by CVAR Government Affairs Director Bill Ruh
Parcel Tax exemptions:
AB1891, which passed unanimously in September 2016 and took effect Jan. 1 2017, says that once an exemption to a school district parcel tax is granted, it will remain in effect until the taxpayer becomes ineligible. An analysis of the bill said it will be up to taxpayers to notify the school district when they are no longer eligible, or up to the school district to come up with a strategy for determining whether taxpayers remain eligible. California allows school districts to exempt certain classes of homeowners from voter-approved parcel taxes and many do—to get the required two-thirds majority to pass. These taxes can add hundreds of dollars to property tax bills each year. In the past, districts could require homeowners who got the exemption to renew or reapply for it each year, and many did. School districts may exempt homeowners who are 65 or older, people receiving Supplemental Security Income for a disability, or low-income people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance. Some districts exempt one group (most often seniors) but not others. Seniors, will automatically qualify each year unless they transfer or move out of the house. Seniors and others who have not yet been granted an exemption still must apply. Even if they were not eligible when the parcel tax was approved, they can apply when they turn 65 or meet the disability or income requirements. Most school districts require applicants to live in the home as their primary residence, apply by a certain date—usually in May or June for the tax year starting July 1—and provide proof that they qualify. In summary, school districts that grant parcel-tax exemptions to seniors, low-income or disabled homeowners cannot require them to renew or reapply for the exemption each year. The link to the bill.
Business License Tax:
The city of Azusa has had a Business License on the books since the late 1960s. The city has vigorously enforced the Business License Tax with every business. The city interprets the Business License Tax as applying to any business operating within the city of Azusa. The tax is administered regardless as to whether the business is site-based in the city, or located elsewhere. Azusa administers the tax on REALTORS® as they do to any and all businesses. If you show, list, or have an open house, you must pay the Business License Tax. If the property does not close, you are still responsible for the tax. The city of Azusa does check on all properties listed in Azusa.
Weeks after abruptly firing its police chief, the City Council learned that the city’s former Chief of Police had improperly canceled the Baldwin Park’s long-standing helicopter patrol program. The revelation was made public at the council’s meeting May 17 when members voted unanimously to reinstate the program, which is managed by the El Monte Police Department. In a letter dated April 11, then-Chief David Salcedo informed the El Monte agency that due to financial issues the city was suspending its contracted helicopter services for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. But the letter was sent without the knowledge or approval of the city’s CEO or the City Council. In order to cancel the contract, Salcedo needed the authorization from the council—a fact he was made aware of, city officials said. On April 19, the City Council voted 3-2 to dismiss Salcedo “without cause” after less than two months on the job. A former police captain in Inglewood, Salcedo was the second chief to be fired by the City Council in seven months. Mayor Manuel Lozano and Councilwoman Monica Garcia voted against the dismissal. Earlier this month, the council voted 3-2 to appoint Salcedo’s predecessor Michael Taylor as interim police chief. Taylor was fired by the council, also in a 3-2 vote and “without cause” in September amid allegations of racial discrimination within the police department.
Councilmember Glenn Duncan plans to step down after 25 years. Duncan is winding down his financial planning business and other commitments, he and his wife have listed their home for sale—so far he has two full-price offers—and they’re in escrow on a home in a Palm Desert retirement community with golf courses, pools and more. The reason? Health. He was diagnosed in September with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system. It can be treated, but not cured. Duncan, 69, was elected in 1992 and has been returned to office six times since. Only Ulloa, first elected in 1984, has served longer. Duncan contemplated running against Ulloa to succeed Yates but decided to seek a new council term instead. While the matter of replacing Duncan won’t come up until he formally resigns, the understanding is that under a new state law, his seat would have to go up for election in 2018. A replacement could be appointed in the meantime from Duncan’s District 1, in northwest Chino. Duncan said he expects to resign by July and perhaps as early as June.
See City of Industry
For the second time this year, Claremont officials have revoked their approval for a mixed-use retail and apartment project in downtown Claremont known as the Village Lofts. After the Claremont Planning Commission upheld a staff decision to void Los Angeles-based Denley Investment & Management Co.’s entitlements, the developer vowed to appeal to the City Council. In January, Claremont Community Development Director Brian Desatnik sent a letter to Denley, informing them he was terminating the city’s earlier approval of the project. He complained that the project had not proceeded at a “commercially reasonable pace,” verbiage with which the developer later took issue. Wanting to move forward with the project, Denley appealed Desatnik’s decision to the Planning Commission. The commission was unmoved and denied the appeal on a 6-0 vote. Areg Sarkissian, an attorney representing the developer, said he plans to send a letter appealing the commission’s decision. Sarkissian argues that the city’s phrase, “commercially reasonable pace,” is too vague and is calling for the city to update the municipal code to provide more clarity. The project, on West First Street between Cornell and North Oberlin avenues, envisions 10,000 square feet of retail on the first floor in addition to 10 live-work units and 64 apartments. Architectural approvals were originally granted Dec. 12, 2012, and were extended for 90 days in 2014. While waiting for market conditions to change, the city proposed the developer build an interim 75-space parking lot on the property.
The Covina-Valley Unified school board voted 5-0 to close Lark Ellen Elementary School at the end of the school year. The decision came six weeks after the district sent a letter to Lark Ellen parents that sparked an uproar and said in part, “As you are likely aware, Covina-Valley Unified School District has decided to repurpose Lark Ellen Elementary School at the end of this school year.” After an outcry from parents, the district backpedaled on that letter. While it maintained that a school closure was necessary because of declining enrollment and a state budget proposal that’s unfriendly to public education, district officials said they would consider closing Manzanita or Merwin Elementary in addition to Lark Ellen. As part of that process, the district convened a committee to consider the decision. That committee voted 9-0 last week to recommend closing Lark Ellen. Lark Ellen parents, however, have remained skeptical of the district’s intentions. Many have said the district had no plans to reconsider their decision, but it was trying to save face because the decision to close a school without a public forum is a violation of the Brown Act, California’s open meetings law. A group of parents calling themselves the “Coalition of Parents to Save Lark Ellen” has threatened to sue the district. Parents from Manzanita and Merwin Elementary Schools spoke in support of their schools and expressed support for the district’s decision.
See the City of Industry report.
Franchise owner Carlos D. Mayen Solorzano opened Glendora’s first Chick-fil-A restaurant on June 1 and celebrated with a grand opening road trip that transported up to 100 people on an interactive field trip around the area in order to earn a year’s supply of Chick-fil-A meals. The restaurant, at 1247 S. Lone Hill Ave., brought 100 new jobs to the area and provided an opportunity for the community to donate children’s books to benefit the Glendora Public Library. The eatery’s first 100 guests had a chance to partner with Feeding Children Everywhere to package 10,000 meals. Up to 100 eligible participants 18 and older began gathering at the restaurant shortly before 6 a.m. on May 31 to register and participate in the grand opening celebration. Registration was held at the restaurant that morning from 6 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. or until 100 eligible participants was reached.
Despite claiming that no such plans existed, the City of Industry has been working quietly and out of public view on a multimillion-dollar proposal to build a massive solar farm amid more than 2,000 acres of undeveloped rolling hills along the shared borders of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties. Over the past year, the manufacturing city of about 200 residents spent more than $1 million on leases, reimbursements and studies aimed at building an estimated 440-megawatt solar power facility, according to documents obtained by the Southern California News Group. The previously unreported scope of the potential project—along with the planning activity and taxpayer spending that has taken place—caught off guard the elected officials, nearby homeowners and conservationists who have long monitored proposals for the open space. As outlined in city documents, the solar farm would be among the biggest in Southern California, an unusually large-scale green energy project in the heart of a developed urban region. The facility could generate enough power to serve nearly a dozen UCLA campuses, or 10 percent of the power consumed by Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest city, experts said. The news of the city’s plans have intensified criticism of the manner in which Industry has controlled information about possible future uses of such a large and unique piece of publicly owned land. Industry officials said the contract met legal requirements. The city has not yet developed detailed plans to share with the public. Industry council members are committed to protecting one of the largest swaths of open space remaining in our region for open and recreation space, as well as pursuing unobtrusive renewable and green energy opportunities.
The solar farm proposal is the latest turn in a long battle over control and development of the tract of unspoiled ranch land, canyons and pastures that form a major respite from the surrounding suburban and industrial sprawl of the San Gabriel and Chino valleys and northern Orange County. It also represents a benchmark in an ongoing political struggle over the future of historic and coveted pieces of land: the 2,450-acre Tres Hermanos ranch, currently controlled by an independent state panel, and a neighboring 3,800 acres of parcels owned by the City of Industry. Both properties lie miles outside Industry’s city limits and partially within the boundaries of Diamond Bar, Chino Hills and unincorporated Orange County near Brea, along the 57 and 60 freeways. Tres Hermanos, a cattle ranch and one-time private hunting grounds owned for generations by wealthy Los Angeles families, including the late Los Angeles Times Publisher Harry Chandler, was purchased by Industry’s redevelopment agency in 1978—before the state shut down such entities and put the land up for sale. Industry leaders have been trying to buy back the ranch so it can be added to the city’s adjacent Tonner Canyon holdings for use in the green energy project, records show. A state-created panel tasked with selling off Tres Hermanos has delayed a decision on Industry’s $100 million offer because city officials haven’t disclosed their plans for the property. Panel members have indicated that they could consider other offers. Officials hope the state panel will approve their purchase rather than an alternative bid by a housing development investment group that wants to build 1,881 new tract homes.
Among the newly obtained city documents is a master ground lease signed in May 2016 with San Gabriel Valley Water and Power LLC, an entity created for the solar project. Industry officials and a company spokesperson have refused to disclose investors in the limited liability corporation. The ground lease includes the Tonner Canyon land already owned by Industry and states that if the city succeeds in acquiring Tres Hermanos, “then such property shall be added to, and become part of” the property for the project. The lease extends up to 65 years and gives the water and power firm “the right of first refusal” to buy the land if Industry opts to sell. A separate professional services agreement with the design firm Kimley-Horn, executed last October, clarifies Industry’s intention to put the solar farm on Tres Hermanos ranch land. Records related to the land show payments of more than $1 million on studies and consultants, including to a London-based law firm whose partners billed $1,200 an hour for 40-hour work weeks. Multiple experts in solar power, shown maps and aerial video of Tres Hermanos, said the ranch is the most viable space in the hills for the solar panels because it is sun-drenched, flat and less ecologically sensitive after decades of cattle grazing. The rest of the city’s property in Tonner Canyon includes steeper terrain that may cast too much shade, they said. One megawatt of solar power requires about 100,000 square feet—or roughly a quarter of an acre—of space for solar panels, said Rajit Gadh, a professor of UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The entire 440-megawatt solar farm would require about 1,100 acres of land, or an area about 2 miles by 1 mile, he said.
The estimated output of the proposed solar farm would equal a large chunk of the 2,000 megawatts to 3,000 megawatts of electricity that county officials expect to seek for a new, government-backed power supply network, dubbed Los Angeles Community Choice Energy. The ambitious program, expected to start in 2018, will offer electricity to cities through an interagency Joint Powers Authority being organized by L.A. County. Projections are that the program, partly intended to encourage development of more green energy, would serve more than 1 million residents and 200,000 businesses. The Industry project in Tonner Canyon could be a potential supplier. City documents show that, if the solar project doesn’t proceed, Industry officials would consider allowing San Gabriel Valley Water and Power to construct an 89-billion-gallon reservoir and hydroelectric dam. The project would generate between 50 and 75 megawatts and take up more than 2,000 acres of land. The possibility of a power-generating reservoir in Tonner Canyon has cropped up repeatedly for decades, ever since Industry first bought Tres Hermanos. Neighboring cities, particularly Brea, have opposed that idea, noting the property is near an earthquake fault. City leaders in Diamond Bar, Chino Hills and Brea have largely pieced together what they know about the future of Tres Hermanos from news reports, public records requests and Industry’s public meetings. Industry hasn’t held public hearings on the San Gabriel Valley Water and Power ground lease, which was signed last May 2016, and includes one of the first references to a solar farm, records show. City records aren’t clear on when or how city council members agreed to enter into the lease.
The Star Theatre, a 1940s-era building, a barrel-shaped structure stretching across the full length of its block at the edge of downtown La Puente, is historically and architecturally significant piece of the history of La Puente. The city may soon lose that piece of history—the new owners of the theater at 145 N. 1st St. are working on a plan to demolish the building and develop condominiums on the site. Linda Young, of Star Theatre LLC, which purchased the building from its previous owner in April 2016, said the building has fallen into disrepair and would need extensive work to bring it up to code. Designed in the late 1940s by renowned theater architect S. Charles Lee, the Star is one of five theaters designed by Lee using a lamella roof form, a vaulted roof made up of crisscrossing arches. Lee’s La Puente theater is significant because it is the only one lacking a rectangular facade that conceals the barrel shape of the auditorium from the street, according to Marcello Vavala, a preservation associate at the Los Angeles Conservancy. Vavala said the La Puente theater is an example of Lee experimenting with building types unusual for movie theaters.
Residents hope to convince the city and the owner not to demolish the theater and instead renovate the building and repurpose it as a venue for community performances, art therapy and movie screenings. City officials say there’s not much the nonprofit or the city can do to stop the demolition. The building is not designated as a landmark. And even if it was, that status would not prohibit the owner of a private building from demolishing it. The owners have not yet obtained a permit to demolish the building, but they have submitted a site plan, building elevations and other development documents for the city to review. Because demolition of buildings is considered by law to be a ministerial, and not a discretionary action, the city would be obligated to issue the permit if the owner provides the proper paperwork. Preservationists and residents say because the city is aware of a proposed development project that would require the Star to be cleared from the site, the city would have to conduct an environmental review of the project before allowing the theater to be demolished. The theater, though not designated as a landmark by a local, state or federal agency, should be considered a historic resource under the California Environmental Quality Act, and thereby any environmental review should determine whether there would be significant impacts to the building. The city’s Planning Commission and the City Council have not yet reviewed any plans for the proposed development, but at least one council member has said the theater isn’t worth saving.
The building-scape at the University of La Verne is about to change. In a few months, University of La Verne officials expect to break ground for the construction of a five-story, 398-bed student residence and a dining hall on the southern end of campus. The project will kick off what is expected to be the first of a three-phase plan for new construction and renovation projects to be carried out over an 18-year period. It’s all part of a master plan for the university recently approved by La Verne city leaders. The development plans are meant to provide the resources that will allow students to train in some existing and new fields of study at the university and be ready to meet the needs of the region. The growth comes as the university celebrates its 125 years as an institution. Developing the plan was a four-year process that included participation of the university community and city, all collaborating to determine how ULV is going physically going to meet the needs of future students and the region.
Rather than spreading out, the university will grow upward. Each of the plan’s three phases will take about six years to complete. Plans for the first phase are the most clear and have a financing road map. Phase II plans have been developed, but before the university can begin construction, it must raise money and pay off Phase I debts. Phase III is still somewhat of a concept that will come more into focus as part of a future master plan. What comes first. Phase I will augment student housing, which currently can accommodate 837 students. At buildout, and with the demolition or repurposing of existing dorms, the university expects to able to house just over 1,000 students on campus. The first project is a five-story building that will house both a residence hall and dining facilities to be built just north of a new parking structure built along Arrow Highway. The building will be 60 feet tall, about 4 feet taller than the parking structure, according to a city staff report. Despite the height, staff recommended the council approve the university plans because “the building is internal to the campus and will not be substantially visible from the public right of way,” according to a staff report. The 116,090-square-foot building’s first floor will be occupied by the dining hall, and the four top floors will comprise the 386-bed residence hall. That’s 178 more beds than the nearby Studabaker-Hanawalt Residence Hall. Cost of the building is estimated to be $40 million, which will be paid through bonds and funds the university has set aside. Once the new building is ready for the fall 2018 academic session, Studabaker-Hanawalt Residence Hall will be demolished. That space will become a parking lot.
Meanwhile, Brandt Residence Hall, on B Street and Bonita Avenue, will be renovated and an addition built. It will no longer serve its original purpose, becoming instead the university’s new Multicultural, Interfaith and Spiritual Center. Once completed, the facility will have a new and bigger sacred space, the university’s multicultural center, interfaith offices and possibly space for community engagement programs. Because the existing chapel does not meet accessibility requirements for people with disabilities and requires earthquake work, it will be demolished. Groundbreaking for this project is expected to take place in fall 2018. The final project of the first phase will be the construction of a new academic building on land currently occupied by the University Chapel. What comes next. Phase II plans include demolition of Davenport Dining Hall and Woody Hall, a building that currently houses financial aid, university registrar and accounts receivable offices. Phase III plans are fluid and include property to the east of D Street and south of Second Street. Some of the plans fall within the city’s Old Town La Verne Specific Plan area. Development there would have a mixed-use element, including retail on the ground floor and offices and housing above. The city would like to see development that serves to entice pedestrians from a Gold Line light-rail station — anticipated to open in about a decade at Arrow Highway and E Street — to downtown, he said. Plans for Phase III will probably come before the City Council for approval sometime after Phase II is completed. principle planner for La Verne. Downtown and ULV. Residents and property owners living near the university have had opportunities to review and comment on the academic institution’s master plan, Scherer said. Some have expressed concerns about the older buildings on the campus, particularly those of a historic nature, and some have spoken out about what is now a shuttered plan to close Third Street between B and D streets.
Brookfield Residential continues new home building in Ontario with Shutters at Edenglen, located in Ontario Ranch. Set within the established Edenglen master-planned community, this new neighborhood will feature three distinctive single-family detached designs. With prices anticipated from the $500,000s, these homes will of contemporary style, spanning from approximately 2,371 to 2,937 square feet with three to five bedrooms, two to four baths and two-car to three-bay garages. Floorplans will showcase a convenient downstairs master suite, a private den, and a smart second floor with bedrooms and a versatile bonus room. Ontario Ranch, located within the city of Ontario, and is set across 8,000+ acres. The future Chaffey Park will be the centerpiece of Ontario Ranch, a large, open space with parks and trails for playing, walking and exploring the outdoors. It is planned to align with the goals of the Healthy Ontario Initiative. Ontario Ranch is envisioned as a mixed‐use area that will encompass residential neighborhoods, commercial facilities and recreational amenities. Proposed plans include retail and business space, along with nearly 1,000 acres dedicated to public open space, parks and schools. The location offers direct access to the I-15 via the new connection at Cantu-Galleano Ranch Road. With the introduction of Ontario Ranch Road as well as the connection to the 60 Freeway via the newly improved Archibald Avenue, Ontario Ranch offers commuters easy access to major employment centers in LA, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties. For more information visit http://www.OntarioRanch.com.
City representatives have informed the state’s Department of General Services they will not purchas the building at 600 S. Park Ave. In fall 2015, the state Legislature authorized the Department of General Service to sell or lease a small number of armories, including those in Santa Barbara, Indio, Lynwood and Pomona. In related legislation, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September, cities in which the armories are located were given first chance at buying the facilities. The Pomona Armory has some unspecified operational issues the city is concerned about, but the primary reason that the city declines the purchase option is that the price is too high. In December, the state had the building appraised and set the price at $2.1 million, the letter read. Department of General Services personnel have informed the city there is no process for negotiating a purchase price, according to the letter. Behind Pomona, Los Angeles County is next in line for the opportunity to purchase the Pomona Armory, but it’s not clear if it will do so. The county has until July 1 to inform the state if it is interested in purchasing the armory. If the county opts out, then the property will be offered for sale to the general public. The Legislature has directed that the sale be based on fair market value of the property. The building dates back to the 1930s and was used by troops prior to their deployment overseas. During the last 25 years, the armory has been part of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s Winter Shelter Program for the homeless. This year, the winter program will extend through the end of November while the city is working to establish a year-round emergency shelter on the eastern end of Mission Boulevard, scheduled to open in December. Had the city purchased the armory, it would have found a different use for it rather than continuing to use it as a shelter. Should the county also pass on the building, any prospective buyer would have to keep in mind that the armory has no parking and the courtyard is owned by the city.
