June Cities Report

AZUSA

After a controversial decision made in May sparked backlash and created a rift in the community, city officials said they would consider changing their vote on a development project at the city’s flagship property in downtown.  For the property known as the Block 36 site, located on the corner of Highway 39 and historic Route 66, the city considered two mixed-use development projects: One by the Charles Co. included a bowling alley and an arcade as its anchor tenant, and the other, by the Serrano Group, offered an art house movie theater as its main attraction.  In a 3-2 vote, the council went with the bowling alley proposal, despite popular support for bringing a Laemmle theater to Azusa. The move prompted residents to mobilize on social media and some began circulating a petition that asked the City Council to reconsider their decision. The petition received 286 signatures. At the meeting, speakers shared their vision of a revitalized downtown and a thriving urban community. Some also spoke of how a theater built by Laemmle, a Los Angeles-based chain specializing in independent and foreign films, could help the city capitalize on the recent arrival of the Gold Line, drawing visitors from throughout the San Gabriel Valley.  After hearing concerns from the community, the Council voted unanimously to change their vote for the Block 36 site, a move that brought hugs and handshakes all around.  The new vote rescinds the decision made May 16 and paves the way for the theater and apartments to be built at the site. It also opens a dialogue with the Charles Co. to find a different site for the bowling alley project within the city. Arman Gabay, principal of the Charles Co., said that after hearing support for the theater, he had reached out to Laemmle Theatres and offered to incorporate the theater in their project, but the offer was rejected. Days later, he penned a letter to the city indicating their willingness to relocate their project in an effort to be a “long-term partner” with the city.  The decision authorized city staff to begin negotiating with both companies to reach development agreements for the dual mixed-use projects. As proposed, both projects would build over 100 residential units, which could create congestion and pose parking problems.  Azusa already has seen its share of parking issues downtown following the March opening of the Gold Line, which saw packed parking structures at its easternmost terminus in Azusa, forcing commuters to find parking in nearby neighborhoods.  The city moved to implement a permit parking program for residents in downtown, which is expected to be finalized this summer. City officials are also working with Metro, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to devise a plan to build a new park-and-ride facility and open up existing parking spots near the station.

 CHINO HILLS

A new Kaiser Permanente regional lab is scheduled to take up residence at the former Great Indoors retail center on Peyton Drive near the 71 Freeway. The project, which is expected to open in early 2017, promises to bring 300 new employees–and robots–to the city. The site, on the west side of the 71 Freeway at 13000 Peyton Drive, will fill the former 150,000-square-foot Great Indoors furniture retail center that had closed during the Great Recession in 2008. Kaiser Permanente’s Inland Empire Satellite Regional Reference Laboratories will serve the lab processing needs for the Inland Empire, Orange County, San Diego, Baldwin Park and Downey—50 percent of Kaiser Permanente’s members in Southern California.  In the immediate vicinity, Kaiser has hospitals in Fontana and Ontario, in addition to a number of clinics throughout the region. The lab will serve the needs of Kaiser members in the Inland Empire and the San Gabriel Valley, with state-of-the-art automation. Robots will function not unlike how Amazon uses them at its goods processing facility in San Bernardino.

CLAREMONT

Despite nearly nine decades of stewardship of the Claremont water supply, Golden State Water Co. continues to neglect addressing deficiencies in the system, attorneys for the city said on June 15. Rather than fixing those operating deficiencies, such as inactive wells and low-pressure fire hydrants, the water company’s rate increases have subsidized shareholder dividends and big executive salaries, Kendall MacVey said during Claremont’s opening statement on in Los Angeles Superior Court. The city of Claremont is suing Golden State to acquire its water system via eminent domain. The trial, which will be decided by a judge, started on June 14.  The city’s goal is to gain greater control of the local water supply and distribution system, enhance customer service and improve public transparency. Claremont also wants to set the water rates.  Residents had been fighting with the water company over its rate increases since 2012, prompting the city to file its eminent domain case in 2014 to take over the water system. A Claremont-owned water system would require a public and transparent rate-setting process, MacVey said. The city would not only have to notify customers of any proposed increases, it would have to schedule a public hearing and any opposition would have to be taken into consideration.  In contrast, Golden State files an application with the California Public Utilities Commission for its rate changes every three years. MacVey dubbed it “a propose and oppose” model: The public learns of rate increases when Golden State files an application with the CPUC, leaving no opportunity for the public to offer input prior to the filing. The water system is part of Golden State’s Region 3, which includes Claremont, Apple Valley and Barstow—all of which have different water needs and populations but are under the same rate-setting process.

