2015, promising to preserve the tree regardless of how it develops its future campus. The Yuges were invited but unable to attend the event.

The Pasadena Star-News (PSN) published several stories from March to May, and were joined by local television stations, inaccurately portraying PWS as planning to “kick” the Yuges out of their home so the house could be torn down and the Torrey pine destroyed. In fact, AH chair Michele Zack called PSN to ask about these inaccuracies and was told that the story was “human interest” and therefore subject to poetic license. PSN saw it as a “little guy versus big guy” story. Michele perceived it differently, given the barrage of insults she and Altadena Heritage received for trying to clarify the facts.

On June 9, PWS reached a new agreement with Cindy Yuge and her attorney, whereby she agreed to vacate the property if PWS would meet a series of requests. PWS agreed to the requests in writing, and the Yuge family moved out over the weekend of June 20.

On June 27, PWS officials allowed four AH board members to tour the property: chair Michele Zack, preservation committee chair, Bill Ellinger, sustainability committee chair Michiko Lynch, and vice chair Linda World. It was their unofficial judgment that

  • the tree was magnificent and should be protected;
  • the house was in seriously deteriorated condition;
  • the garden was nonexistent except as an acre of uncultivated land.

AH did not weigh in on these things formally because the PWS had already engaged a qualified historicpreservation consultant to assess the house’s historic cultural value, its existing condition, and the potential cost of restoration. PWS was also retaining an arborist to assess how best to preserve the Torrey pine and other mature trees on the property.

 

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