The area where the armory is located is zoned as mixed-use/institutional, but institutional use is probably the least desirable because there are already many government buildings nearby. The building could easily become an office building, but someone with imagination could find another use. The two-story building, which the Pomona City Council unanimously granted single historic landmark designation at its May 15 meeting, could be turned into an office building or become home to a restaurant or a brew pub. It may still be early in downtown Pomona’s resurgence for the building to accommodate the latter, but once a movie theater comes into the neighborhood and the population continues to increase a restaurant or brew pub will be a good fit, according to city staff.
City leaders have approved two new fees, which will generate $300,000 annually, to offset the cost of towing. Currently, towing is provided through the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s substation in Rancho Cucamonga. However, the city plans to start its own towing program soon, hiring private companies to do the job. The Rancho Cucamonga City Council agreed May 17 to establish the new fees. Potential towing vendors will have to pay a $2,000 application fee during the request for proposal process. These costs will help pay for city staff time in handling the process, as well as evaluating potential vendors and conducting inspections of their facilities. The second fee is a $5,000 monthly flat rate tow companies would pay and will help Rancho Cucamonga recoup costs deputies spend out in the field responding to tow-related services. Among five anticipated tow companies, this fee is expected to generate $300,000, which will be placed back into public safety programs.
The $5,000 flat fee would be less than 10 percent of revenues that tow companies generate in Rancho Cucamonga. Without its own agreement, the costs are borne by the taxpayers and the general fund. The Tow Service Agreement authored by the city mirrors the current agreement offered at the sheriff’s department. The council signed off on the ordinance May 3. The city began receiving applications May 8 and on May 17 held a hearing for the service agreement fees. Applications will be due to the Police Department by June 5 and the contracts are expected to be awarded June 20.
For years, Rancho Cucamonga has charged a fee to use any of the 10 tennis courts or the arena at the Heritage Park Equestrian Center. The fees were never formally adopted them by resolution. The council also unanimously agreed to the technical change. It coincides with a change the city is making on how it collects those fees. The city charges $1 per hour for these facilities through a coin-operated system.
Saddle Creek 28 Group, LLC a subsidiary of Brandywine Homes, has acquired an approximately 10-acre site entitled for 28 single-family detached lots in San Dimas, from MJW Investments, LLC. Terms were not disclosed. Land Advisors Organization, a nationwide advisory firm focused on the acquisition and disposition of land and land-related assets, brokered the deal. Dubbed Saddle Creek, the parcel was assembled by MJW from 5 separate property owners with an entitlement process that took more than 3 years to complete.
SOUTH EL MONTE
South El Monte officials racked up thousands of dollars on city credit cards for consultants’ bar tabs, airfare and pricey electronics. They splurged on hotel stays and a trip to Las Vegas without proof that it was related to city business. The former city manager charged more than $3,000 for a cheerleading camp, and the city paid $390,000 to a consultant after their contract had already expired. These are just a few of the findings of a California state controller review of how South El Monte spent money. In a scathing assessment, Controller Betty Yee declared: “South El Monte officials demonstrated a culture of incompetence and blatant disregard for taxpayer dollars.” In a statement released May 25, Yee also said that she was “especially concerned with exorbitant lobbying and consulting expenses that resulted in undefined benefits to the city and its residents.” The state’s blistering review comes just as the city is embroiled in a corruption scandal involving ex-Mayor Luis Aguinaga, who in September pleaded guilty in a federal bribery case. Prosecutors said Aguinaga accepted at least $45,000 in bribes from an unidentified city contractor. The former mayor also split some of the payoff, delivered in envelopes with cash, with another city official, according to prosecutors. That person has not been charged or publicly identified. Aguinaga was sentenced last month to a one-year federal prison term.
The city has been taking actions to correct the problems and plans to adopt even more changes, according to the review. Councilmember Joe Gonzales said the city needs to go above and beyond the steps it has taken and is proposing to take. He said South El Monte needs to appoint a special overseer to be a check on the administration. He said he hoped such a step could help the city get its financial affairs in order. The state review of South El Monte’s spending found that from July 2013 to June of last year one contractor billed the city $1 million without submitting time cards. The city was negligent about having written contracts for services and employment and sometimes renewed top managers’ contracts long after they had lapsed. In 2009, South El Monte and agencies in four other cities reached an agreement to lobby the Metropolitan Transit Agency on a Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension route. When two cities stopped paying their share, according to the state review, it cost South El Monte $314,000. But South El Monte was so sloppy in its financial controls, according to the review, that it incorrectly billed a city that was not part of the pact and collected $56,000. The city had paid $1.4 million to lobbying and consulting firms to fight for South El Monte’s preferred Metro Line route. But there was no public airing of the project or costs associated with it. The controller’s review found that the vast majority of South El Monte’s internal controls—almost 90%—were inadequate. Several of the more exorbitant expenses by city officials involved hotel stays. For example, on Jan. 30, 2013 a former city manager charged $642 to stay at a Wyndham hotel in San Francisco. In October of that year, the manager charged $840 twice for a two-night weekend stay at a Westin hotel in Seattle. One council member charged the city-issued credit card $378 in June 2015 for a hotel stay at the Aria hotel in Las Vegas. In each of these cases, according to the state review, there was “no description, justification, or any type of documentation as to the purpose and necessity of these trips.” Here is the link to the audit.
A plan to establish an overnight parking permit program is on hold to give staff more time to evaluate the public’s concerns. Officials held a hearing for a plan that would have imposed $3 daily and $75 annual fees for those who parked their vehicles on the streets between the hours of 2 and 5 a.m. Violators would be issued a $45 citation. Residents, however, raised questions about the legality of the notification process, whether the city could legally profit from $379,400 in excess revenues, and if the measure really would effectively reduce vehicle-related crime, such as thefts and break-ins. After hearing from the public for nearly an hour May 15, interim City Manager Martin Thouvenell announced there would be no vote. The ordinance was extensively researched and five models were studied, Upland Police Capt. Cliff Mathews told the council during a presentation about the proposal. The council entertained a proposal to prohibit parking on all streets and publicly owned parking lots from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. Daily and annual permits allowing overnight parking would be available for residents to purchase, while disabled parking would not require permits. Under the proposal, Upland would purchase equipment to issue the citations—including buying a parking enforcement vehicle—as well as enter into a contract with Inter-Con Security System for a parking enforcement officer. The program would cost $82,283 to launch. Annually, it would cost Upland $143,630 to operate, with revenues expected to generate $523,023 in fees and fines, leaving an annual surplus of about $379,400.
Citing call volume records over a three-year period, Mathews said Upland officers have seen an 83 percent increase in complaints about vehicles violating the city’s 72-hour parking limit and a 19 percent increase in vehicle-related crimes. For example, in 2014 there were 929 vehicle-related calls—for auto theft, vandalism and theft from a motor vehicle, for example. By 2016, that figure jumped to 1,098. While some residents complained about the inconvenience of not being allowed to park on the street nightly, others questioned the city’s motives. Residents were concerned that the proposed ordinance did not include how many annual permits could be purchased per household. Residents also voiced concern about a rule that allows a temporary permit to be renewed no more than six days. After that, the household would have to wait 28 days to seek another temporary daily parking permit.
Faced with a projected $5.3 million deficit in the city’s general fund, city officials said Tuesday they are considering making 5 percent cuts across all departments to help close the gap. During a community budget workshop, city staff presented updated budget forecasts and proposed cuts to expenditures and potential revenue sources for the next fiscal year beginning July 1. Earlier projections showed the city faced a $6.1 million deficit due to increases in pension costs, increased costs for personnel and supplies, the elimination of 3 percent salary savings across departments and the loss of a federal public safety grant that funded firefighter jobs. City staff were able to reduce the deficit by about $800,000 through revisions in revenue and expenditure projections and changes to the city’s fleet operations. The proposed 5 percent cuts would bring in about $3.1 million, according to the staff presentation. But because the city’s police and fire make up about 75 percent of the general fund expenditures, the two departments would end up taking the biggest hits if the cuts are approved. According to the presentation, a 5 percent cut to police and fire would amount to roughly $1.6 million and $931,000 in reductions, respectively. The city hopes to avoid any layoffs, it could see cutting positions that are currently vacant rather than staffing them through overtime. Meanwhile, cuts in staffing and equipment have already been proposed for the fire department. Already factored into the budget projections is the reduction of six vacant positions that are currently being filled through overtime. The cuts to the fire department are the result of the elimination of the SAFER grant, which provided around $1.5 million for department personnel costs, and a change in how the city deploys its first responders. Other potential revenue generating measures include a street sweeping fee, a charge on sports groups for using city fields and lighting and not allocating general fund dollars to the city’s vehicle replacement fund for one year.
In other matters, The city will pay $220,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging West Covina’s previous election system violated state law and disenfranchised Latino voters. The City Council voted 3-2 in closed session to amend the settlement agreement reached in February, which resolved how much the city would pay for the plaintiffs’ attorneys fees. Mayor Pro Tem Mike Spence and Councilman Tony Wu voted no. Filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by three West Covina residents in September, the lawsuit alleged the city’s at-large election system violated the state’s Voting Rights Act because it created “racially polarized voting,” meaning the preferred candidate of a minority group—Latinos in this case—was not the preferred candidate of the rest of the electorate. The suit forced the council to adopt an ordinance in January establishing a district election system in which council members are elected every four years from five different areas of the city. Though several council members said they preferred the city’s at-large election system, they decided the cost of fighting the lawsuit was too great for the cash-strapped city. Fighting the lawsuit could have cost the city between $750,000 and $2 million. If the city lost the lawsuit it would have been ordered to pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees, which in some cases have cost more than $3 million, according to a staff report. As part of the settlement agreement, West Covina was required to hire a consultant to assist in the process of creating district boundaries by June 6. The council voted 4-1 to approve a $33,000 contract with Claremont-based National Demographics Corporation to provide those services. Wu cast the dissenting vote. The corporation will assist staff with developing a community outreach plan, compiling demographic data and geographic data, developing and analyzing publicly submitted maps, making presentations at public hearings and working with the county registrar to implement the selected map. Though Spence voted in favor of the contract, he said it was ironic that now the city would be asking for extensive community participation in designing the districts when it did not give voters the chance to decide whether to establish district elections when faced with the lawsuit. Efforts to reverse the council’s decision to move to districts are still underway. Proponents of an initiative petition to restore at-large elections plan to begin collecting signatures to place the measure on the ballot in the coming weeks.
by CVAR Government Affairs Director Bill Ruh
Longtime Mayor Joe Rocha, challenged for the first time in his 10-year tenure, handily won re-election on March 7. Incumbents Robert Gonzales and Eddie Alvarez also reclaimed their seats by a wide margin. Results show that Rocha led with 57.77 percent of the votes, easily outpacing challenger and fellow councilman Uriel Macias, who had 28.79 percent, and Russ Rentschler, 56, a commercial pest control technician, who ended with 13.44 percent. In the race for city council, three candidates were running for two seats. Challenging Alvarez and Gonzales was Andrew Mendez, 30. Final results show that Gonzalez led with nearly 40.65 percent of the vote, followed by Alvarez with 37.36 percent, and Mendez with 21.98 percent.
The Baldwin Park City Council approved an employment agreement with new Police Chief David Salcedo despite two council members’ concerns that the salary awarded to the police captain from Inglewood was too high. The council voted 3-2 to enter into the agreement with Salcedo. Councilwoman Cruz Baca and Mayor Pro Tem Susan Rubio cast the no votes. Salcedo, who comes to Baldwin Park with more than 27 years of experience in law enforcement, will earn a base salary of $192,766 and about $23,700 in benefits and other incentives—about $216,000 total—according to the agreement. His predecessor Michael Taylor, who was fired in September after more than three decades with the department and nearly three years as chief, was making a base salary of $165,000 and about $70,000 in benefits and incentives—about $235,000 total—according to city document.
The new chief’s salary and benefits package is less than the average compensation for police chiefs working in the San Gabriel Valley, according to a city survey of police chief compensations in 13 San Gabriel Valley cities. Salcedo, 50, said one of his top priorities was to engage with the community and ensure that they feel safe and comfortable talking to law enforcement. A graduate of Montebello High School, Salcedo has a bachelor’s degree in vocational studies and leadership from Cal State Long Beach, and a master’s degree in public administration and leadership from Cal State Northridge.
It was the incumbents’ night to celebrate in Claremont, as both Larry Schroeder and Corey Calaycay were re-elected to the city council. Schroeder, who is entering his third term on the council, and Calaycay, who is entering his fourth term, handily beat the crowded competition. Schroeder received 32.34% of the vote, and Calaycay received 27.85%. The closest competitor, Zach Courser, garnered 18.17% of the vote.
Schroeder said he wants to focus on two things during his next term—development and getting people involved in the commission system. He said he wants to take a closer look at projects under development in Claremont to make sure they fit with the city’s character. In 2015, Schroeder and Calaycay were tasked with creating the verbiage that imposed an eight-year term limit for commissioners and committee members. The current council unanimously approved the limits, however, Schroeder would now like to revisit the decision. Calaycay noted the ongoing effort to take over the water system, the possibility of a new police station and MS-4 storm water management as priorities in his upcoming term.
Incumbents Jorge Marquez and John King, and local business owner Victor Linares won in the election for the Covina City Council in the March election. With all precincts reporting, Marquez received the most votes with 31.37%. He was followed closely by King with 29.56% and Linares with 26.93%. First-time candidate Neil Polzin, an online fleet manager for an El Monte car dealership, received 12.14%. The two incumbents and two newcomers were vying for three open seats on the council. At least one newcomer was guaranteed to win a seat on the five-member governing body after longtime Councilman Kevin Stapleton announced in November that he would not be seeking re-election. That newcomer was Linares, co-owner of Bread and Barley, 130 N. Citrus Ave., and Arrow Lodge Brewing, 720 E. Arrow Highway. King, 55, a project manager for Southern California Edison, and Marquez, 33, a field deputy for state Sen. Ed Hernandez, raised more than $18,700 and $27,800, respectively, in this year’s election, according to campaign finance records. Linares received more than $17,600 in contributions, according to the records. King, who was first elected in 2005, won his fourth term on the council, while Marquez won his second term.
Walmart is appealing a Los Angeles Superior Court ruling preventing the multinational retail corporation from building a supercenter in the city. The project, approved in a split vote by the City Council in 2015, was slated to be built at the northeast corner of Valley Boulevard and Arden Drive. After the approval, a group of residents filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging El Monte violated state laws in preparing an environmental impact report. In November, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the city’s report indeed failed to adequately address the project’s impact on traffic and air quality, and as a result, residents would “suffer irreparable harm.” The city had requested that the trial be heard again, but its motion was denied. The appeal filed by Walmart on March 13 seeks to have the case heard by an appeals court. The company released a statement about the appeal saying “Walmart believes the city’s greenhouse gas analysis was thorough, multi-layered, and prepared in full compliance with all applicable standards and regulations.” Given the appeal’s filing, the City Council opted to postpone a vote that would have committed the city to conducting another environmental analysis for the sections found deficient in order to move the project forward in accordance with the superior court ruling. Before the council postponed its vote, an attorney representing the residents in the lawsuit urged the council to approve the policies. City Economic Development Director Minh Thai said it would cost $80,000 to $100,000 and take six months to prepare a new environmental report addressing the areas the court deemed inadequate. The new environmental report would then have to be approved by the city Planning Commission and then by the City Council.
Challenger Michael Allawos and 12-year incumbent Karen Davis won the two open City Council seats in the municipal election of March 7. Results show that Allawos led with 31.97% of the votes, followed by Davis with 25.21%. Challenger Erica Landmann, 42, a teacher, landed in third place with 21.94%. Incumbent and current Mayor Gene Murabito, 65, who was running for a third term, ended in fourth place with 16.28%, and Kamal Stephan, 68, a retired accountant, trailed with 4.60%. Development quickly became the No. 1 issue in the city during the campaign. Many in Glendora, with a population of about 51,000, had spoken out against condominium and mixed-use projects that were recently built on Route 66 and Grand Avenue, saying they were too tall and come right up to the sidewalks. A project singled out by challengers was the Avalon Glendora complex on Route 66—apartments grouped in five-story structures renting from $1,815 to $2,690 per month. Murabito, a businessman, and Davis, pastor of the First Christian Church of Glendora, said they listened to residents’ concerns. They said the city was very close to releasing a new development plan for Route 66, the main east-west thoroughfare through the city and part of the original, 91-year-old road connecting Chicago and Los Angeles. After announcing he would run for re-election, Murabito in late January said he was withdrawing from the race, even after he had already paid for a campaign statement. Then in mid-February, he got back in after he said he was persuaded by supporters.
Mayor Don Kendrick held onto his seat by a slim seven-vote margin. The mayor’s position has a two-year term. After the vote-by-mail ballots were tallied election night, Kendrick held an early and close lead but lost it when the first wave of precinct counts came in. With three of seven precincts reporting, Hepburn was ahead with 50.2% of the vote. By early the next morning, the lead dissipated, with Kendrick taking 50.8% of the vote to Hepburn’s 49.2. With each subsequent release of results—updating provisional and vote-by-mail ballots that were turned in at the polls or came in after Election Day but were postmarked in time—Kendrick held onto the lead. Despite falling short, Hepburn said he was pleased with the results. Plans called for a ceremony in which Kendrick, Councilwoman Robin Carder and Councilman-elect Muir Davis would take the oath of office at the April 3 City Council meeting, at 6:30 p.m. at La Verne City Hall, 3660 D St. Kendrick said there is a great deal to do for the city. While he lauds how the city weathered recession without cutting staff, “Now we get to rebuild.” The city’s Foothill Corridor has a few unoccupied business spaces, he said. Steps are being taken to attract businesses to fill those vacancies. The city needs to pursue partnerships and create opportunities that will benefit the city and those involved, Kendrick said.
The commercial area of north Ontario, just west of Ontario Mills, might not have nightlife, but developers are proposing to change all that. Plans for a brewery-filled restaurant row north of Citizens Business Bank Arena are in addition to plans for new apartments and a hotel. Two Southern California-based developers are collaborating to bring a grocery-anchored shopping center, new restaurants, brew pubs and hundreds of apartments to land north of Citizens Business Bank Arena and south of Fourth Street. Upland-based Lewis Group of Companies and Irvine-based Pendulum Property Partners recently asked the city to amend the existing plan for the area which, if approved, would change from placing residential units above shops and restaurants to adjacent to commercial activity. The request is expected to come before the Ontario City Council in a series of public hearings. With approval, developers are hoping to open the hotel and see the first apartment move-ins by 2019, with the restaurants and breweries opening around 2020, the developers said by phone. A key piece of the development is a 12-acre lifestyle center, which would feature new restaurants and brew pubs along Via Piemonte, a road that cuts north and south through the proposed development, from Fourth Street toward the arena. The center would feature about 12 restaurants and brew pubs. The proposed Pendulum-developed lifestyle center property, immediately west of the existing Target-anchored Piemonte at Ontario Center shopping complex, on the south side of Fourth Street and directly north of the arena, could also hold farmers markets and community festivals. Lewis Group is on tap to build a 570-unit apartment community of one- and two-bedroom rental homes, to surround the Pendulum lifestyle center. Two pools, two Jacuzzis, outdoor barbecue areas, a clubhouse and an upscale gym are planned. The target market for the homes will be young professionals, millennials and move-down renters. Separately, a 13-acre grocery-anchored shopping center, by Lewis, is planned for the southeast corner of Haven Avenue and Fourth Street, with 95,000 square feet of total retail space, Lewis said in an email. The center will likely have from 15 to 20 tenants. In addition, an Arizona-based hotel developer is working with the city to bring a four-story hotel to a 4.5-acre parcel immediately northeast of the arena. Arizona based Glacier House Hotels development said the company hopes for city approval of the 131-room Element by Westin hotel by the end of fall, with an opening by the first quarter of 2019. The hotel should employ about 25 to 30 people and serve both business and leisure clientele.