GLENDORA

Champion Real Estate Company announced the acquisition of a grocery-anchored neighborhood retail center in the City of Glendora, California. The property consists of an existing 85,615 square foot, free-standing, and vacant former grocery building located at 655 S. Grand Avenue. Champion intends to reconfigure and reposition the property as a smaller 70,500 square foot grocery-anchored neighborhood shopping center that will include several national, credit tenants. The center also is designed with two new retail pads in the existing parking field, plus additional supporting retail to expand the tenant base and meet community needs. The City of Glendora Planning Commission approved Champion’s repositioning and development plan on March 1, 2016. The vacant former grocer has been acquired by a Champion affiliate which currently is obtaining demolition and building permits.

INDUSTRY

A  planned housing community attracting up to 7,500 new residents, or a 1,000-acre solar farm?

These two diverse projects—the first proposed by an Orange County home builder, and the other supposedly suggested by the City of Industry—emerged Wednesday as possible developments on Tres Hermanos, a 2,500-acre cattle ranch straddling the border of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Neither project received approval from the state oversight board in charge of liquidating the substantial holdings of the City of Industry’s former redevelopment agency, including the pristine tangle of oak woodlands, riparian habitat and hillsides owned by the city since 1978, but located entirely outside city limits in Diamond Bar and Chino Hills. Instead, the board directed the city to present a formal proposal for buying the ranch by Aug. 31, after GH America Inc. and its partner, South Coast Communities of Irvine, accused the city of blocking the sale.  The developer and its partner also accused the city of violating a state law requiring the quickest and most lucrative sale of such lands so money can reach local schools and community colleges. Put in a defensive stance, Jamie Casso, the city attorney, reluctantly promised a formal proposal from the city for the August or September meeting of the board. John Gordon, attorney for GH America, pressed the board, saying his client made a $101 million bid for the property more than a year ago.  Since then, Gordon said the city has interfered in the legal duty of its former redevelopment agency—now referred to as the Successor Agency to the Industry Urban-Development Agency—and the county oversight board to sell redevelopment lands and redistribute the proceeds to fire districts, schools and other agencies left out of redevelopment funding for decades.  But after the June 2015 city election, in which three new council members were elected with the backing of former Mayor Dave Perez, the city asked for the sale to be halted and said it wanted to buy the property back. This occurred after an audit done by KPMG found the city paid more than $326 million to companies owned by Perez and his family over the past two decades. While many of those payments were vague and invoices incomplete, the audit noted, about $3.4 million was paid to Perez for the upkeep of Tres Hermanos Ranch. The audit questioned the rental of vehicles and equipment, but said it wasn’t possible to determine if more than $500,000 of materials and supplies purchased by Zerep, Perez’s company, were related to work performed at city-owned facilities, including Tres Hermanos Ranch. South Coast Communities presented a plan for 1,881 homes on large lots, as attached units and as single-family tract homes.  The master-planned community would conform to both cities’ general plans for affordable housing, as prescribed by state law. The development would include 300-400 affordable units in each city; 336 units built in zones allowing only 1 unit per 5 acres; 18 acres for commercial uses, and 20 acres for mixed use. About 40 percent would be open space, leaving a good portion for trails. The development would be worth $1.1 billion.

 IRWINDALE

 The City of Irwindale has filed another lawsuit against Huy Fong Foods, the manufacturer of Sriracha sauce. The legal skirmishes between the condiment company and the  city first made headlines in fall 2013, when the city of Irwindale, which is home to the Sriracha factory,  tried to halt production at the factory, arguing that it created a “public nuisance,” and that the strong chili odor was making residents sick. The city claimed that “the odors were so strong and offensive as to have caused residents to move outdoor activities indoors and even to vacate their residences temporarily to seek relief from the odors,” in their 2013 lawsuit. Shipments of the iconic, fiery hot sauce were briefly halted by the California Department of Health, sparking global fears of a coming Sriracha shortage.  Now, more than two years after dropping their original lawsuit against Huy Fong Foods, the city of Irwindale has once again filed suit against the company, alleging that they are owed more than $400,000 in unpaid fees. According to the city, Huy Fong Foods has failed to abide by a 2009 agreement where the company agreed to make 10 payments of $250,000 over 10 years in lieu of paying taxes to the city. The payments are due every January, and after completing payments on schedule for the first three years, the company allegedly failed to pay in 2015 or 2016. The city asserts that it has sent letters to Huy Fong Foods and has also met in their offices to request payment. David Tran, owner of the company, asserts that from the very beginning he offered to contribute $250,000 per year for 10 years for the benefit of the Irwindale Community through the City of Irwindale. But “because we had this odor issue where all five of the City Council members unanimously declared it a public nuisance, without real basis,” Tran believes that Huy Fong Foods is being treated unfairly, so he stopped contributions

LA VERNE

It doesn’t have the money yet, but the La Verne City Council contemplated opening a teen center among several items approved with the aim of providing additional services and programs for local youth. The council approved creation of an ad hoc committee to explore establishing a teen center in town. Members also accepted a $258,000 grant for the city’s preschool programs at La Verne Veterans Hall and Oak Mesa Elementary School. A teen center was first suggested by the La Verne Youth and Family Action Committee shortly after the committee was founded in 1993. Dormant for many years, committee members brought it back to the front burner during council strategic planning meetings.