The 2.61-acre property that was once occupied by a taxicab dispatch yard has become city property. Barring any unexpected circumstances, by the end of the year the land at 1400 E. Mission Blvd. will be home to a year-round emergency shelter and service center for the homeless, the first in the city. The aim is to have it ready in time to for the coming winter. Currently, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority offers a winter shelter program at the Pomona Armory. The city plans to erect a large tent to serve as the shelter, but officials are also checking out how to incorporate the buildings on the property. Once the facility is up and running, it will offer residents without shelter a place to stay and begin making their way back to permanent housing. In November, the Pomona City Council authorized staffers to buy the East Mission Boulevard property from the Gene Stalians 1989 Trust for $1.7 million. In late January, the council members gave the green light for the combination emergency shelter and service center on the property. The facility will consist of a giant semi-permanent tent-like structure resembling those used for entertainment events or for military purposes. The structure, which will accommodate 175 people, will be insulated, equipped with windows, heating and air conditioning systems. It will have a system of dividers to create areas for men, women and LGBT residents. Portable restrooms, showers, laundry facilities and a dog kennel will be among the features. A key component of the facility will be a centralized kitchen for nonprofits and faith-based groups that prepare meals for the homeless residents. Through the service center, homeless individuals will be able to access basic health and behavioral health services, in addition to other services. The city expects to pay for the facility using some housing bond proceeds. A consultant will also assist in determining how much it will cost to operate the program. The city is also researching how it can access funds generated by Measure H, the Los Angeles County ballot measure that voters approved by a slim margin March 7. Measure H calls for increasing the sales tax in L.A. County by 1/4 percent to generate about $355 million a year for 10 years, to be used to prevent and address homelessness. A group has been established that will provide oversight of the funding.
A $500,000 makeover of the city’s animal shelter is more than halfway complete.
For years, the city had contemplated making renovations to the Animal Care and Adoption Center, which was built in the 1990s. When the council approved its fiscal budget, it set aside $547,311 for the “Animal Care and Adoption Center Makeover Project.” Before the makeover began, Animal Care and Services Director Veronica Fincher and her staff faced one of the bigger challenges of the process: What would happen to the hundreds of shelter animals that would be displaced during this project?
Dogs at the shelter are being housed in kennels under a big white tent, cats are in a modular building and the center’s operations are run out of the city’s mobile recreational vehicle. Fincher and Public Works Services Director Bill Witkopf updated the City Council at its March 15 meeting on the construction, which began the first week of February. City officials believe it will be completed in late April.
The project includes:
- Replacing chain link kennels with metal kennels
- New epoxy coating in the kennel area
- New service counter compliant with federal disability access laws
- New acoustical panels throughout center
- New flooring and paint throughout the lobby and kennels
- LED lighting in lobby
In San Dimas, longtime Mayor Curt Morris was re-elected without opposition and longtime Councilman Denis Bertone, first elected in 1988, was the top vote-getter in the council race. Sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Vienna was voted into the seat left open by the retirement of Jeff Templeman, a retired deputy chief of police who was first elected to the council in 1996.
Despite heavy opposition from San Antonio Heights residents, the agency that oversees annexations in San Bernardino County unanimously voted to include the unincorporated community in a proposal to disband the Upland Fire Department. The proposal would annex the Upland Fire Department and transfer fire station properties, employees, assets, obligations, as well as liabilities into San Bernardino County Fire and its Valley Service Zone. At the recommendation of Local Agency Formation Commission staff, the unincorporated community of San Antonio Heights will now be included in the Service Zone FP-5. That would mean property owners in San Antonio Heights—along with Upland landowners — would have to pay an annual $150 parcel tax, which may increase 3 percent annually. The move to impose a $150 property tax on landowners in San Antonio Heights is expected to generate just under $300,000 annually. LAFCO will begin to send out notices to start a 30-day protest period. Anything above 50 percent protest from the number of registered voters or parcel owners can terminate the process, while anything between 25 and 49 percent would trigger an election. If registered protests come in from fewer than 25 percent, the proposal would be approved.
After more than 30 years in law enforcement and three years leading the West Covina Police Department, Chief Dave Faulkner announced this week he will retire later this year. Faulkner, 57, said he wanted to spend more time with his family. He ultimately decided to retire after his second grandchild’s birth Feb. 18. His last day on the job will be June 30. Faulkner, a former Marine, got his start in law enforcement in Chino in 1983. Three years later, he moved to the Fontana Police Department where he worked in a variety of roles, serving most recently as field services commander. He also worked as a reserve police helicopter pilot for the El Monte Police Department. Faulkner was hired to lead the West Covina agency in 2014 during a tough time for the department. When he came on board, the department had 92 sworn officers, down from a high of more than 120. Three years later, the city has a force of 102 officers and is currently looking at adding another two through a bike patrol grant from the state. In addition to hiring more officers, Faulkner worked to update the department’s fleet of vehicles, establish the East San Gabriel Mental Health Evaluation Team and added two K-9 units to the department. He also implemented technology upgrades that, for instance, have given officers the ability to file reports from the field rather than at the station.
The city council unanimously adopted a resolution on Feb. 15 declaring the city a “sanctuary” for all residents, regardless of immigration status. Although “sanctuary” is not an official designation, cities across the country and the region, including La Puente, Pasadena and Los Angeles, have recently reaffirmed or adopted policies preventing local law enforcement from inquiring about people’s immigration status. Baldwin Park’s resolution prohibits employees in the police department and all other city departments from “inquiring into, maintaining or disclosing” residents’ immigration status or other sensitive information. The resolution also affirms the city’s commitment to prohibit the use of city resources to identify and detain any person “solely on the basis of a suspected violation of immigration law,” honor civil immigration detainers and provide federal authorities with non-publicly available information about any individual for immigration purposes. The majority-Latino city of about 78,000 receives upward of $8 million a year in federal grant dollars for various programs, including a summer lunch program and Section 8 housing subsidies for low-income families, according to city staff. The council also passed a resolution urging President Donald Trump and Congress to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides people who were brought to the country as children a temporary reprieve from deportation.
Thirty-six days after the city of Chino sought permission from the state to collect almost $16 million in loans it had made to its now-defunct redevelopment agency (RDA), the Department of Finance said “no.” The city council voted Jan. 17 to resubmit its request for reimbursement of about $15.9 million. The following day, the city’s request was approved by the committee established to oversee affairs of the RDA. The money represents 13 promissory notes issued by the RDA to the city from 1989 to 1994, along with accrued interest on those loans. The last time the city sought finance department approval to collect the money was Nov. 16, 2016. On Dec. 22, 2016, the department rejected the request on two grounds:
1 – The state had already rejected the request once before, on July 27, 2015
2 – The city had not proved that the promissory notes covered third-party contracts it had entered into on behalf of the RDA
Finance Director Rob Burns told the oversight committee that his staff has compiled approximately 600 pages documenting that the RDA projects were paid for by the city of Chino. The city’s RDA attorney suggested the debt be resubmitted to the Department of Finance, Mr. Burns said. When the state again denies the request, the city will be able to show that it has exhausted its options to resolve the disagreement administratively, and the way will be open to sue the state.
On Dec. 15, Southern California Edison energized 500 kv lines buried in Chino Hills, completing a 10-year undertaking known as the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project. Overhead lines were activated in Chino and Ontario, concluding the 173-mile project from Tehachapi wind farms south to the Mira Loma Substation in Ontario. Edison informed property owners in October that the lines would be energized in mid-November. The city of Chino Hills was informed the day after activation by Edison’s regional government affairs representative, Jennifer Menjivar-Shaw. The city of Chino Hills spent more than $5 million in legal fees battling the utility giant. In July 2013, the California Public Utilities Commission ordered Edison to remove the 200-foot towers installed in 2011.
Judge Richard Fruin of the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled on Feb. 15 that Claremont is on the hook for $7.69 million that Golden State Water Company (GSW) has billed them, following Claremont’s loss in the eminent domain trail in December. The 12-page ruling adds to the city’s $6.1 million in existing legal fees to Best, Best & Krieger, for a grand total of around $13.5 million. The city filed an initial motion on Jan. 26 for a 50 percent reduction in GSW’s legal fees. Notably, the city attempted to minimize attorney’s hourly rates, which made up the bulk of total litigation costs to the tune of over $5.7 million. The city tried to reduce those fees by more than $1.4 million. The court ruled against the city, noting that their legal fee consultant, Brand Cooper, did not “persuade the court that he is sufficiently familiar with the complexity of this litigation and thus is aware of the knowledge and skills required of the trial attorneys,” according to the ruling. The court claimed that Mr. Cooper seemed unaware that this trial was the first of its kind in the state, and therefore the attorneys had to become acutely aware of not only Claremont’s water system and history, but also the history of La Verne’s water system, the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) regulations of Claremont’s rates, and the feasibility of Claremont issuing bonds to pay for the water system. The court also ruled against the city’s attempt to further reduce attorney’s fees by more than $1.1 million due to what Mr. Cooper asserted was redacted invoices and time entries. Mr. Cooper contended that he was unable to determine if those fees were for the trial or from related lawsuits involving Measure W in 2014 that were waived by GSW. The court also rejected Claremont’s request to reduce fees by $139,652 due to “clerical tasks,” noting that the attorneys had to create databases and file-sharing websites to manage and search documents involving the case. A possible reduction of $344,125 for “block billing,” meaning one bill for multiple tasks, was also rejected.
Without calling itself a “sanctuary city,” El Monte adopted rules on Feb. 7 preventing the use of city resources to aid federal immigration law enforcement, except in the case of threats to public safety. The city council voted 4-0, with Councilman Juventino Gomez absent due to illness, to adopt Resolution 9729, “declaring its commitment to the values of dignity, inclusivity and respect for all individuals, regardless of ethnic or national origin, gender, race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, or immigration status.” Many cities around the country have either declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants or reaffirmed their status following President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January. Mayor Andre Quintero, who introduced the resolution, said the term “sanctuary city” was not included because it has been used to “demonize the rights of our immigrant community.” El Monte, a city of about 115,000, is about 50 percent foreign-born, according to 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data. The goal of the new rules, Quintero said, is to give El Monte’s undocumented immigrant population the confidence to report crimes in the city without fear they will be reported to the federal government. The resolution bans city funds from being used “to investigate, question, detect, apprehend and/or register persons” whose only crime was violating federal immigration laws. And city workers will not be directed to aid in such investigations. El Monte police officers will be directed to cooperate with federal immigration agencies “only in matters involving criminal activity and the protection of public safety.” And city police will be ordered not to take any action against a person “solely on his or her immigration status.” The city also won’t hold anyone because of their immigration status, unless that person has been “convicted or charged of certain offenses or is a sex or arson registrant.” Also included in El Monte’ resolution was a rule saying the city will not use public resources to “honor any federal program” registering citizens based on their “religious affiliation, race, national or ethnic origin, gender or sexual orientation.” El Monte does not currently aid federal immigration agents, Quintero said, and the resolution makes certain the city will not should the federal government request its aid. The resolution also directs the city to find ways to devote resources to programs and to join partnerships with sister agencies or nonprofit organizations providing aid to people “adversely affected or at risk of being affected” by directives coming out of the White House. Quintero said the city will look for ways to partner with organizations like the city of Los Angeles’ Office of Immigrant Affairs to educate locals about immigrant rights and the process to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. The resolution drew no comments from the public nor added comments from the other members of the city council. El Monte joins Pasadena and La Puente as cities declaring themselves sanctuaries in the San Gabriel Valley. The Montebello Unified, Alhambra Unified and Hacienda La Puente Unified school districts have also declared themselves sanctuaries or safe havens.
Amid calls from residents and local activists to support all minority groups, not just undocumented immigrants, the city council unanimously voted to adopt a resolution declaring the city a sanctuary for immigrants, people of color, religious minorities, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities. The resolution, presented by Councilman Argudo and several residents, states that city officials will not enforce federal immigration laws or use city resources to apprehend people “whose only violation is or may be a civil violation of immigration law.” It was approved by the council in a 4-0 vote. Councilman Dan Holloway was absent from the meeting. The resolution adopted by the council was one of two brought forward for consideration in the wake of the election of Donald Trump. The other resolution was aimed only at undocumented immigrants and was modeled after the sanctuary city resolution adopted in Cudahy. Many who spoke in favor of what they said was a more inclusive resolution said Trump has made them, their family, friends or students fearful of being deported, and that it was important for La Puente, which means “the bridge” in Spanish, to reach out to all communities that were targeted by the President during his campaign.
NGKF Capital Markets has completed the $78.5 million sale of Empire Towers I-IV, a four-building, 400,976-square-foot office campus in Ontario, CA. Located at 3633 and 4141 Inland Empire Blvd., and 3800 and 4200 Concours, the Class A property includes one nine-story building and three three-story buildings situated on 19.43 acres. Kevin Shannon, NGKF’s West Coast Capital Markets president; Executive Managing Director Ken White, Managing Director Michael Moore, and Senior Managing Director Brunson Howard represented the seller, a joint venture between CIP Real Estate and Guggenheim Partners. The buyer, Inland Empire-based MGR Services, was self-represented. David Milestone and Brett Green of NGKF Capital Markets secured the financing on behalf of MGR Services. The property is 88 percent leased to a diverse, multi-tenant rent roll, including Liberty Mutual, Wells Fargo, City National Bank, Merrill Lynch, and Allstate, among others. Built in 1991 to 2005, the seller substantially renovated the common areas of the property from 2014 to 2016. Empire Towers I-IV offers open, contemporary tenant spaces with modern finishes, efficient floor plates, and 10- to 12-foot ceilings. It provides immediate access to the 10, 15 and 210 freeways, as well as the Ontario International Airport.
Neighbors tired of the inconveniences that arise from living near Fairplex and officials who manage the fairgrounds came together on Feb. 13 to see if they could find common ground. The setting was the Pomona City Council meeting. The city regulates activities at the Fairplex through its zoning laws. Some residents advocated the city throw out existing regulations for the Fairplex zone and revert to the rules in place before the city council adopted the current version of the Fairplex zone in 2004. Pre-2004, the city had a greater say in setting limits on activities, and residents had a means to register their objections, they said. Some residents said the inconveniences they contend with—noise, traffic and trash—are affecting their quality of life. In October last year, residents who live near Fairplex called on city council members to revisit the Fairplex zone. Not only do noise, traffic and trash perturb, neighbors are concerned that Fairplex could become once again the scene of electronic dance music festivals or raves. In 2015, promoter Live Nation held the Hard Summer and Hard Day of the Dead festivals at Fairplex; two young women who attended the summer event died of drug overdoses. With a new CEO fronting the private, nonprofit Los Angeles County Fair Association which runs the publicly owned fairgrounds, officials there have placed a moratorium on raves while they chart out a vision for the types of events they want to host in the future. After listening to members of the public, council members opted to begin working with Fair Association leadership. The initial step will involve a joint meeting of the Pomona City Council and members of the Fair Association to discuss community concerns and Fairplex needs, said Assistant City Attorney Andrew Jared after the meeting. Councilman Robert Torres, who represents the council district that includes Fairplex and who advocated for revisiting the Fairplex zone, called the meeting “a great starting point.” Torres said after the meeting that even though council members had various opinions, “We all came together.” Fairplex generates about $17.8 million annually in various forms of revenue for the city, county, state and federal government, according to Fairplex figures. Pomona receives about $2.5 million in taxes, transient occupancy tax and permits.
After 15 years in San Bernardino, Arrowhead Credit Union will move its corporate headquarters to Rancho Cucamonga later this year. The move only affects its corporate headquarters and won’t affect the credit union’s members. Arrowhead Credit Union serves 132,000 members and has been in operation since 1949. It has locations in Chino, Crestline, Fontana, Highland, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Rialto, San Bernardino and Yucaipa, with a location to open soon in Victorville.
After more than 40 years, downtown San Dimas’ Old West theme has given way to Main Street. The city recently completed replacing the wooden boardwalk on the north and south sides of Bonita Avenue with concrete sidewalks. The Old West look has been around since city leaders approved wooden building aesthetics and plank sidewalks in the early 1970s. The look wasn’t inexpensive. In recent years, the city had spent up to $60,000 annually to maintain the wooden sidewalks. In 2014, the city council approved construction of the concrete sidewalks, which officials say makes the buildings more visible from the road and saves money. Work began last July, and much of the sidewalk was completed by Christmas 2016. Liquidambar trees that had once lined the sidewalk were removed because their roots would push up against the wooden boardwalk. In their place, crepe myrtle trees have been planted along Bonita and the new sidewalks. A dedication ceremony for the work is set for 11 a.m. March 18 on Bonita Avenue, between San Dimas and Cataract avenues. Cost for the renovation and street improvements totaled $3.1 million, funded by the city’s general fund reserves and the citywide lighting district fund, according to the city. San Dimas was also awarded a state grant from the CalRecycle program, which supported some of the street reconstruction and repaving with recycled tire aggregate, according to city officials. The project comes after the city, working with downtown business owners, demolished the 1970s-era Western-themed facades from the historic downtown buildings in 2012, restoring the early 20th century look that they had been hiding for 40 years.
In an abrupt move, the city council has dismissed its city attorney and the law firm that provided legal services to the city for the last 4½ years, the council announced in a special meeting Feb. 6. Fullerton-based Jones & Mayer had represented Upland since September 2012. The interim city manager has been directed to negotiate a contract with Los Angeles-based Richards Watson & Gershon, and attorney Jim Markman, who also represents Rancho Cucamonga. Upland’s contract with Jones & Mayer, which was set to expire in 2018, terminated Feb. 12. This will be Markman’s second turn serving as city attorney. He started in Upland by providing legal counsel to the city’s then-redevelopment agency in the 1980s. He became city attorney in the early ’90s, when the previous city attorney retired after 40 years on the job. Markman said he served in that position for about eight years until another colleague took on the position.
In other business, Upland Hills Country Club homeowners have backed a plan to build condos surrounding the golf course, recognizing it could save the diamond green. The 18-hole public course and surrounding land, straddling 16th Street and developed starting in the 1980s, now has 544 units. Sale of the property to Rancho Cucamonga-based Diversified Pacific would allow the course owners to pay off the $5.8 million they still owe on their 2005 purchase, and better maintain the pitch. The proposal by the developer will shorten two of the greens to build 68 detached condominiums on 8.4 acres on the northeast corner of 16th Street and North Upland Hills Drive. The first step to shorten the Upland Hills Golf Course was unanimously approved by the Upland Planning Commission.
The developer will set aside $749,000 to the city for improvements at the golf course. As a condition of the approval, Diversified Pacific must first make the improvements to the golf course and then get reimbursed by the city. It will have one year, from when the permits are issued, to complete the work. The developer also met with a representative from the homeowners associations on the south and north sides of the country club. The latter included meeting with the board and its members. Documents were also left in the clubhouse with details for the project. The conceptual plans include seven floor plans, ranging from 1,390 square feet to 2,420 square feet. The units will incorporate California Spanish and Hacienda architectural styles. The project would bring the total number of housing units to 612 units on the 215 acres in the Upland Hills Country Club Specific Plan.
The company’s proposal also includes a covenant which could protect the golf course and homeowners. The owner of the golf course, or any future owners, cannot take on any other debt and secure it with the golf course without the vote of the homeowners association. The site improvements will be done all at once, but the homes will be built in phases, between five and seven per phase. To build the condominiums, an amendment to the Upland Hills Country Club Specific Plan must be approved. With the commission’s blessing, the development now goes to the city council for approval.
Additonally, Hanley Investment Group Real Estate Advisors announced the sale of Upland Village, a 60,857-square-foot grocery-anchored shopping center in Upland. The sale price of $17.2 million represented a cap rate of 5.83 percent, a record low cap rate for a stabilized grocery-anchored shopping center in the Inland Empire. Grocery Outlet and Dollar Tree anchor the neighborhood retail center. Hanley Investment Group President Ed Hanley and Executive Vice President Bill Asher, along with the seller’s exclusive advisor Joe Miller, a vice president at Voit Real Estate Services of Anaheim, represented the seller, Outpost Village, LLC, based in Orange County. The buyer, a Southern California-based private investor, was represented by Peter Loh of RE/MAX Realty 100 of Diamond Bar, and Paul Yang of RE/MAX Vantage of Eastvale. Built in 1972 on 3.92 acres, Upland Village is located at 110, 130, 140 and 180 Mountain Avenue, at the northeast corner of Mountain Avenue and West 8th Street in Upland. The neighborhood shopping center was 100 percent occupied at the time of the sale. Grocery Outlet and Dollar Tree represent over 50 percent of the occupied square footage. Upland Village is a 100 percent-occupied shopping center.
After debating for months whether to spend millions of dollars fighting a lawsuit that alleged West Covina’s at-large election system violated state law, the city has settled the case. On Feb. 21 , the city council voted 3-2 in closed session to enter a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs. The agreement establishes a schedule for the city to design and implement an electoral district map and prohibits the plaintiffs from filing any new lawsuits alleging voting rights violations as long as the city maintains its new district system through at least the November 2020 election. Mayor Pro Tem Mike Spence and Councilman Tony Wu cast the no votes on the agreement. As part of the agreement, the city will still have to negotiate how much it will pay the plaintiffs for attorney fees. City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow said Thursday she has not received any figures on potential payments yet. Filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by three West Covina residents in September, the lawsuit alleged the city’s at-large election system violated the state’s Voting Rights Act because it created “racially polarized voting,” meaning the preferred candidate of a minority group—Latinos in this case—was not the preferred candidate of the rest of the electorate. The suit, which was referred to as “blackmail” by some officials and residents, forced the council to adopt an ordinance last month establishing a district election system in which council members are elected every four years from five different areas of the city. Wu, who voted no on the ordinance, said he is still concerned districts would result in council members fighting only for the interests of residents in their district and not those of residents citywide. The approval of the settlement, which is subject to the court’s approval, came on the heels of a notice of intent to circulate a petition to restore at-large elections.
–Bill Ruh, CVAR Director of Government Affairs
Six new digital billboards will be constructed along the 10 Freeway in Baldwin Park under a new contract approved by the City Council. The council voted 3-2 to enter into a contract with Bulletin Displays, LLC, to install six new billboards and provide a time extension for an existing billboard along the 605 Freeway. The council also approved an amendment to city zoning code to allow for the addition of the billboards. The agreement is expected to bring in more than $10 million to the city’s general fund over the next 30 years. The new signs, which will have one digital face and one static face each, will be 48 feet in width and 14 feet in height, rising up to 65 feet above the freeway.
Chino Airport has received the go-ahead from the Federal Aviation Administration for construction of a parcel delivery facility on 139 acres abutting the eastern edge of the airport. The site is in Chino but belongs to San Bernardino County. Proposed is a 745,478- square-foot sorting and distribution hub for ground parcel delivery only. No air freight is proposed into or out of Chino Airport and no home deliveries would originate from the site. FAA approval is required because the western and southern 63 acres of the project site fall within the airport development zone. That zone is restricted to airport and aviation related facilities, services and administration, along with incidental office uses, according to municipal code. The project calls for changing the zoning in this portion of the site to light industrial. The remaining 76 acres of the site is within the Preserve specific plan, which is also covered by a form of zoning called an “overlay” to ensure compatibility of land uses with airport requirements.
The site is bordered on the north by Ontario. To the east is Watson Land Company’s 3.8 million-square-foot Chino warehouse project, which is nearing completion. The City of Chino has prepared a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance study and plans an environmental impact report for the project. A portion of the property is still in dairy use, according to the study. Two dairy farm enclosures and two residential structures remain on the site, with various outbuildings. Tractor-trailers would access the site from a 5,328-square-foot gateway building at Flight and Remington avenues. Other structures would include a 14,028-square-foot building for trailer maintenance on the southwest corner of the parcel, and two 220-square-foot guardhouses. The project site is approximately 4 miles west of the 15 Freeway, 3.3 miles south of the 60 Freeway and 3.2 miles northeast of the 71 Freeway. The CEQA study is available at city hall. Comments can be directed to senior planner Andrea Gilbert, (909) 334-3328.
Last month, Southern California Edison energized 500 kV lines buried in Chino Hills, completing a 10-year undertaking known as the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project. Overhead lines were activated in Chino and Ontario, concluding the 173-mile project from Tehachapi wind farms south to the Mira Loma Substation in Ontario. Edison informed property owners in October that the lines would be energized. The city of Chino Hills was informed the day after activation by Edison’s regional government affairs representative, Jennifer Menjivar-Shaw. The city spent more than $5 million in legal fees battling the utility giant to get rid of the towers. In July 2013, the California Public Utilities Commission ordered Edison to remove the 200-foot towers installed in 2011.
Claremont wants to reinstate its Committee on Human Relations. The Community and Human Services Commission voted unanimously to recommend restarting the committee, which was dissolved in 2013 after a lack of a quorum. The recommendation will now be sent to the city council for review. If approved by the council, the committee will be comprised of Paul Buch, Ellen Taylor, Lauren Roselle, Rose Ash and Michael Edwards. The committee in its first incarnation was created in 1996, as a way for the city to promote education and human relations in the community. After awhile, however, the committee was directionless and routinely lacked a quorum, according to Human Services Director Anne Turner. In 2013, it was closed by then-Human Services Director Kathleen Trepa in favor of the Human Relations Community Response Team (HRCRT), an action committee focused solely on helping people who were victims of hate crimes. Many of the hate crimes reported in Claremont in the years since took place at the colleges, however, and their own support structure rendered the action committee irrelevant. After several incidents in the community in 2016, the decision was made to do away with the HRCRT and reboot the Committee on Human Relations, comprised of HRCRT members Mr. Buch and Ms. Roselle, and community members Ms. Taylor, Ms. Ash and Mr. Edwards. To prevent the ineffectiveness that beset the previous committee, the committee has been tasked to come up with a plan for the next year on what to do in times of crisis as well as normalcy. If the committee is approved at the next council meeting, members will have until the March Community and Human Services Commission meeting to come up with a plan and present it. Monthly “benchmark goals” will also be established, regarding issues such as the duties and practices of Claremont police officers in regards to immigration.
Covina voters will decide whether to extend a utilities user tax that generates about $5 million annually for police, fire and other city services in the March 7 election. First adopted in 1992, the 6 percent tax is levied on telephone, gas, electricity and water services and is currently scheduled to sunset in 2019. The ballot question, Measure CC, asks voters to extend the tax at the same rate to March 2029. Behind property and sales taxes, the utility user tax is the general fund’s third-largest revenue source, representing about 15 percent of the fund’s revenues. If the ballot measure is not approved, the city would have to make significant cuts across all city departments, said Finance Director Anita Agramonte. The general fund’s biggest expenditures are the city’s police department and fire services, which are provided by the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The fund has a total budget of about $34.2 million, with nearly 70 percent, or $23.8 million, used for police and fire services, according to city documents. Agramonte said it wasn’t realistic that the city would be able to raise property and sales taxes enough in the near future to completely eliminate the utility tax, which has been charged at higher rates in the past. Utilities user taxes are becoming more common in the state, she added. The council decided to propose a sunset for the tax to keep the option open, according to Councilmember Walt Allen.
The long awaited Walmart Supercenter project could be delayed for months as the city may have to prepare a new environmental report on the store’s potential impacts. The project was slated to be developed at the northeast corner of Valley Boulevard and Arden Drive. In November, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the original report failed to adequately address the project’s impacts on traffic and air quality, and as a result, “the public will suffer irreparable harm.” In response, the city requested a new trial and reconsideration of the November judgment. Judge John Torribio heard arguments from both the city and lawyer Gideon Kracov, who represents resident Aaron Montenegro and other residents who filed the lawsuit against the city in January 2016. A final ruling on the motions is expected by mid-January. While the city and Walmart have yet to decide on their future course of action, city Economic Development Director Minh Thai said it would cost $80,000-100,000 and take six months to prepare a new environmental report that addresses the areas the court deemed inadequate. The new environmental report would then have to be approved by the city planning commission and then by the city council. Supporters say the city needs the Walmart for increased access to retail and the sales tax revenue that would be generated. The first environmental report said the store would generate an estimated $623,000 annually in sales and other taxes and fees, while costing the city approximately $115,000 for public safety and infrastructure maintenance. But opponents remain concerned that the store’s prices will put local stores out of business and its low wages will not help residents maintain a living. El Monte first approached Walmart in early 2010, hoping to bring the retail giant to a lot partially owned by the city at Santa Anita Avenue and Valley Boulevard.
Amid calls from residents and local activists to support all minority groups, not just undocumented immigrants, the city council unanimously voted to adopt a resolution declaring the city a sanctuary for immigrants, people of color, religious minorities, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities. The resolution, which was presented by Councilman Argudo and several residents, states that city officials will not enforce federal immigration laws or use city resources to apprehend people “whose only violation is or may be a civil violation of immigration law.” It was approved by the council in a 4-0 vote. Councilman Dan Holloway was absent from the meeting. The resolution adopted by the council was one of two brought forward for consideration in the wake of the election of Donald Trump for president. The other resolution was aimed only at undocumented immigrants and was modeled after the sanctuary city resolution adopted in Cudahy.
Logistics Plus Inc., a leading worldwide provider of transportation, logistics and supply chain solutions, has established a new long-term, full-building warehousing and fulfillment operation at 1291 S. Vintage Ave. in Ontario. The 272,448-square-foot building sits on 11 acres, 1.5 miles from Interstate 15, and features a fully secured yard, freeway access and 64 loading doors. In addition to its new Ontario facility, Logistics Plus has an existing Los Angeles warehouse located at 2207 E. Carson St. in Carson. The expanded presence in Southern California was driven by the company’s recent growth of supply chain solutions provided to WeWork, the world’s leading co-working space provider, and increased demand from Amazon retailers seeking third-party import, warehousing and fulfillment services.
Haven City Market, is taking shape in Rancho Cucamonga. The plan is to repurpose an older store property, in this case a former 85,000-square-foot J.C. Penney at 8443 Haven Ave. that closed in 2014, into something to attract millennials. The concept, according to city officials, will be similar to the Anaheim Packing House, which served as somewhat of an inspiration for the new retail proposal.
The Anaheim Packing House, opened in 2014, is located in a 42,000-square-foot, renovated 1919 Mission Revival-style citrus packing house. The historic property’s interior was transformed into a food hall that hosts a number of boutique food and beverage retailers. The Haven City Market, a short distance south of City Hall, will include a food hall, a gourmet food market, and retail space for food and beverage boutiques and retailers, and an outdoor garden area. According to city staff, a number of local breweries have expressed interest in leasing space when it opens sometime in 2018.
A similar project, called the Redlands Packing Plant, is planned for a historic 1912 packinghouse at 330 N. Third St., near the Kirkorian Cinema. Officials say the property will be restored to historic standards and will offer space for restaurants and specialty food retailers. Included will be history displays, public art and common areas. The project is anticipated by officials to take about two years to complete, with construction expected to start in 2017.
After the City Council banned all marijuana-related activities in October and voters turned down a measure that would have allowed for recreational use, residents might have assumed the issue of marijuana was settled. But in October, city leaders received 4,700 signatures asking that they overturn the 2016 ordinance establishing a marijuana ban. On Jan. 9, the council had to decide to either overturn the ban or leave the decision up to the voters through a special election, which would cost the financially strapped city a minimum of $100,000. Instead, the council agreed to continue the item to a future workshop. Some in attendance were pushing for a special election. If the council ultimately decides to accept the referendum, then it would have to adopt an ordinance repealing the ban. That would mean the city would not be allowed to replace the so-called super ban with another ordinance for at least a year. In that scenario, Upland would have to revert to the ordinance it previously had in place. City Attorney Richard Adams said there is language in the original ordinance that could still prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana once Proposition 64 goes into effect Jan. 1, 2018. Or, Upland could direct staff to begin the process of holding a special election on the referendum. The earliest a write-in election could be conducted is in May, or a standard election in June, according to Deputy City Manager Jeanette Vagnozzi. There are eight dispensaries still illegally operating in the city, which the city manager said have been closed but they reopen the following day. In the last year the city spent $285,000 trying to eradicate illegal dispensaries, he said.
A proposal to develop a Dunkin’ Donuts at a West Covina shopping center was soundly rejected by the city’s planning commission last week, but that doesn’t mean the coffeehouse chain won’t come to town. In a 5-0 vote, the commission denied LT Global South Hills Plaza’s proposal to renovate a 5,175-square foot building at the corner of Azusa Avenue and Aroma Drive into a Dunkin’ Donuts facility with a drive-through and outdoor dining area. The unanimous decision came after dozens of residents spoke in opposition to the project, which they fear will put the neighboring Rainbow Donuts shop out of business, and more than 5,000 signed a petition urging the city to keep the coffeehouse chain out of the plaza. The commission still has to officially adopt a resolution outlining the reasons for denying the project at its Jan. 24 meeting, at which point the applicant can appeal the commission’s decision to the City Council for up to 10 calendar days. LT Global representatives, who have said they believe both businesses can succeed at the plaza, have not said whether they’ll appeal the decision. In February, a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee signed a lease with LT Global to occupy the space next to Rainbow Donuts, which has been owned and run by Sing Yam for nearly 30 years. While they acknowledged they couldn’t deny the project simply because of concerns about competition for Yam’s business, commissioners said they felt the proposed use for the space was inconsistent with required findings necessary for approval. For example, due to concerns about increased traffic in an already congested area, commissioners said they didn’t think the proposed use was “necessary or desirable to provide a service or facility which will contribute to the general well-being of the neighborhood or community,” as required to approve a use permit for the drive-through and outdoor dining. Planning Director Jeff Anderson said that because donut shops are allowed in the city “by right,” the only way to deny the project was to determine the proposed use was inconsistent with city planning findings.
In other news, after reversing an earlier decision to adopt a by-district voting system in which council members would be elected from four districts and a mayor would be elected at-large, the West Covina City Council this week instead moved forward with a five-district system to resolve an ongoing lawsuit challenging the city’s current at-large election system. The council voted 3-2 in favor of adopting an elections system in which council members are elected every four years from five geographic areas of the city. By establishing five districts instead of four, each council member would have the opportunity to serve as mayor for one year. The issue of whether to change the city’s current electoral system was prompted by a lawsuit that alleges the city’s current election method violates the California Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit alleges the system has created “racially polarized voting” in the city, meaning the preferred candidate of a minority group—Latinos in this case—is not the preferred candidate of the rest of the electorate. Because the chances of winning the case–which could cost the city millions, win or lose–are low, three of the five council members have said they must adopt districts even though they prefer at-large systems. The vote on a five-district system came after Councilman Lloyd Johnson made an ultimatum earlier this month. Johnson, who initially voted in favor of a four-district system with a directly elected mayor, said he had heard from several residents who were concerned that if the city elected a mayor directly they would never see a mayor come from their neighborhoods. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in September, was the latest in several attempts over the last decade to establish a system in which council members come from all parts of the city. In 2009, a group of residents, including one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, collected enough signatures to place a measure on the ballot to establish council districts in West Covina, but the ballot measure failed. Since then, the plaintiffs’ attorneys have sent two letters, one in 2011 and one in July 2016, demanding that the city abandon at-large methods. Historically, the majority of the city council has hailed from the South Hills neighborhood in the northeast end of West Covina. Currently, no council members live south of Francisquito Avenue, a fact that makes some residents feel they are not adequately represented on the city’s governing body.
Even before being officially sworn in on Monday, Nov. 21, Police Chief Steve Hunt’s leadership was tested. As interim chief and just after being named chief of the Azusa Police Department in early November, Hunt had two fires and an Election Day shooting to handle. Hunt, a former Arcadia Police Explorer and U.S. Army veteran, is replacing Chief Samuel Gonzalez, who retired in June. Hunt graduated from the Orange County Sheriff’s Academy in February 1990, and began his law enforcement career with the Azusa PD. Hunt worked a variety of assignments with the department, including Explorer Advisor, SWAT Member and Commander, Narcotics Detective, Active Shooter Instructor, Gang Investigator, Terrorism Liaison Officer, and has earned Meritorious Service and Exceptional Achievement awards. Hunt feels confident in the department he is inheriting, especially after dealing with an active shooter situation this last Election Day. Hunt is married and has a daughter, with whom he volunteers to assist the Southern California Special Olympics. Hunt also teaches Administration of Justice at Citrus Community College in Glendora.
The Baldwin Park City Council approved two development agreements for townhome projects in the downtown area, effectively killing a separate plan to construct a three-acre community plaza and park on the land. The council voted 3-2 to enter the disposition and development agreements with Walbern Development, a subsidiary of MJW Investments LLC, to develop 26 market-rate townhomes across from City Hall, at the intersection of Maine and Pacific avenues, and approximately 27 townhomes at the intersection of Ramona Boulevard and Badillo Street. Mayor Pro Tem Susan Rubio and Councilwoman Cruz Baca voted against approving the agreements. Up until the council entered exclusive negotiating agreements with the developer in February, the two elected officials had been working to create a civic plaza and park on the land. The city is expected to receive up to $1.25 million for the sale of the Maine and Pacific property, and $450,000 for the Ramona and Badillo property, according to city documents.
Ray Marquez was selected by his peers as the new mayor for Chino Hills in a unanimous vote on Nov. 22. Peter Rogers was selected vice mayor. Unlike many area localities where the mayor is elected, the position is rotated each year in Chino Hills. The term is Mr. Marquez’s first as mayor since his election to the city council in 2013. Mr. Marquez said his No. 1 goal is to resolve the lighting and landscape shortfall by holding community meetings and possibly hiring a consultant. His second priority is establishing an emergency preparedness plan to handle earthquakes and fire.
He also wishes to institute a volunteer program for a community emergency response team.
Mr. Marquez, 60, believes a plan of action is necessary to establish new fire stations in Chino Hills to accommodate growth. He will serve on the ad hoc committee to resolve differences between the city and the fire district about funding the new stations. Finding money for the extension of Pine Avenue off the 71 Freeway will also be a priority, he said. The project has been ruminating for decades. He also wants to be more involved in the 71 Freeway widening project in Pomona, and seeks improvements for the 71-91 interchange. Mr. Marquez was elected to the city council in a special election in March 2013 to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former councilman Bill Kruger.
Developments this month set the stage for a litigation battle over the future of private water systems in California. Private water companies, equity funds, and public agencies could all be affected by this potentially precedent-setting eminent domain fight. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin on Nov. 10, 2016 issued a tentative decision blocking the City of Claremont’s plan to exercise eminent domain over the private water system serving its residents. Claremont has filed objections, and the court could hand down a final decision within a month. If the tentative decision stands, the system’s current owner, Golden State Water, will retain control, and the City’s years-long takeover effort will have suffered a significant blow. The decision may also affect similar pending suits filed by Casitas Municipal Water District against Golden State in Ventura Superior Court in May of this year, and by the town of Apple Valley against Liberty Utilities in San Bernardino Superior Court in January. Claremont filed suit against Golden State in December 2014, after Golden State rejected Claremont’s $56 million offer to purchase the water system. To forcibly acquire a currently operating private utility like Golden State, which has offered water to the public in Claremont since 1929, California Civil Procedure Code section 1240.610 requires a public entity to demonstrate that its desired use is “more necessary” than the property’s current use. In the case of a water, gas, or electric utility, section 1240.650 provides a rebuttable presumption that the use of property by a public entity qualifies as a “more necessary use” than private ownership. Judge Fruin interpreted the phrase “more necessary use” to require “[t]hat the benefits from municipal operation must be significant over the present operation of the water system.” This interpretation will be a central focus of any appeal by the city. Following a 21-day bench trial, the court determined that Claremont’s proposed use failed to satisfy the “more necessary” statutory requirement. Specifically, Judge Fruin wrote that the city had not fully explained to the court why it wanted to exercise eminent domain over the water system. The court also faulted the city for failing to submit appropriate factual findings supporting the proposed takeover, a requirement the court found to be “implied by” the private utility’s “statutory right to rebut the presumptions favoring public ownership.” The court agreed with Golden State’s criticisms of Claremont’s proffered plan tasking the nearby city of La Verne with day-to-day operations of the facility, concluding that La Verne had a poor record of water quality, maintenance, and reporting of testing results. The court further dismissed arguments that Golden State had overcharged Claremont ratepayers, rejecting the city’s argument that a fee known as a “water rate adjustment mechanism,” which allows Golden State to impose a surcharge on ratepayers when water usage falls below a standard set by the Public Utilities Commission, should be viewed as a “penalty” imposed on ratepayers for conserving water. On Nov. 23, the city filed objections to the court’s decision, arguing, among other things, that the court had misapplied the statutory presumption and “instead imposed on the city a burden akin to absolute necessity.” Once the court finalizes its decision, the city council will determine whether to appeal, triggering a statutory interpretation dispute with significant implications for the pending eminent domain cases in Ojai and Apple Valley, as well as with private water systems and investors across California.