The council named Mayor Don Kendrick and Councilwoman Robin Carder as its liaisons to an ad hoc committee that would look for a teen center location, explore construction options, find financing sources, review design concepts and costs and calculate future projections for the center. Although the city does not have any money, they want to explore funding options to create a teen center in  town. The Council also heard about a $258,000 grant from the Los Angeles Universal Preschool, a nonprofit organization which supports children and family programs and administers preschool grants channeled through Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich’s office. The grant will help the city’s preschool programs go high tech. The city’s proposal sought funds to purchase three computers, two copiers, WiFi access at both sites, three projectors and screens, tablets for the 184 participating preschoolers, new tables and chairs and a small playground. The city will purchase new equipment and materials by September so they are in place when the children return for the 2016-17 preschool year.

ONTARIO

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved Rep. Ken Calvert’s bill Tuesday that would facilitate the transfer of L.A./Ontario International Airport to a local authority.  In January, the majority leader introduced Bill 4369, which would take future passenger fees at ONT to help pay off the cost for the two terminals, a 2015 condition of returning the airport to local ownership. Under the settlement agreement, the Ontario International Airport Authority will pay Los Angeles World Airports $50 million from passenger facility charges in the first five years; and another $70 million from passenger facility charges in the final five years.  The Federal Aviation Administration was expected to hand the Ontario International Airport Authority its certificate of operation July 1.  Because the legislation was being held up as part of the much larger Federal Aviation Administration re authorization bill/debate taking place, Calvert requested it be considered separately, given the time sensitivity. The FAA’s re authorization bill has already been extended three times, officials have noted.

POMONA

Pomona adopted a $95 million general fund budget that’s roughly $1 million below the current year’s spending. The city had to absorb 2 percent raises, already approved, for police personnel and an increase in the contract with Los Angeles County for fire protection. To balance the budget, $1.8 million had to be taken out of the $16 million reserves, a fund the council had been carefully rebuilding. Labor contracts expire June 30 and groups have been told there’s no money for raises. And despite shrinking the full-time workforce from 750 to 548 since the recession, City Hall may have to figure out how to pare more people from the payroll. City staff noted that the Police Department is fully staffed at 271 employees, 163 of them sworn, for the first time in years.

RANCHO CUCAMONGA

A 17,324-square-foot multi-tenant auto park on Arrow Route has changed ownership. The Rancho Cucamonga-based retail brokerage firm Progressive Real Estate Partners, recently announced the $2 million sale. The auto park, built in 2005 and anchored by the Meineke Car Care Center, is ideally situated on Arrow Route which is a major east-west thoroughfare with close access to three major freeways, according to the firm. In addition to Meineke, the 87-percent leased property at 9199 Arrow Route is also home to AA Smog Center and Elite One Auto Collision Center.

UPLAND

As interest rates continue to remain low, Upland Unified School District officials made the decision to  refinance its existing bonds. For the second straight year, the district refinanced several of its General Obligation Series B Bonds, first issued in 2008. The move will save the district $29.2 million in taxes over the life of the bond, according to Isom Advisors, which provides financial services for the district.

The average annual savings districtwide will be $1.2 million, which means property owners in the district will see a reduced tax rate on future bills, about $14.45 for a single family home with the median assessed value of $315,000. Interest rates on the outstanding bonds from the authorization in 2008 ranged between 5.59 percent and 6.65 percent. The interest rates for the new bonds issued in May will be between 0.68 percent and 3.76 percent. The bonds, which were approved by voters Feb. 5, 2008, have been used to upgrade and renovate classrooms, libraries and technology throughout the district. Taxpayers would begin to see a change in their property tax bills in the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1st.

WEST COVINA

The West Covina Firefighters’ Association may soon vote on a contract, after working for two years without one. The 72-member association has attempted to quietly negotiate a contract with the city through formal negotiations, informal discussions with the city manager, and mediation with a state-appointed mediator without success, association President Matt Jackson said. Jackson blamed the turnover of the city manager position during the time period for the delay. Since negotiations started West Covina has had three city managers. Talks are still going on between the city and the unions representing the police department, police management and non-sworn police employees.

 

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