San Fernando City Manager Brian Saeki has been selected to be Covina’s new top executive. Saeki, 42, has nearly two decades of experience in the public sector, working for the cities of Downey, Rosemead, Arcadia, and San Fernando in various positions, including community development director, assistant city manager and economic development manager, according to a city statement. He has been the city manager in San Fernando for nearly three years. The council is expected to approve his employment contract at their Tuesday meeting. He will take over for Interim City Manager Don Penman on Jan. 3, with an annual base salary of $205,000. Saeki’s hiring comes about seven months after former City Manager Andrea Miller resigned from the position. He was selected from a group of more than 50 applicants nationwide. Saeki currently lives in East Pasadena and is a member of the International City Managers Association and the California City Managers Foundation. He has a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning from Cal Poly Pomona, and master’s degree in public administration from California State University Northridge.
Two new affordable veteran housing projects are expected to open in El Monte by 2019. Hollywood Community Housing Corporation is set to break ground on its Palo Verde Apartments project, at 4704-4716 Peck Road, Jan. 25. Meanwhile, Mercy Housing is looking build another affordable veteran housing project at the intersection of Baldwin and Rose avenues by as early as 2019. Palo Verde is expected to have 49 single, double and triple apartments, and Mercy’s project is expected to offer 55 of the same varieties to house single veterans and those with families. Twenty-five of Palo Verde’s units will be dedicated to housing low-income or homeless veterans, while the remainder can go to locals whose incomes fall below 50 percent of the area median income. For Mercy, 32 of the units will house low-income veterans, and 22 will go specifically to homeless veterans. The city has different levels of involvement with each project. In the case of Palo Verde, the city offered a $360,000 low-interest loan for construction. With Mercy, the city is working to acquire railroad-owned land at the intersection of Baldwin and Rose avenues to transfer to Mercy at a cost of $2.66 million, and the city is also providing Mercy a $750,000 low-interest loan to be repaid over 55 years. While Hollywood Housing has built apartments for special needs populations for years, this is its first project serving veterans, said Executive Director Sarah Letts. After attending City Council meetings and seeing a strong veteran presence in the city, Letts said she understands why El Monte has gone out of its way to help organizations get these housing projects built. Mercy already has a presence in the city, having built the El Monte Veterans Village, an affordable veteran housing project with 40 studio apartments that opened in 2014. New housing for homeless or low-income veterans is sorely needed in the San Gabriel Valley, with an estimated 7,800 veteran families and 500-1,000 homeless veterans, said Ed Holder, vice president of real estate development for Mercy Housing California. Negotiations with First American Title and the Alameda Corridor-East Construction are ongoing. The City Council voted unanimously to extend its escrow window with First American Title and the authority from Dec. 31 to June 30, 2017, allowing real estate negotiations to continue into the new year. One way organizations such as Hollywood Housing and Mercy can help create more affordable housing for those who are homeless or near to it is the proposed county-wide quarter-cent sales tax to help fund homeless supportive services, approved for the March ballot on Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Rumors and uncertainty regarding the demolition of Irwindale (CA) Speedway have been a dark cloud hanging over the facility for the past two seasons. It appears race fans and enthusiasts can breathe a sigh of relief, at least for 2017. The Irwindale Event Center (IEC) revealed via a press release Wednesday, Oct. 25, that the facility is scheduling events for next season. The IEC includes the LA Racing Experience, Irwindale Speedway, Advanced Driving Dynamics, and Irwindale Dragstrip. IEC said that it will continue its Thursday Night Drags, NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and Nights of Destruction, along with special events such as K&N Pro Series West, HotVW’s Drag Day, the NHRA Summit Series, Thursday Night Drift, Truckin’ for Kids, Formula Drift Championship, and “MoonEyes,” all being presented on the traditional calendar dates. The uncertainty surrounding the facility dates back to May 2015, when it was reported that the site would likely be demolished to make room for an outlet mall. However, no further action has been taken toward the demolition of the facility. For more information visit www.irwindalespeedway.com
Local officials celebrated the completion of a sound wall in La Puente with a dedication ceremony. The wall, which now covers a total of 6,050 feet along the major thoroughfare, helps to mitigate noise generated from vehicle and truck traffic, as well as railroad operations for more than 80 residential properties in La Puente and City of Industry. The third and final phase of the project, which included drainage improvements and the installation of a walkway, was funded by an inter-local loan agreement approved between the two cities in October 2015. The project had been ongoing for several years. La Puente Mayor Valerie Munoz said funding difficulties held up the project for some time. Construction of the wall began in 2010. Officials broke ground on the last piece of the wall in early 2016.
Upland took the first steps to disband its fire department after more than a century of service, seeking to turn fire protection over to San Bernardino County. The move by the City Council might save $3.5 million a year, in large part by imposing a parcel tax on property owners of $148 a year. Upland spends nearly $46 million a year, most of which goes to police and fire. Interim City Manager Marty Thouvenell got a proposal from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, but concluded that keeping a city police force is $1.3 million cheaper. Outsourcing fire protection has more promise for savings. Rather than continue to spend $11.9 million on a city fire department, Upland can contract with the county for $7.6 million and get equal, and possibly better, service. The actual difference in providing the service is roughly $600,000 to $1 million, but the savings are greater because annexing to the county fire district would include a parcel tax that would generate $3 million per year and lower the city’s contract costs. The council voted 5-0 to file the application and authorize Thouvenell to negotiate a contract that would return to the council for discussion and possible approval by mid-2017. The goal is for any takeover to occur prior to Aug. 8, the deadline for putting a parcel tax on the assessor’s tax rolls.
A controversial solar project proposed for a hillside across from the campus of Mt. San Antonio College will have to go through the city for a grading permit, according to college officials. Superior Court Judge James Chalfant last week upheld a city stop-work order and granted United Walnut Taxpayers, a neighborhood group opposing the project, its request for a preliminary injunction, according to court documents. The court’s ruling effectively postpones any work on the 10-acre, ground-mounted system of solar panels until the trial in March and the lawsuits are resolved, according to the city of Walnut.
The court ruling is a victory for the city, which has sued the college, contending Mt. SAC must obtain a conditional-use permit and a grading permit. Mt. SAC, both publicly and in court, maintained that the project is not subject to city laws—the college said that its solar panels fall under state laws for generating solar capacity. Mt. SAC also said that as a community college district, its projects are not subject to local zoning ordinances. Mt. SAC President William Scroggins said that the matter was purely a technical issue. He said the judge both signed off on the college’s environmental documents and supported the conclusion that the college does not have to adhere to city zoning laws. Mt. SAC still must submit its application for a grading permit to the city of Walnut, which will delay the project, Scroggins said. At issue is whether the college can build a 2.2-megawatt solar-generating facility on a 24-acre, college-owned parcel of land, on the southwest corner of Grand and Temple Avenues. The solar project will cost approximately $7 million and will eventually shave the college’s electric power bill by about $400,000 a year. Walnut officials said the college will “tear down hillsides and fill in existing ravines to create a building pad” for rows of photovoltaic panels. The project will also involve 160 large truck trips per day for 109 days in order to import between 163,000 and 260,000 cubic yards of fill dirt. This is equivalent to filling an ordinary football field over 120 feet in height, said Walnut City Manager Rob Wishner, in a prepared statement.
The West Covina City Council has forged an exclusive negotiating agreement with Singpoli Group LLC that could bring an amusement park to a former BKK landfill site in the city. Pending approval, Singpoli President and CEO Kin Hui said he hopes to complete the project, which could span as many as 200 acres, within a few years. A portion of the park would be built on 122 acres the city owns, but plans to sell the remaining 84 acres that would be leased to Singpoli. City Manager Chris Freeland said the city envisions an entertainment complex that could include everything from a zip line ride to virtual reality attractions that are interactive. The city is required to sell the 122-acre portion of the property under requirements associated with the dissolution of redevelopment agencies in California.
Singpoli will return in 90 days with a project plan. If all goes well, the city would then negotiate a sale and development agreement with Singpoli and the project would move forward with community meetings and an environmental impact report. Singpoli plans to partner with Hong Kong development firm Lan Kwai Fong Group (LKF) and Tom Mehrmann, chief executive of Ocean Park Corp., to develop the proposed outdoor recreational park. Both have experience working on park development. LKF founder Allen Zeman was successful in transforming Ocean Park in Hong Kong into an award-winning amusement park that has been recognized as a World’s Top Theme Park. The now-closed landfills are located at 2210 Azusa Ave., West Covina, and the landfill covered 583 acres. To the southeast, several homes are only 25 to 50 feet away from the BKK property, according to a report from 2005 on closure and monitoring from the state Department of Toxic and Substance Control. The Class I landfill accepted hazardous waste. The Class III landfill portion accepted nonhazardous, solid household waste. The hazardous waste landfill began operating in 1963 and continued to accept hazardous liquid waste through 1984, when it stopped receiving most types of hazardous waste. According to the DTSC report, from 1972 through 1984 the landfill accepted approximately 3.4 million tons of hazardous waste, in addition to large amounts of nonhazardous waste. Examples of the kinds of waste buried at the BKK Class 1 landfill include (but are not limited to) asbestos; acid and alkaline solutions and sludges; cyanide wastes; contaminated soils, drilling muds and petroleum wastes; heavy metal solutions; oils; paint wastes; plating solutions; pesticides; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); phenolic wastes, and solvents, according to the report. BKK’s hazardous waste landfill continued operating, receiving only asbestos waste until 1987. Actual closure of the landfill was completed and certified by BKK in 1991. The Class III landfill accepted municipal waste from 1987 to 1996. Phil Lempert, a Santa Monica-based expert on consumer behavior and marketing trends, figures Singpoli may be onto something, especially if they incorporate virtual reality into the mix. Lempert said the park’s success would also depend largely on keeping costs down. Paul Ruben, North American editor for the industry trade publication Park World, noted that VR experiences are typically “low capacity attractions,” in that few visitors can participate in such attractions at any given time. But Southern California’s temperate climate is a plus, he said, because it allows amusement parks to operate year round.
What do you do with a 500-foot-tall mound that covers San Gabriel Valley’s waste? You build a park on top of it. That is what the Board of Supervisors signed off on when they approved the plan for the Puente Hills Landfill Park, a 142-acre park in Puente Hills on what was the second largest landfill in the country. The project amounts to turning trash into treasure, said officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation. The department, along with Withers & Sandgren Landscape Architecture & Planning, are leading an expert team in a 1 ½-year master plan “to envision a new life for this imposing 500-foot-tall mountain built over 60 years, from 130 million tons of our collective waste, according to the Puente Hills Landfill Park website. The master plan for the 1,365-acre landfill site features hiking, biking and horse trails, stair climbs, running loops, a dog park, and outdoor performance, picnic and play areas. A zip line is also being considered, but Supervisors Hilda Solis and Don Knabe called for more environmental analysis and amended the plan to dictate that no zip line would be built for at least 20 years. Construction of the park is set to begin in 2018 and take place in three phases over 30 years. The landfill was once the deepest landfill in operation. Now, the site which closed in October 2013, remains the largest landfill gas-to-energy operation in the country, according to the sanitation district’s director of solid waste management. The site is expected to continue to supply electrical power to residents through Southern California Edison for another 10 years.
For nearly 40 years, reaching Wrightwood or the San Gabriel Mountains ski areas directly from the San Gabriel Valley by Highway 39 has been a dead end. A 1978 mud-and-rock slide took out a 4.4-mile chunk of the mountain highway about 27 miles north of Azusa, leaving a gap between State Route 39 and its more famous cousin, State Route 2, better known as Angeles Crest Highway. For decades, civic and business leaders called for repairing the broken portion of the state highway bisecting a majestic set of canyons, peaks and rivers, among the most popular of our national forests. In 2009 the state had answered in the affirmative, but in 2011, just days before construction was to begin, Caltrans announced it abandoned the fix. Instead, the $32 million set aside for Highway 39 went toward repairing a bridge on Highway 1 in Northern California. Now, five years after the reversal, the cities of Azusa and Glendora, business groups, a local congresswoman and the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments have persuaded Caltrans to consider reopening the road to Highway 2, state and local officials reported.
During recent behind-the-scenes meetings initiated by Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-El Monte, Caltrans listened to local leaders as to why the highway should once again connect with State Route 2, officials said. They argued:
- Fires and floods can leave people in Mountain Cove, an Azusa mountain neighborhood, and various mountain camps and campgrounds trapped in the San Gabriel Mountains with no way out. Providing a northerly escape route through Highway 39 to Highway 2 could save lives and also provide quicker fire suppression responses.
- Congestion in the North, West and East forks of the San Gabriel River — popular recreation spots during summer and fall — would be relieved by completing the loop to Highway 2, moving people and traffic through Wrightwood, a quaint mountain town, and connecting to the high-desert communities.
The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, a collaboration of 31 cities, three county supervisors and three water agencies, has written a letter to the U.S. Forest Service, asking to include a completed State Route 39 as part of its management plan for the forest and the 346,177-acre San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. The COG says the entire route was included in a 1919 state bond measure. The letter states completion of the 4.4-mile damaged portion would provide better access for recreation, fire suppression and search and rescue teams.
On Thursday, Oct. 13, the City of Baldwin Park celebrated the opening of a 69-unit affordable housing apartment complex that they hope will serve as a catalyst for revitalizing the downtown area.
The project, named Metro Village, provides one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments for families making 60 percent or less of the median county income. More than 3,000 people applied to live in the four-story building, which is located at 14428 E. Ramona Blvd., and is within walking distance of the Baldwin Park Metrolink station. The building will also have 5,500 square feet of space for commercial retail. The developer of the project, Santa Clara-based ROEM Corp., estimated in 2014 that the building would house about 338 people. The complex is part of the city’s plan to provide more low-income housing through the federal program known as Section 8. When Baldwin Park opened its wait list for the program in August for the first time in 13 years, more than 8,400 people applied. The building features a community lounge, fitness room, learning center and a barbecue area. Rent ranges from $442 to $931 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, $513 to $1,100 for a two-bedroom apartment and $581 to $1,258 for a three-bedroom apartment. The $27 million project was funded by a 9 percent low-income housing tax credits allocation, as well as federal housing funds and a loan from the city. The property, located next to the Baldwin Park Police Department, required demolishing the entry to the city’s jail and a police evidence room.
Street makeovers, updated storm drains and a new street sweeper are on the way to Chino.
The City Council on Tuesday, Oct. 18, approved $2.75 million in capital projects to maintain or improve the quality of the city’s infrastructure. The projects will begin and finish in the 2016-17 fiscal year. The council unanimously awarded contracts to R.J. Noble Co. for $1,429,375, for street rehabilitation projects on Ramona Avenue from Walnut Avenue to Philadelphia Street, Pipeline Avenue from Edison to Eucalyptus avenues and Riverside Drive from Central to Oaks avenues, and along Riverside from Ross to Magnolia avenues. Noble, a licensed firm in Orange, was the lowest bidder. Young and Associates, a Pasadena firm, was the lowest bidder of 15 companies with its winning bid of $984,526 on the Chino Avenue storm drain project, stretching from Benson to Oaks avenues.
A decade after Southern California Edison announced plans to run high-voltage wind energy power lines through the city, and three years after an unprecedented decision to bow to public pressure calling to underground them, SCE is about to flip the switch. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, according to a statement posted on the city website, SCE’s goal is to energize and enter into service the so-called “Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project’s” power lines through—and under—Chino Hills by mid-November. In a prepared statement published on the Chino Hills website from SCE, the company said the undergrounding of the power cables was an unprecedented, “first-of-its-kind” project in the United States. The power lines are part of a $2.1 billion project that aims to bring wind-produced electricity over a 225-mile stretch from Kern County to the Los Angeles Basin. It is part of a state mandate to generate more sustainable energy. The city of Chino Hills filed an official protest back in August 2007, but the California Public Utilities Commission approved the project with large overhead towers and lines 2 ½ years later. Residents protested when work to erect the 198-feet-tall towers above ground and through neighborhoods began in 2011. Residents’ concerns centered on impacted property values and health and safety fears that electromagnetic radiation could cause cancer, and that the tall structures could topple in an earthquake. An alternate plan, which had been rejected by the California Public Utility Commission, would have routed the lines through nearby Chino Hills State Park. After many discussions, the PUC reversed itself in July 2013, voting 3-2 in favor of undergrounding high-voltage power lines though 3.5-miles of Chino Hills. The lines remain above ground in Chino and Ontario. An SCE spokesman said the utility company will provide more detailed comments on the project at a time closer to the start of its operation.
A half-finished townhome project on the northern part of town may soon resume construction. Claremont Director of Community Development Brian Desatnik said the city is close to reaching a deal with Newport Beach-based developer William Lyons Homes over its 95 half-built townhomes near the 210 Freeway, on a former strawberry patch just east of the intersection of Baseline Road and Towne Avenue. The Claremont City Council in February learned that construction stalled because the developer needed to reassess the market. Claremont has met with William Lyons several times over the summer. The last meeting was in early September. In early 2015, William Lyon Homes announced plans for the project, which is called Meadow Park, an attached-home community, promising an impressive selection of townhome and motor court designs with charming, well-appointed interiors that accommodate a range of lifestyles.
In other items, the former 64-room Howard Johnson’s motel, dating to 1968 and converted into the Knights Inn last year, and will mostly be demolished next year. The Architectural Commission recently gave final approval for a 121-room, four-story Hampton Inn & Suites at the site, which is on Indian Hill Boulevard, immediately north of the 10 Freeway. But the 5-1 approval came with a set of conditions, the most significant was to address what commissioners believe are critical design flaws. During the design process, the commission indicated to Smart Investments that it wanted the new hotel to have classical design elements, recommending the company look to Pomona College as an example. But what it reviewed missed the mark. Officials with Smart Investments said the architect was directed to simplify the original design and did what was suggested, using the college as a reference. The problem, commissioners pointed out, is Pomona College’s buildings are only two stories high. Many also expressed concern the design had been too simplified. The commission recommended to the developer:
Use a contrasting color band on the second and third floors
- Paint the fourth floor a lighter color
- Raise the stone base to the second floor for certain portions of the building
- Work with staff to enhance some window treatments
The commission also asked for the first floor windows to be made to appear bigger.
The Planning Commission is expected to meet later this month to review one last element of the project, an agreement to share parking with The BC Cafe.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $1.9 million grant to build the new center at Kelby Park, 815 N. Barranca Ave. The city’s current senior center, the Joslyn Center also at Kelby, has fallen into disrepair and is slated for demolition. The 1979 building has been out of use since February, leaving senior activities scattered about the city. For months and through multiple study sessions and workshops, city officials evaluated various sites for the new center, which is estimated to cost around $6.5 million. The council earlier this month decided to pursue both Kelby Park and the Covina Woman’s Club for the new center. Although the county grant is specific to the center being built at the park, the city could ask the county to amend the grant. That being said, Kelby Park is the prefered site. Officials said that the city is still studying the woman’s club option. The project still faces a funding shortfall. Penman said that including the county grant, the city only has around $3 million earmarked for the project.
The opening of a 500,000-square-foot, $55-million industrial park is the single largest industrial development in the city in two decades, according to city officials. The new Magellan Gateway, located on Temple City Boulevard where El Monte meets with Rosemead and Temple City, opened earlier this month. Three of Magellan Gateway’s five buildings have already been sold to The Gill Corporation, Jans Investment and Management and Dream Home Temple City Boulevard. City admits that new projects of this size are hard to come by throughout the county, which is why they are especially pleased that it’s in El Monte. In this case, Magellan Gateway’s opening also helped keep one of the city’s top employers from potentially leaving. The Gill Corporation, which manufactures lightweight structural materials for aircraft, had been looking to either expand or move, Thai said, and expanding into a building at Magellan Gateway allowed the company to stay in El Monte and keep from interruptions to its business. The business has 450 employees and will look to hire 50 more with this expansion. The location appealed to the Magellan Group because of a lack of new construction in the region for several years. Magellan is planning another project elsewhere in the San Gabriel Valley, Staley said, but the group is not yet ready to discuss details.
Rumors and uncertainty regarding the demolition of Irwindale (CA) Speedway have been a dark cloud hanging over the facility for the past two seasons. It appears race fans and enthusiasts can breathe a sigh of relief – at least for 2017. The Irwindale Event Center (IEC), revealed via a press release Wednesday, Oct. 25, that the facility is scheduling events for next season. The IEC includes the LA Racing Experience, Irwindale Speedway, Advanced Driving Dynamics, and Irwindale Dragstrip. IRC said that they will continue the Thursday Night Drags, NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and Nights of Destruction, along with special events such as K&N Pro Series West, HotVW’s Drag Day, the NHRA Summit Series, Thursday Night Drift, Truckin’ for Kids, Formula Drift Championship, and ‘MoonEyes,’ all being presented on their traditional calendar dates. The uncertainty surrounding the facility dates back to May of 2015, when it was reported that the site was likely to be demolished to make room for an outlet mall. However, no further action has been taken toward the demolition of the facility. For more information visit http://www.irwindalespeedway.com.
A high production city well has been shut down for several weeks after city officials began to notice a disturbing trend. Well 7A was recently shutdown when the city discovered an elevated level of the toxic industrial cleaning agent trichloroethylene, commonly referred to as TCE, according to a staff report to the council. The issue was identified during the city’s ongoing water quality inspections. Officials say that they have not exceeded or violated any water quality standards and there was no contamination. To solve the issue, staff is recommending installing a new aeration system. With one well down, the city will also need to fix Well 20, which has been out of operation and needs to be rehabilitated. The council is expected to also authorize $1.2 million toward a work plan, as well as looking to address a $13 million replacement project for one of its reservoirs. The council is expected to set aside $197,209 to purchase and install aeration equipment, to remove TCE from Well 7A, located in Reservoir 4. Another $43,066 is needed to purchase and install electrical components for Reservoir 4, according to the report to the council. Reservoir 4 is between South Campus Avenue and North 6th Avenue. During the process of looking for an aeration system, officials discovered the tank at Reservoir 15 is similar to other tanks with defects. Staff determined the best solution would be to replace it as soon as possible. The cost to acquire property from San Antonio Water Company, as well as the design and construction of a replacement tank, would take anywhere from $12 million to $13 million, which the Water Fund does not have.
Residents could see their trash bills go up by more than $3 over the next five years if the City Council adopts a proposed rate increase schedule. The council will consider the increases and a 10th amendment to the city’s longtime contract with Athens Services, following a Proposition 218 hearing to give property owners an opportunity to challenge the proposal. If approved by the City Council, the monthly waste collection rates would increase this year by 7 percent—from $27.77 to $29.72 for a residential 90-gallon barrel. The rates would increase an additional 3 percent, plus consumer price index in 2017 and 2018, under the proposal. In 2019 and 2020, the rates would only be adjusted by the index. The proposed amendment would increase the trash hauler’s $100,000 annual contribution to the city to $300,000 a year, which would go directly to the city’s general fund, said City Manager Chris Freeland. Previously, Athens’ contribution could only be used for the police department’s SWAT program and the city’s Fourth of July celebration. In 2012, the council extended the term of a 12-year rolling agreement with Athens, known as an evergreen contract, to a 25-year one. Since then, the company has requested a one-time rate increase of 10 percent on three different occasions, according to a staff report. The city began negotiating with Athens last year to resolve the requested rate increases, which were never granted, and other issues over the existing agreement terms. Throughout negotiations, the city expressed concerns over the lengthy term of the evergreen agreement, which renews automatically each year, but the company was unwilling to address the issue. If the rates are approved, residents will see the increases, which are retroactive to July 1, 2016, at different times, because Athens does not bill the entire community at one time, according to city staff.
City officials along Foothill Gold Line communities from Azusa to Montclair are not just hopeful for the success of the Los Angeles County Measure M half-cent sales tax ballot initiative, which would mean completion of the train line sooner rather than later, they’re banking on it. Anticipation for the Gold Line has been an economic catalyst for so-called “transit-oriented developments,” such as mixed-use projects incorporating apartments and retail space that have already been built along the route. The trains are expected to start rolling into several foothill area stations throughout the stretch in 2025, with a six-year construction schedule expected to begin in 2019, if voters in LA County approve Measure M, the LA County Traffic Improvement Plan that funds a number of projects through the region. If approved, the sales tax measure would begin collecting revenue in 2017, and would increase another 1 cent in 2039. Cost for the final stretch of the Gold Line, from Azusa to Montclair, is about $1.2 billion. San Bernardino Associated Governments, which secures funding for transportation projects in San Bernardino County, has committed to funding the last portion of the stretch outside of Los Angeles County, which Gold Line Authority officials estimate at $63 million, to connect Claremont to Montclair. A distant Plan B, should the ballot measure fail, would have Metro looking at local, state and federal funding opportunities, such as low-interest loans or other mechanisms we can use to keep things moving.
Moody’s Investors Service has upgraded the City of Azusa’s Certificates of Participation Series 2003 to Baa3 from Ba2. The two-notch difference between the city’s Baa1 Issuer Rating (implied GO rating) and lease-backed obligation rating reflects the standard legal structure for these California abatement lease financings and “more essential” leased assets, as well as an additional consideration for the city’s level of fiscal stress. Without a loan from the city’s water enterprise, the city’s unrestricted cash balance would be close to zero (fiscal 2015). Additionally, its general fund balance consists largely of land assets and advances to its Successor Agency, and therefore non-spendable. The leased assets include City Hall and the city’s Senior Center. The notching also reflects certain strong legal features of California general obligation bonds that are not shared by lease-backed obligations. This action concludes a review undertaken in conjunction with the publication on July 26, 2016 of the Lease, Appropriation, Moral Obligation, and Comparable Debt of US State and Local Governments Methodology.
The stable outlook on the COPs reflects the stable outlook on the city’s Issuer Rating.
Factors that could lead to an upgrade:
– Improvement of the general credit profile of the issuer
Factors that could lead to a downgrade:
– Deterioration in the general credit profile of the issuer
The COPs are secured by lease payments made by the City of Azusa, for use and occupancy of the leased assets.
The City Council fired Police Chief Michael Taylor on Sept. 21 after less than three years on the job. The council voted 3-2 in closed session to dismiss Taylor “without cause,” Mayor Manuel Lozano announced at the beginning of the council’s regular meeting. Councilwoman Cruz Baca and Councilman Ricardo Pacheco voted against his dismissal. Capt. Joe Bartolotti was appointed interim chief effective immediately. Taylor, who had been with the department since 1981, was named interim police chief and interim executive team manager in December 2013, when the council fired its CEO, chief of police and city attorney following a change in the government body’s political majority. His promotion came a day after then-Police Chief Lili Hadsell placed Taylor on administrative leave for allegedly working on his doctorate degree on city time and for using department resources to research a stalking issue regarding one of his professors, according to a claim Hadsell later filed with the city. Earlier this year, the council added an educational incentive pay of 10 percent to his contract for the receipt of a doctorate degree. He was making a base salary of $165,000, according to city documents.
DSW Inc., a leading branded footwear and accessories retailer, announced the Sept. 22 opening of a new DSW in Chino. The new store is located at: Chino Spectrum TC, 4049 Grande Ave., Chino, CA, 91710.
The new store is being stocked with name-brand and designer shoes and accessories at value pricing. The store will have over 22,000 pairs of men’s, women’s, and kids’ shoes in an 18,000-square-foot space.
A packed parking lot at the Commons at Chino Hills shopping center has some employees parking elsewhere to make space for customers. Parking has become an issue at the western part of the center, nearest to the intersection of Chino Hills Parkway and Ramona Avenue, where several restaurants–including BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse and Corner Bakery Cafe—are located. About a year ago, the city encouraged the center’s property management company to come up with a plan to deal with the problem. According to city staff, the parking issues are mostly around the new Hobby Lobby, and BJ’s around lunch and dinnertime. To resolve the parking issue, the city has strongly urged the property management company to come up with a parking plan, and as part of that plan, to have employees of the center park remotely, in an area behind Hobby Lobby. Developer Michael Sidarous of the Newport Beach-based property management firm SA Anastasia LLC, which manages the Commons, said the changes were implemented a few weeks ago.
A half-finished townhome project on the northern part of town may soon resume construction. Claremont Director of Community Development Brian Desatnik said the city is close to reaching a deal with Newport Beach-based developer William Lyons Homes over its 95 half-built townhomes near the 210 Freeway, on a former strawberry patch just east of the intersection of Baseline Road and Towne Avenue. The Claremont City Council in February learned that construction stalled because the developer needed to reassess the market. Claremont has met with William Lyons several times over the summer. The last meeting was in early September. In early 2015, William Lyon Homes announced plans for the project, which is called Meadow Park, an attached-home community, promising an impressive selection of townhome and motor court designs with charming, well-appointed interiors that accommodate a range of lifestyles.
In other items, the former 64-room Howard Johnson’s motel, dating to 1968 and converted into the Knights Inn last year, will mostly be demolished next year. The Architectural Commission recently gave final approval for a 121-room, four-story Hampton Inn & Suites at the site, which is on Indian Hill Boulevard, immediately north of the 10 Freeway. But the 5-1 approval came with a set of conditions; the most significant is to address what commissioners believe are critical design flaws. During the design process, the commission indicated to Smart Investments that it wanted the new hotel to have classical design elements, recommending the company look to Pomona College as an example. But what it reviewed missed the mark. Officials with Smart Investments said the architect was directed to simplify the original design and did what was suggested, using the college as a reference. The problem, commissioners pointed out, is that Pomona College’s buildings are only two stories high. Many also expressed concern the design had been too simplified. The commission recommended to the developer: • Use a contrasting color band on the second and third floors
- Paint the fourth floor a lighter color
- Raise the stone base to the second floor for certain portions of the building
- Work with staff to enhance some window treatments. The commission also asked that the first floor windows be made to appear bigger.
The Planning Commission is expected to meet later this month to review one last element of the project, an agreement to share parking with the BC Cafe.
Covina Police Department Capt. John Curley has been named the city’s new chief of police, officials have announced. Curley, a 23-year veteran of the department, will replace longtime Police Chief Kim Raney, who is retiring next month. His first day on the job is Oct. 14. Before joining Covina Police, Curley served as a police reserve officer in the City of Monterey Park, according to the statement. He holds a bachelor’s degree in human resource management from Cal Poly Pomona and a master’s degree in leadership and management from the University of La Verne. Curley has also completed a public safety leadership program at the USC and is a graduate of the Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute.
The City Council voted unanimously to extend its moratorium on the establishment or expansion of payday loan, check cashing, vehicle title loan and pawn shop businesses until October 2017. The moratorium was first established in October 2015 to allow the city time to develop regulations that ensure these “alternative financial systems” offer protections similar to those offered by “mainstream” banks and lending institutions, like FDIC protection. In addition, city officials said that check cashing businesses do not have protections against bad checks written as a result of identity theft. In the case of pawn shops, the city’s concern is that the businesses are not required to determine whether or not the goods being handed over have been stolen or counterfeited. While members of the public have accused the alternative financial system businesses as being predatory because of their high interest rates, the city has yet to make that determination. However, city officials believe that the alternative lenders prey on lower income residents, as evidenced by the fact that they are virtually nonexistent in higher income areas. Twenty-three businesses in the city fall into the alternative financial system category–20 loan businesses and three pawn shops. The moratorium is now set to expire Oct. 2, 2017, so the city will have until then to develop its permanent policy.
The redevelopment of the shopping center on the southwest corner of Route 66 and Grand Avenue is under way. The City of Glendora and the developer, Champion Real Estate Company, can now confirm that the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf will be joining Sprouts and Marshalls, and will occupy the drive-thru pad along Grand Avenue. The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (CBTL) originated in Southern California in 1963, and has grown to over 1,000 stores worldwide. It is the oldest and largest privately held specialty coffee and tea retailer in the United States, offering handcrafted beverages customized to each guest’s preference. CBTL will operate a flagship, full-sized drive-thru restaurant in 2,000 square feet, along with a 400-square-foot outdoor patio. The building and patio will be CBTL branded. The center is scheduled to open in July 2017. For more information, visit the city’s web page, at http://www.CityofGlendora.org/CurrentProjects.
Street lights in La Puente are about to get more energy-efficient. Los Angeles County has put in motion a plan to give the city control over a lighting district, and more than $7 million set aside for street light maintenance. On Sept. 20, the LA County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution indicating their intent to transfer the County Lighting District 1744, which is contained within La Puente boundaries, to the city. As part of the transfer, the city would assume control of an estimated $7.3 million currently held by the county for the district. That money and the roughly $600,000 in annual tax revenues would be used to pay for the maintenance and operation of lights along residential and commercial streets throughout the city. The transfer, which takes effect July 1, 2017, would allow the city to purchase the 1,421 street lights within city limits from Southern California Edison, and then convert those lights from high-pressure sodium luminaries to LED ones. Buying the lights from Edison will cost about $557,000, and converting them will cost about $310 each, or about $440,000. Because the fund balance for the district is so high, the city is also looking at ways it could use some of those dollars for projects covered under the California Streets and Highways Code Landscaping and Lighting Act of 1972. Along with the lighting district, the county has indicated the intent to detach the portion of a lighting and landscaping act district that is in La Puente and give it over to the city. The act can be used to install and maintain landscaping, statues, fountains, traffic lights, playgrounds and recreational equipment, among other things.
What was originally planned to be condos will instead be built as single-family homes, the La Verne City Council decided on Oct. 3. Newport Beach-based development firm City Ventures said potential buyers prefer owning land and not just air space. At issue was a 3.21-acre site at 2006 Baseline Road, previously owned by a church that had hoped to build a house of worship on the site. Instead the land, located east of Emerald Avenue on the south side of Baseline and just north of the 210 Freeway, was sold to a developer, and is currently home to a citrus grove. It additionally contains a few scattered avocado trees, non-native grasses, weedy plants and nine oak trees. City Ventures officials originally envisioned 19 condominiums at the site and approval was granted in December 2015. They now want to build 19 single-family homes, whose owners can pursue traditional financing methods and help fund a homeowners association to maintain landscaping and common areas. The single-family shift would allow new homeowners to have land enough for yards. La Verne City Council voted 4-0 in favor of the change, with Councilman Charlie Rosales absent. Construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2017, with completion anticipated a year from the start date.
In other matters, Mayor Don Kendrick proposed Pelota Park be renamed the Kirk B. Johnson Memorial Park in honor of the community activist, attorney, real estate broker and appraiser who died Aug. 29. Johnson was the son of former La Verne Mayor and Councilman Frank Johnson and Nadine Johnson, the educational advocate who succeeded her husband on the University of La Verne Board of Trustees. Pelota Park, located at the corner of Holly Oak Street and Wheeler Avenue, west of Grace Miller Elementary School, also serves as Little League and La Verne Girls Softball playing fields. Kirk Johnson was a strong supporter of youth sports and leadership development.
Construction of a multiple-court complex for five-a-side soccer is underway on a piece of land along South Garey Avenue that has long languished unused. The property is owned by Pomona Unified School District, and a little more than 5 of the 14 acres on the west side of Garey and south of Rio Rancho Road is set to become home to a Goals Soccer Center. The center is expected to be ready to open in the early part of 2017. Goals Soccer Center has facilities across the United Kingdom, according to the company’s website, and has a center in South Gate. They offer multiple courts where athletes can play a version of soccer that involves teams of five playing on artificial turf. The center is being built in partnership with Pomona Unified. The district will lease the land to the company for about $100,000 a year, and the payments will go into the district’s general fund. The general fund is used to pay for operating expenses, such as teacher salaries, books and other expenses. Under the agreement, Pomona Unified will have access to the facility from Monday through Friday during the school day, and will be able to use all the courts for an hour a day. Among the students who will be able to use the center are those enrolled in the district’s Adult Transition Program, a special education program serving young adults. The program is based at a district site a short walk from the future Goals Soccer Center. The district will also have access to the center after school for some special events. The center will bring a much needed recreational facility to a community with a limited number of parks and recreation fields. Youth soccer leagues around the city are interested in the facility and hope their young athletes will have access to the center.
The City of Rancho Cucamonga will receive a Platinum Level Beacon Spotlight Award for Sustainability Best Practices from the Institute for Local Government, as part of the city’s involvement in the Institute’s respected Beacon Program. The Beacon Program recognizes and celebrates California cities and counties that promote sustainability, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save energy, and adopt policies and programs to address climate change. Each Sustainability Best Practices award features three levels for increasing green initiatives in the categories of energy efficiency, water conservation, green building, waste reduction, climate friendly purchasing, efficient transportation, land use, open space, renewable energy and community activities. The Platinum Level, which Rancho Cucamonga is receiving, is the highest level of achievement for Sustainability Best Practices. It was accomplished by having robust and active programs in all categories. The city previously received Gold Level recognition in 2013 and Silver Level recognition in 2012.These accomplishments were achieved by implementing an increasing amount of sustainability initiatives. Among the most recent efforts was the completion of the SolarRC Expansion Project, including 1.8 megawatts of solar-powered systems at five city facilities; receiving designation of a “Cool California City” by lowering its greenhouse gas emissions during a statewide six-month-long challenge; developing the city’s first Sustainability Action Plan; joining the San Bernardino Regional Energy Partnership, and a variety of other projects that are detailed on the Beacon Award website. Three cities in San Bernardino County participate in the Beacon Program, and Rancho Cucamonga is the only city in the Inland Empire to be recognized this year.
SOUTH EL MONTE
The City Council will hold a special election to fill the vacancy created after former Mayor Luis Aguinaga pleaded guilty to a federal bribery count. While the City Council had voted in August to move forward with plans for a special election in March, City Clerk Rose Juarez presented cost estimates for the special election so that the council could make a final decision to either hold the election or appoint someone to the mayor’s seat. The City Council voted unanimously to hold the special election, but not before Councilman Joe Gonzales and Juarez disagreed on the election’s cost and Councilman Hector Delgado made a motion to appoint Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Olmos to the seat.
Juarez said that the city’s election consultant, Martin & Chapman Co., estimated the election’s cost at $39,000, and that number could balloon to between $74,000 and $86,000 when additional costs — like hiring clerks and inspectors—are added. However, an estimate prepared by Aaron Nevarez, a local government liaison with the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office, at Gonzales’ request indicates the cost will be $16,737, if held in conjunction with a potential Los Angeles County ballot in March, and $31,234 if the special election is limited solely to South El Monte. Arguing that the city’s money could be better spent either way, Delgado made a motion to appoint Olmos as mayor. Delgado’s motion died without a second, and Gonzales moved to hold the special election regardless of uncertainty related to the cost. Gonzales’ motion was seconded by Councilwoman Angelica Garcia, who is married to Delgado, and was approved by a 4-0 vote. In July, the United States Attorney’s Office announced Aguinaga agreed to plead guilty to soliciting and accepting envelopes filled with cash from a contractor in return for contracts awarded. As part of his plea agreement, he resigned in August before entering his guilty plea Sept. 1. The City Council had also been set to discuss a $70,000 severance package for former City Manager Anthony Ybarra Tuesday, but the item was pulled from the agenda for discussion at a later meeting.
Former City Manager Stephen Dunn is questioning the city’s claim that it has collected $250,000 in settlements and court judgments against illegal medical marijuana dispensaries it shut down.
Since 2014, Upland has closed 24 illegal dispensaries. Interim City Manager Martin Thouvenell said that Upland recently was awarded a $30,000 settlement, bring the total to $280,000. But that doesn’t mean the city has received the money. So far, it has collected $75,000 from settlements and court judgments, with another $205,000 now owed as property liens. Upland police and its legal team are diligently working on collecting those judgments. City staff and the police department are working to strengthen the current business permit process, with the possibility of instituting daily fines that can compound each day an illegal business is operating. According to city records, the city has spent about $344,000 on legal counsel and enforcement on medical marijuana dispensaries since about 2012, when enforcement was stepped up, through the end of December 2015. That figure accounts for closed cases only, not pending actions.
Energy-efficiency meets luxury in West Covina, with City Ventures’ newest community of smart, energy-efficient single-family residences at the Citrus Collection. The contemporary, Tuscan-style homes offer a variety of spaces with up to 5 bedrooms, 5½ baths, direct access to 2-3 car garages, and up to approximately 3,298 square feet–all within the comfort of a private and gated neighborhood.
Home to a number of top-rated and award-winning schools, West Covina also offers quality education for students in elementary through high school. Families can get out and explore the great outdoors at nearby Galster Wilderness Park, home to over 40 miles of hiking and biking trails. For the sports enthusiasts in the family, there’s the nearby West Covina Big League Dreams, a large complex featuring batting cages, baseball fields, and an indoor pavilion for soccer and other sports. Shopping, dining, entertainment and more are just minutes from home at the Plaza West Covina Mall. The nearby Cameron Community Center also offers programs in fitness, the performing arts and more to local residents. Each home in the Citrus Collection comes equipped with energy-efficient features that bring more green into your lifestyle, and your pocket. Features such as EnergyStar-rated high-efficiency appliances, Kohler faucets and shower heads, which offer significant water savings and reduced water costs, and Milgard dual-glazed windows, with ultra-violet coatings that insulate against both cold and heat, mean energy savings, and a smaller environmental impact. Built to Earth-friendly standards, these thoughtfully-designed homes mean you can enjoy decreased energy payments, smart heating and cooling systems, and a home that’s pre-wire ready for electric vehicle chargers in your garage. Additionally, each home in the Citrus Collection generates and uses its own solar energy onsite, powering everything in the home–even when the sun doesn’t shine. City Ventures raises the bar by offering eco-friendly elements in homes that are strategically located within desirable urban and premier suburban locations, creating neighborhoods designed to promote health and wellness by putting you closer to everything your family loves. Starting from the mid-$800,000s these homes are selling fast–the first phase is almost sold out.
Want to find out what the five top occupations are in Azusa? How about the percentage of businesses in Rosemead that have 50 to 99 employees? Or the median household income for residents living in West Covina? Welcome to the SGV Economic PowerSite. The Website promotes area real estate and offers demographic data. The San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership unveiled the interactive website on Aug. 25. It’s designed to promote the region’s commercial real estate economy and provide demographic and business resources to investors, site selectors and brokers. The site is designed to be manipulated to give you exactly what you want. You can go to any address in any city and look at a particular radius from that address and get all kinds of information—like how many employees area businesses have and income levels of people within that radius. You can also see where people spend their money and how much they spend. The SGV Economic PowerSite can be accessed by going to the partnership’s website at sgvpartnership.org. Click on the large magnifying glass and icons for 25 of the region’s 31 cities will appear. Those are member cities that pay an annual fee to access the partnership’s services. For example, when a user clicks on Glendora they’ll immediately see that it has a population of 51,137, a median home value of $549,200, and a median household income of $75,682. Delving deeper, the database reveals that 20.4 percent of the city’s population has a bachelor’s degree or higher, while 11.7 percent have a graduate degree. The website also shows that retail, education, health care and social services, accommodation and food services, and additional services that include repair, personal care and laundry services, rank as the city’s top industries for jobs. The data will be useful for businesses looking to expand or move into a city. The technology for the website was provided by GIS Planning Inc., a San Francisco-based company that specializes in creating economic databases for cities. The website updates itself every three months and the economic information on businesses is updated every three months. Another major feature allows cities to upload their key opportunity sites that they want to see action on. Every city has vacant buildings and vacant storefronts. The property listings are right there with maps and photos. The site provides anyone with interest in a particular city to know about every business in that city.
The Azusa Planning Commission has asked the developer of a proposed mixed-use project in the city’s Rosedale community to revamp its plan. During a commission meeting on Aug. 24, residents and some members of the commission expressed concerns about a gate that would be installed at the main entrance to the pedestrian-friendly Promenade area of Rosedale near the APU/Citrus Gold Line station. Others had issues with commercial businesses facing away from the Promenade. Brookfield Residential Inc. submitted a plan to the city for the 6.6-acre site that would include 109 townhome condos, a transit park plaza and a 10,000-square-foot commercial building with 44 parking spaces. Christopher Homes and Rosedale Land Partners, master developer of the 1,250-home planned community, said the gates would keep unwanted motorists out of the area. The Planning Commission noted that Mountain Cove; a community up Highway 39, is a gated community and at one time had the highest crime rate in the city. The Planning Commission also noted that gated communities tend to divide the community and Azusa prides itself on being a very united city. The Planning Commission will revisit the issue in the future and take in all of the resident concerns and comments. When completed, the Rosedale community will include about 1,250 homes and 200 acres of open space. About 1,000 homes have been completed to date, and Holman expects that all of the remaining homes will be built over the next two years.
After two years at the helm of Baldwin Park City Hall, City Manager Shannon Yauchzee is getting a raise. The City Council voted 3-2 in favor of the 8 percent salary increase. Yauchzee, who became the city’s chief executive officer in July 2014, will now receive an annual base salary of $218,780, according to city documents. The new salary is effective retroactive to Aug. 3, when the council unanimously approved the raise in closed session. Yauchzee was hired after the council placed former CEO Vijay Singhal on a six-month paid leave of absence in December 2013. He previously led the Public Works Department in West Covina where he was a candidate for city manager. Yauchzee said in an email that during his tenure in Baldwin Park the city has increased its general fund reserve by more than $2 million, reduced a projected budget deficit by $1.4 million and entered an agreement with Caltrans to construct a freeway community identifier at no cost to Baldwin Park, among other things.
More than 8,400 people applied to be placed on the Baldwin Park Housing Authority waiting list for the low-income housing program, commonly called Section 8. The agency opened the list in early August for the first time in 13 years. Through a random lottery system run by a third-party vendor, 2,000 of those applicants were placed on the wait list for Section 8 vouchers. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and provides housing subsidies for families whose household incomes, depending on family size, are less than 50 percent of the median income in Los Angeles County. The Baldwin Park program is allocated 880 vouchers each year, but because housing costs are high, the agency usually does not have enough funding to support that many families, causing a delay in service. It has taken more than 10 years to free up vouchers for the more than 3,000 families placed on the 2003 wait list. Similarly, the Long Beach Housing Authority opened its wait list for the first time in 13 years this summer. Nearly 19,000 people applied.
In Baldwin Park, those selected for the 2016 wait list hail from all over the San Gabriel Valley and across the country. Because the program is federally-funded, anyone can apply for a voucher, though veterans and local residents are given preference. The housing authority will notify those selected and explain the next steps in an email next week. Anyone who applied can check online at http://www.waitlistcheck.com to see whether they were placed on the list. For more information, applicants can call the housing authority at 626-869-7500.
Acting on safety concerns, Chino leaders decided recently to regulate the sale of high-grade, flammable butane, which is used in manufacturing a potent form of hash oil, also known as honey oil.
The regulation doesn’t impact legal use of butane for barbecuing, cooking torches or cigar lighters. But it will control the sale of high-grade butane used by illegal marijuana labs—which have been found in hotel rooms, garages, homes and backyards—to illegally manufacture honey oil, a street drug. The new law, which the Chino City Council approved Aug. 16, limits the sale in large quantities of n-butane and butane that is refined five times or higher. A customer would not be able to buy more than 1,200 milliliters of butane, per transaction. It additionally requires retailers to keep logs of all butane sales “cumulatively or individually” amounting to greater than 600 milliliters in a single transaction. Retailers must report to code and police authorities any such sale, as well as the name, address and verified government-issued photo identification of the buyer and keep such information in their files for at least one year. In recent years, many California cities and counties have seen a significant uptick in the illegal manufacturing of butane honey oil made from marijuana, Comstock said, which corresponds to increased dangers for the public as well as police officers, firefighters and other rescue personnel.
After receiving a grant of more than $400,000 in June, the city of Claremont is in the beginning stages of using the funds to develop a swath of land directly south of the railroad tracks. The project, dubbed the Indian Hill Corridor Specific Plan—formerly called the Village South Specific Plan—currently encompasses 17 acres of land, stretching from Arrow Highway north, to Santa Fe Street and Bucknell Avenue on the west, to the east side of Indian Hill, according to the grant proposal. The plan was set in motion after the city received a $418,000 grant from Metro on June 30. The grant, which was submitted by the city in 2015, is for “transit-oriented development” near the future location of the Metro Gold Line, a proposed extension of the light rail service through Claremont that, pending the passage of Measure R2, could be completed by 2023. Similar to the Village Expansion Plan (VESP), the plan calls for pedestrian-friendly development that would encourage foot traffic on both sides of the tracks. The grant proposal, which was submitted to Metro in 2014, emphasizes that the funds for the project will “increase the utilization of public transit given the close proximity of the project site to the Claremont Intermodal Transit Center.” The plan will also include safety mechanisms at the railroad crossings so that pedestrians can safely travel back and forth. Much of the area is zoned commercial-professional, which would most likely change when development kicks in. According to the initial grant proposal, there are three different zoning districts within the site—business-industrial, commercial-highway and commercial-professional.
The city of Diamond Bar is making amendments to their General plan, according to the city website, and seeking individuals to be appointed to the Diamond bar General Plan Advisory Committee. You have until Sept. 15 to apply, according to website release. The Diamond Bar City Council is accepting applications from individuals interested in being considered for appointment to the newly-created Diamond Bar General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC), according to the site.
What is the General Plan?
This is Diamond Bar’s guide for the future social, physical, and economic development of the City, according to statements on the city’s website. It is a long-term document consisting of written text and diagrams that expresses how a community should develop over time, and it is a key tool for influencing the quality of life. It specifies locations for new businesses and residences, roads, parks, and other public infrastructure. The plan is a basis for land use decision-making used by policymakers such as the Planning Commission and the City Council. Each city and county in California is required by law to have a general plan document. Those documents can be revised every 20 to 25 years. Diamond Bar last updated its general plan in 1995. The Diamond Bar GPAC is a volunteer ad hoc advisory committee whose purpose is to make recommendations to the Planning Commission and City Council on a variety of uses related to the update of the city’s General Plan. Member tasks include reviewing research and analysis, identifying issues, visions and key policies, and providing advice and input into the plan. The Diamond Bar City Council’s goal is that these committee members be diverse in age, gender, background, experience and interests, but that they share the common, community-wide, long-term vision and perspective to city growth and development over the next 20 to 25 years. The term for members would be approximately three years, long enough for the General Plan Update process. A series of nine meetings would be involved. Members must be at least 16 years of age, and either live, operate a business, or have a proven record of community service in Diamond Bar, according to the website release. The prospective GPAC member application, along with additional information about the Diamond Bar General Plan Update, is available on the City website at: http://www.diamondbarca.gov/generalplan. Applications may also be picked up at City Hall (21810 Copley Drive) and Diamond Bar Center (1600 Grand Ave.), or requested by mail by calling the Diamond Bar City Clerk’s Office at (909) 839-7010, according to release. Completed applications are due back to the Diamond Bar City Clerk’s Office no later than Thursday, Sept. 15.
Not one but three state and federally protected species—and the potential that 11 more sensitive species might be there—stand in the way of a proposed hillside development of 18 homes, along with the removal of 176 coastal live oak trees in a biologically sensitive quadrant of the San Gabriel Valley foothills. Since late May, when a draft Environmental Impact Report was released, until early August when the comment period closed, ZH Glendora LLC’s project, part of the Gordon-Mull property, has generated about 40 written objections. These were sent from residents, state resource agencies, nonprofit environmental groups and Native American tribes that list numerous reasons why the project may violate state environmental laws using categories delineated in the California Environmental Quality Act. The list includes: the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Glendora Community Conservancy, the Elder Creek Ecological Preserve, the California Wildlife Foundation, Pasadena Audubon Society, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. Of the 40 or so responses to the EIR, all were opposed to the project or at least wanted the developer to draft a new environmental document to address their concerns. The thread-leafed brodiaea (brodiaea filifolia), a spindly stemmed plant with a purple flower, leads the list. The plant is quite rare, listed as a federally endangered species. Also, the cactus wren is a state-listed sensitive species and the California gnatcatcher, a federally listed bird, round out the top three. The following habitats, listed as sensitive communities by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, occur in the following proportions within the 41.4 acres: 2.6 acres of coast live oak woodland; 0.1 acre of purple needlegrass grasslands; 0.1 acre of coast prickly pear scrub; 0.9 acres of blue elderberry stands and 0.1 acre of California walnut woodland, according to the EIR. In an attempt to clear the hurdle that CEQA presents, the limited partnership, headed by business partner Derek Ng, has proposed mitigating measures that include planting two oaks seedlings for every tree removed and repairing ailing lands elsewhere such as in the Puente Hills in the same proportions damaged by the development within the project area. The owner is asking for a grading permit that would allow for building paved roads and 18 concrete pads for what may be two-story homes; one plot will be turned into a 1.34-acre park because it is unbuildable due to an earthquake fault.
The objections fill up hundreds of pages of letters written in response to the draft subsequent EIR. Copies of some of the letters obtained by the local newspaper but otherwise not made public can be summed up as follows:
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), in a nine-page letter dated Aug. 5, wrote the project would result in the trampling of the endangered thread-leaved brodiaea. In 2009, a biologist filed a report identifying 49 plants in the three groups, mostly on two lots, Lots 14 and 15. The EIR only mentions findings of one plant in 2013, seven in 2014 and eight in 2015. The fewer findings are the result of drought years and do not adequately represent the population. The agency concludes the project could do more harm to the plants than even what the EIR concludes.
- The CDFW points out that the report fails to mention the cactus wren’s designation of “species of special concern.” The state agency says the project identified 16.4 acres of wren habitat, of which 40 percent “will be impacted.”
- The project is potentially home to several species of bats and the EIR doesn’t address what could happen to them. Some bat species are endangered, such as the Townsend’s big-eared bat. The CDFW recommends surveying for bats by a bat specialist to determine their numbers and if found, identify ways to protect them.
- The Kizh Tribe, a native American group, said they are opposed to the EIR’s recommendations on how to handle ancient Kizh human burials that may be found on the property.
- Removal of 176 oak trees will add to the emissions of greenhouse gases, according to the California Wildlife Foundation. The group recommends planting of five oaks for every one destroyed.
- The Sierra Club’s 37-page letter hits on numerous topics, including obstruction of views of the foothills from “many areas of the city.” The group says the EIR lacks a conservation alternative, i.e., selling the land to a conservancy for preservation of oak woodlands and other habitat, as well as the thread-leaved brodiaea, “the official flower of the city.”
The city will provide a written response to each concern raised. The letters and responses will be incorporated into a final EIR expected to be released in a few months. It needs approval of the Glendora City Council before the project can move forward.
The City of Industry likely violated the state’s open meetings law by allowing the advisor appointed to oversee the city’s reforms to participate in closed session discussions, according to open government experts. The city’s independent reform advisor, former California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, sat in on at least two meetings. But Industry officials would not disclose which topics he offered his advice on. City Attorney Jamie Casso said Lockyer, a member of the State Bar of California, attended the meetings as a private attorney and was covered by attorney-client privilege. Lockyer’s contract lists him as a consultant with a limited scope of services related solely to the city’s reform efforts. According to Casso, the city is fully compliant with the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state law governing how local bodies should handle their official meetings. Terry Francke, of the open government advocacy group Californians Aware, disagreed. He noted that previous attorneys general held the opinion that closed sessions must only include people who are essential to the purpose of the meeting. Californians Aware assert that Mr. Lockyer’s presence is not essential to whatever the discussion or decision is and therefore the Brown Act prevents his presence. Another former California attorney general, John Van De Kamp, who serves as the independent reform monitor for the city of Vernon near downtown Los Angeles, said he has never sat in on closed session and would not feel comfortable doing so. Van De Kamp, who served as attorney general prior to Lockyer, said he could see why there may be benefits to having an outsider sitting in on the otherwise closed meetings. Still, it sounds like a “technical violation” of the law, he said. Lockyer’s $25,000 a month contract notes that “tasks other than those specifically described in the Scope of Services shall not be performed without prior written approval by the City.” That “Scope of Services” includes addressing a recent state controller’s audit; investigating the independence of the housing commission; and looking into the city council’s compensation limits and competitive bidding practices. Lockyer is required to report publicly and quarterly on those topics. In his first report on Aug. 18, Lockyer stated his involvement in open and closed session allowed him to see “elected officials who are familiar with large amounts of briefing materials, who ask probing questions, who work at developing consensus.” If the city is in violation, it would only need to stop including Lockyer in the meetings to return to compliance. State law allows a complainant or the district attorney’s office to file suit against a body that refuses to fix the violation within 90 days of receiving a written demand to do so. The lawsuit could void decisions made during meetings that violated the law.
The Sheriff’s Industry Station is warning residents about a fake parking citation scam in the city. The fake tickets with the name and logo of the city of La Puente have been placed on the windshields of parked vehicles, authorities said in a written statement. Residents are directed to send their fine payments to a P.O. Box in New Orleans, Louisiana. The fake tickets also include an out-of-state telephone number, officials said. If your vehicle has received a fictitious parking ticket, you are urged to call the Industry Station and the La Puente Special Assignment Team’s Deputy Holly or Deputy Arguelles at 626-330-3322, Ext. 3061. If you would like to remain anonymous, you may contact “LA Crime Stoppers” by dialing 800-222-TIPS (8477), texting the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637), or using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org.
The city has submitted to the state evidence that it has enough water for the next three years. When the State Water Resources Control Board signs off on that, the La Verne City Council is poised to suspend the extra charges for water users who overindulge. The City of La Verne and State Water Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus warn that conservation must still be practiced because the drought plaguing the state for four years, although less severe, is not over entirely. It was urged that residents need to keep conserving and work on more efficient practices, like keeping lawns on a water diet or transitioning away from them. City staff told council members in early August that the city has more than met its 30 percent reduction of water usage based on 2013 consumption levels, a mandate imposed by Gov. Jerry Brown and the State Water Resources Control Board in April 2015. At that time, the governor issued an executive order to reduce water use and restrict what users could do with water. The city, which operates its own water services, allowed 22,000 gallons per two-month billing period for residential customers. It also required commercial and industrial properties to reduce their water use by 30 percent of their 2013 consumption levels. It was noted that La Verne has done much to reduce water consumption including:
- Removing turf from Los Flores, Wheeler, Oak Mesa, Mills and Emerald parks and from street medians on Arrow Highway and White Avenue
- Installing drought-tolerant landscaping at City Hall and Fire Station No. 3 on Esperanza Drive
- Replacing traditional turf with artificial turf at the city yard
- Creating a demonstration garden at Fire Station No. 2 on Wheeler Avenue, where residents could go and get ideas for drought-tolerant plants they can buy at local nurseries
In May 2016, Gov. Brown signed another executive order allowing the state to adjust water conservation levels for cities that have met the previously-established goals and which can ensure a three-year water supply. La Verne gets 75 percent of its water from the Metropolitan Water District, which assures us there is sufficient supply to meet the city’s needs, and 25 percent of the city’s water comes from its own well system. La Verne is asking all residential, commercial and industrial customers to promote and encourage heavy conservation.
QVC, the home shopping network, opened its first West Coast distribution center on Aug. 29 with a ceremony at the Ontario property. The 1-million-square-foot QVC warehouse was filled with a sea of empty shelving racks Monday, but trucks bringing inventory had arrived and officials expected to begin shipping product out from Ontario this week. They expect to ramp up the operation by the holiday shopping season. The new facility should shrink delivery times up to four days, according to QVC officials. QVC, which sells goods through its home shopping cable television channel and online website, occupies Building 7 at the newly constructed Meredith International Centre. QVC said it would employ about 500 people by 2018, and 1,000 by 2020. QVC, short for “quality, value and convenience,” has never had a West Coast distribution center, with the last one opening in Florence, S.C., in 2007. The building will handle distribution of all of QVC’s product lines for the western United States. The seven-building Meredith International Centre is expected to bring as many as 2,000 new employees to Ontario. With its new Ontario distribution center, QVC joins other prominent online retailers that have established operations in the Inland Empire. Amazon has eight California-based fulfillment centers; most are in the Inland Empire.
The city will make lockers available to the homeless as part of a settlement to resolve a lawsuit complaining that Pomona police officers and city officials regularly confiscated and discarded their belongings. Lawyers representing 15 Pomona homeless residents, who filed a class-action lawsuit in Los Angeles Federal Court in March, said Tuesday they settled with the city, with Judge Manuel L. Real signing off on the 17-page agreement Aug. 29.
Among the steps the city must take are:
- Honor homeless residents’ right to have 60 gallons of attended property, excluding bikes, wheelchairs, walkers and recyclables
- Fabricate and make available 388 60-gallon storage lockers free for homeless residents to store personal property
- Leave notice of where individuals can retrieve property collected and stored by the city because the property was left unattended
- Store all property collected under any circumstance for 90 days for free
- Provide semiannual reports on the state of its efforts to end homelessness to plaintiffs’ counsel
- Not enforce its anti-camping and unauthorized-areas-to-sleep ordinances until the city has enough shelter beds, housing options or campgrounds sufficient to safely accommodate its homeless population.
The lawsuit alleged police, code enforcement officers and sanitation workers would seize personal property—including in two instances the ashes of dead relatives—without notice, and dispose of it when the law requires the city to store the items and give people the opportunity to recover their belongings. In April, the city and the lawyers with Public Counsel, a public interest law firm of the Los Angeles County and Beverly Hills bar associations, came to a temporary agreement to stop the seizures. It expired at the end of May. But lead attorney Christina Giorgio said the city did not resume its old ways and worked diligently to come up with a permanent solution. A count of the homeless population in January tallied 689 residents in Pomona without permanent homes, according the City of Pomona. The unsheltered population—the ones most visible—number 366. The lockers, to be built inside moveable shipping containers at a cost of about $100,000, can ebb and flow in size each year with the latest homeless counts. The settlement is “an important step of collaborating to address the impacts of people suffering homelessness on the community, while at the same time respecting civil rights,” said Pomona officials. The settlement agreement sets parameters for homeless residents’ personal property. They will be able to keep with them all personal items that can collectively fit into a 60-gallon container, what the agreement calls “attended property.” If they need more space, they may store another 60-gallon container’s worth of personal property in one of the storage lockers. Pomona calls them “transitional storage centers.” The city has not identified where the lockers will go. Besides the $100,000 cost to acquire them, the city will pay $100,000 annually to staff them.
A new 92-foot-high, eight-level, 46,800-square-foot storage facility for Frito-Lay will feature the latest in automated warehousing technology. Construction began in December 2014 and is expected to be completed in the second quarter of next year. The reason for the expansion is to co-locate some high-speed automated distribution systems at the manufacturing plant to increase efficiency and growth for Frito-Lay. The warehouse is so tall, Frito-Lay had to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to build it, not only because of its height but proximity to LA/Ontario International Airport. The Frito-Lay storage building is tall, but it’s not the tallest in the city. That honor goes to the Gerdau Steel Mill near Arrow Route and Etiwanda Avenue, which has furnaces reaching above 100 feet. Rancho Cucamonga’s is one of 40 Frito-Lay snack plants located throughout the United States and Canada. The local facility, which Frito-Lay characterized as a medium-sized plant, opened for operation in 1970. It’s owned and operated by the Dallas-based Frito-Lay North America, which oversees produce development and sales within the United States and Canada. Frito-Lay is the snack division of PepsiCo, based in Purchase, New York.
SOUTH EL MONTE
Luis Aguinaga submitted his letter of resignation as mayor Aug. 9, two weeks after he signed an agreement to plead guilty to soliciting and accepting bribes. Two weeks prior, the United States Attorney’s Office announced that Aguinaga had signed the plea agreement saying he will plead guilty to a federal bribery charge. The mayor accepted at least $45,000 in bribes from an un-named city contractor for seven years, according to the plea agreement. Upon pleading guilty, Aguinaga will face a maximum of 10 years in federal prison. In 2012, undercover FBI agents observed a meeting between Aguinaga and the contractor, and the FBI provided $2,000 to be used in the exchange, the plea agreement said. Aguinaga took half of the bribe money and left the other half for an unnamed “city public official,” according to the agreement. The official has not been named or come forward.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Aug. 9 to send letters to State Controller Betty Yee and State Auditor Elaine Howle to investigate the city’s handling and use of public funds and any improper governmental activities by South El Monte employees, respectively. Aguinaga’s resignation ends his seven-year tenure as mayor, which is a separately elected position. He had been a member of the City Council since 2003. Neither the City Council nor the mayor is subject to term limits in South El Monte. Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Olmos has been acting as mayor since news of Aguinaga’s plea agreement became public.
The scandal caused Anthony Ybarra, who had been with the city for more than a decade, to announce his resignation on Aug. 23 at the end of the City Council meeting, according to city officials. Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Olmos said Ybarra’s resignation did not come as a surprise. Two audits, including one by a firm hired by South El Monte last year, criticized the management of the city and, among other things, singled out its relationship with certain consultants. Gonzales and Olmos had demanded that Ybarra step down, saying his management made the bribery scandal possible. Ybarra said that he was resigning due to health reasons. Ybarra will continue to receive a monthly stipend until December. He will receive medical benefits through January.
Last September the town’s independent auditor sent a 15-page letter to the council members, raising concerns about the “city’s purchasing function, relationships with certain consultants and the contract monitoring process.” The letter stated that the same issues were raised before and had not been “fully corrected by the city’s management.” The auditor advised the city to conduct an investigation into its internal controls. An audit released in June found that South El Monte’s city manager—acting without council approval—authorized a series of contracts and payments involving the town’s grant-writing and engineering firms. The auditors found Ybarra had approved three contracts and authorized payments of $110,000 to Arroyo Strategy Group, which provided grant-writing services. Among other issues, the auditors said that Arroyo did not have a physical office and that it did not keep any records, such as time sheets, to justify the work it was doing. In one case, auditors said the city manager had used a city credit card to pay for airline tickets and hotel expenses for Arroyo employees. The firm later submitted a reimbursement for the expenses. Auditors also learned that the city manager had approved a contract with ECM Group Inc., which provided engineering services to the city, and authorized payments of $29,376. But a review of ECM’s billing records revealed that employees were submitting false time and billing reports to the city, according to the audit. In one example, auditors noted that one employee claimed to have put in more than 20 hours a day on several occasions while he worked on a project, including 27 hours in one day. Another employee claimed to have worked on city business “for 70 hours during a four-day period,” which meant she would have worked 17.5 hours a day for four consecutive days. Auditors also said they found that contracts were frequently altered and were never put up for competitive bidding. The city has since terminated its contract with ECM and Arroyo, according to auditors.
A pathway for a total ban of marijuana-related activities in the city has been set and could be approved by the council as soon as next month. Upland’s Planning Commission voted 6-1 on Aug. 24 in favor of the total ban. Commissioner Shelly Verrinder was the lone dissenting vote.
With the commission signing off on the ordinance, the total ban is now set to be reviewed by the City Council, which doesn’t meet again until Sept. 12. The ban would become effective 30 days after it is approved. City leaders have stated their desire to have this ordinance in place before the November election—when voters across the state may approve the use of recreational marijuana–and to close any loopholes in its existing ban. If it does, it will join a host of neighboring cities, as well as San Bernardino County, that have taken similar action. The city’s municipal code currently bans medical marijuana dispensaries and mobile dispensaries. Before the commission will be a proposal to explicitly ban cultivating, dispensing, transporting, distributing, processing, labeling and testing.
The proposed ordinance would help the city regulate marijuana if the state measure passes. Permanent regulations by the state aren’t expected to be enacted until 2018. Although the commission was only expected to take up zoning and land issues related to the ordinance, the discussion from commissioners varied and delved into the impacts of a total ban.
West Covina could purchase additional park land before voters decide in November whether the city should sell a 2.85 acre park to a local hospital under a new agreement approved by the City Council Aug. 16. The agreement with Citrus Valley Health Partners gives the hospital group the right to purchase Sunset Field if voters approve the ballot measure deciding the fate of the park. In exchange, the city will get a $500,000 advance on the $3.9 million the group has offered for the property. If the ballot measure fails, the city will repay the loan without interest by Dec. 31. The park, which includes two baseball diamonds and a bathroom facility, is landlocked between Walnut Creek, an apartment complex and Citrus Valley’s Queen of the Valley Hospital, and can only be accessed through the hospital parking lot. Citrus Valley wants to use the Sunset Field land to expand the hospital to include a new 60-bed emergency department, a 10-bed operating room and 36-bed intensive and critical care units. The proposal has been described as a “win-win situation” by city officials, who say the current park is underutilized and difficult to access. The city has not received any “written protest” to the idea, according to a staff report.
The city of Azusa will lease 145 parking spaces at the Azusa Intermodal Transit Center to Metro for at least one year to alleviate an overflow of parking demand at the Downtown Azusa Gold Line station stop. In return, Metro is expected to reimburse the city for 100 percent of its operation and maintenance of the 145 spots, an estimated yearly fee of $31,000. Both parties have the option to extend the agreement a second year, with an additional $32,000 in operations and maintenance fees paid by Metro to the city of Azusa. Metro also plans to include the leased spaces in the existing parking permit program, with twenty percent of the permits allocated to city of Azusa residents. Originally city staff negotiated for city residents to receive free Metro permits, but that agreement was later rejected due to legal concerns. The parking lease agreement arrives after the City of Azusa enacted parking restrictions in surrounding neighborhoods and downtown streets because of an overflow of Gold Line riders. City officials hope the new three-hour parking limits will confine Metro parking to the Azusa station garage and incentivize riders arriving by car to instead use the nearby Irwindale and Duarte lots. In a phone interview, Azusa Director of Public Works Daniel Bobadilla noted that though no official analysis on the recent parking measures has been conducted, staff have noticed fewer vehicles on streets and residential neighborhoods in downtown Azusa. The Downtown Azusa Station parking structure, formally known as the Azusa Intermodal Transit Center, was built by three agencies: the city of Azusa, Foothill Transit, and Los Angeles Metro. The parking space allocation reflects the shared costs of construction. Of 545 total parking spaces, Metro and Foothill each own 200 spots and Azusa 145.
Continental Funding Group recently announced that the Courtyard by Marriott in Baldwin Park is the latest asset to receive financing from the company. The $19 million fixed-rate refinancing is indicative of the continued growth recorded by Southern California’s hospitality market. Located at 14635 Baldwin Park Towne Center, the hotel was originally meant to be a Hilton-operated property, and was then affiliated with hospitality operator Radisson. The property was taken over by Marriott in 2004. According to Continental’s announcement, the sponsor requested a fixed-rate, non-recourse loan that would refinance an existing maturing loan. The provider eventually secured the ten-year loan from an investment bank at 4.98 percent, with a loan-to-value leverage ratio of 68 percent with a 25-year amortization. The loan was a debt yield below 10.5 percent, and also provides a substantial cash-out component.
One of the city’s last large-scale developments featuring single-family homes is under construction. With a regional housing shortage in full swing, city officials are looking forward to the completion of the long-planned Vila Borba community in the southern part of the city. The 334-acre planned community west and east of Butterfield Ranch Road, just south of Pine Avenue near the 71 Freeway, will feature about 500 homes at buildout. A 5-acre public park and dog park are already completed. In San Bernardino County this year alone, said Gordon Nichols, government affairs director for the Building Industry Association Southern California Baldy View Chapter, the region is facing a housing shortage of 7,000 units. By 2019, he said officials expect the shortage to balloon to 65,000 homes, if not much changes. The community is being developed by the Irvine-based firm CalAtlantic Homes. The Vila Borba project contains four planning areas, the first of which will include 183 single-family homes. The first planned area contains the communities of Monterra and Serano and the Vila Borba Park. The second planning area will contain 19 single-family homes, according to the city website. Planning Area 3 will contain 149 single-family homes. Officials expect construction to take a few years. Planning Area 4 was originally planned for about 280 high-density homes and 5 acres of commercial real estate, though CalAtlantic is asking the city to switch to medium-density homes.
Attorneys representing Claremont and Golden State Water Company (GSW) have been locked in a war of words and accusations since the trial began on June 14. The trial is a culmination of years of legal wrangling that could end in Claremont earning the right to claim eminent domain over the water system. GSW rested its case in early July, after testimony from GSW executives and experts. Claremont is preparing to rest its case sometime in mid-July. A decision might not be reached for two months or longer. The city’s basis for taking over the water system centers on municipal control, with Claremont able to set rates and bill customers if the judge rules in the city’s favor. GSW has countered that the city has virtually no experience running the water system and only GSW, which has been in control of Claremont’s water since 1929, has the expertise to successfully run the system. Experts and witnesses have been brought up on both sides throughout the trial. Throughout the trial, testimony was presented regarding transparency on the part of GSW, additional rate charges and the involvement of La Verne in helping Claremont operate the system. If Claremont wins the right-to-take case, a separate trial will be convened to determine how much the water system is worth.
Empire Lakes Golf Course has officially changed hands, according to PMRG, a commercial real estate firm based in Irvine. The property is now owned by the Lewis Group of Companies, which will develop the site into a high density, mixed-used community. The development will feature 2,600-3,400 homes and apartments as well as mixed-use business. The Lewis Group of Companies hopes the community will appeal to younger millennials and downsizing empty-nesters and retirees interested in moving from a larger home to an apartment or more urban environment. Empire Lakes sits on 160 acres north of Fourth Street, west of Milliken Avenue, east of Cleveland Avenue and south of Eighth Street. It’s a 15-minute walk from the Metrolink station. The project also calls for 220,000 square feet of non-residential uses, such as light retail, commercial services, recreation amenities and a community center. Lewis plans to have a product for sale and to rent within two years.
SOUTH EL MONTE
An audit of South El Monte’s dealings with two consultants revealed issues with how the city doles out contracts to private companies, as well as the way the city bills those companies and checks up on their work. In their report, auditors with Los Angeles-based SingerLewak LLP said the city left itself open to fraud — one contract showed a company billed more hours of work than there are in a day. The audit was finalized June 21, and was obtained by the newspaper this week. The document shows City Manager Tony Ybarra executed four contracts with the two consulting companies — three with Arroyo Strategy Group, for a total payout of $110,000, and the other with ECM Group Inc. for $29,376. All the contracts were adopted without the City Council’s approval, and none of the contracts was subject to a competitive bidding process, the audit said. Aside from issues with the contract process, the audit also found issues with the way the contractors conducted business. Arroyo principal Omar Hernandez told auditors he maintains no physical office location; the only address listed for the company is a post office box in South El Monte. Hernandez also said he keeps no copies or records of Arroyo’s work, according to the report. ECM principal Hector Castillo admitted to submitting fictitious labor claims for four days of work, the report said. On the four days in question, ECM claimed 25 hours, 26 hours, 27 hours and 25 hours of work respectively, with one staff member averaging 17.5 hours of work per day, the report said. The audit report’s findings are “concerning,” said City Councilman Joseph Gonzales.
After auditor Van Lant and Fankhanel LLP first raised concerns about Arroyo and ECM in September, Gonzales requested that the city investigate further. He said he had read the draft of SingerLewak’s audit in February and has been asking for its final, public release since then. In response to the audit sent to SingerLewak on June 2, Assistant City Manager Jennifer Vasquez detailed steps the city has taken to increase city contractor oversight. In March, the City Council voted unanimously to adopt a “purchasing manual” that provides guidelines for city staff to follow when members purchase supplies, equipment and professional services like consultants. The manual includes specific directions for staff to oversee billable work done by its consultants.
Months ago, the City Council was given two options for establishing voting districts. The city had been threatened with a lawsuit for allegedly violating the California Voting Rights Act and could have adopted an ordinance signaling the change, or leave it up to the voters to decide in November.
In April, elected officials opted against making a decision, saying the voters should have a say.
Now with the deadline looming for placing a measure on the November ballot, the City Council is reconsidering its decision. The council has directed its city attorney to amend a current deal with a firm that threatened to sue, one that would allow the council to create the districts by adopting an ordinance. More importantly, the move would save Upland $20,000 by skipping the election.
In December, the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project put Upland on notice that Upland’s current practice of at-large voting violated the California Voting Rights Act. To avoid ending up in court, Upland reached an agreement with the project in March. Although 38 percent of the city’s population is Latino, a Latino has never served on the council. The project claims that is a result of polarized voting. Upland hired Compass Demographics to seek public participation and develop one or more district boundary maps. The map selected by the council, and popular among residents, was the third out of four drafts. It uses San Antonio Avenue as the division between east and west in the northern portion of the city, and the remaining two districts are south of Foothill Boulevard. The southern districts have the largest populations of Latinos. If the council doesn’t move forward with an ordinance, it has to approve and adopt a final district map by Aug. 1, then send it to the San Bernardino County Elections Office of the Registrar of Voters to be placed on the November ballot.
Since Upland’s population is under 100,000, it wasn’t required to take the decision to the voters — it could have simply begun the process in April to adopt an ordinance. Cities with a population over 100,000 must present the issue to the voters. At the July 11 meeting, the council heard from a number of residents, some who voiced their displeasure for the whole process and vowed to vote it down.
As part of the settlement agreement, Upland must pay the organization $45,000 in legal fees. Rather than risk being sued, which was possible even if it cured the alleged violation, Upland settled. The settlement figure accounts for the expense the firm incurred in preparing its findings to Upland, including consultants costs and attorney fees. Under the terms of the agreement, both sides agreed Upland would take a map to the voters, one devised by a mutually agreed upon consultant. Upland’s approach is different from Chino, which received a similar letter and proceeded to form voting district by ordinance. But that city never entered into a settlement agreement.
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.
After a controversial decision made in May sparked a 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, 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 in 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.
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 to the city — and robots. 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. The lab will have state-of-the-art automation. Robots will function not unlike how Amazon uses them at its goods processing facility in San Bernardino.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 send letters to Huy Fong Foods and has also met in their offices to request payment. David Tran, owner of Huy Fong Foods, 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 with the odor issue, in which all five City Council members unanimously declared the company a public nuisance, “without real basis,” Tran believes that Huy Fong Foods is being treated unfairly so he stopped contributions.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The City Council is backing a project which will complete the downtown puzzle with a bowling alley and an arcade. The project is to be located on the city’s “Block 36” site. A mixed-use development with residential and retail space alongside a family entertainment center that features a 20-lane bowling alley. The former redevelopment property near the downtown Civic Center has been vacant for over a decade. The council considered two projects for the site, each with a different anchor tenant. The other mixed-use proposal presented by The Serrano Group would have included residential and restaurant space with a five-screen Laemmle theater. Laemmle is a family-run chain of art house movie theaters known for screening independent and foreign films. Mayor Joe Rocha and Councilmembers Robert Gonzales and Edward Alvarez voted for the bowling alley proposal while Councilmembers Uriel Macias and Angel Carrillo supported a movie theater. The Charles Company’s “The Bloc” mixed-use development project is slated for completion in 2019.
At Towne Avenue and Base Line Road sits more than a skeleton of what was supposed to become a 95-unit town home project on a former strawberry patch. Infrastructure has been laid and the first buildings are almost complete — on the outside. It was controversial when it was approved two years ago, squeaking by on a 3-2 vote from the City Council. In February, the council learned that construction came to a stop. Claremont Director of Community Development Brian Desatnik reported the developer — Newport Beach-based William Lyon Homes, a longtime builder with 19 other projects currently for sale in Southern California — needed 60 days to reaccess the market. City officials are concerned the unfinished town homes could becomeattractive nuisance. Personnel from the city’s code enforcement division and police department make daily visits to the site. Claremont indicates that the developer will have to pay for securing the property and reimbursing the city for its monitoring costs.
Covina City Manager Andrea Miller resigned suddenly on Tuesday May 3rd after a little over a year with the city. Miller, who was hired last February, said she decided it was time to leave now as the city begins a new budget cycle and continues to address a history of structural deficits with layoffs and other changes she initiated. During her first and only budget cycle in Covina, Miller laid off nine employees from the finance and community development departments because of a projected budget deficit. A total of 20 employees, including two part-time workers, were laid off during her tenure. Two other positions were eliminated through attrition. She resigned during closed session at their regular meeting of Tuesday May 3rd when they reviewed her performance. Her resignation was approved by the council at a special meeting Thursday May 5th. Miller replaced former City Manager Daryl Parrish, who retired in December 2014. She previously worked in San Bernardino and La Mirada and was director of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments. When she was hired in Covina last year, Miller said the council needed an executive who could start addressing the city’s financial issues. The city adopted a balanced budget as a result of the layoffs, but due to additional expenditures, including a $1.6 million purchase of park property and employee payouts, the city currently faces a structural deficit of about $668,000, according to city documents. The City Council appointed former Arcadia City Manager Don Penman to serve as interim city manager. Penman, 64, retired in 2011 and has since served as interim city manager in San Fernando, Temple City and most recently in Azusa.
As part of an ongoing Superfund cleanup, the Environmental Protection Agency is testing the air inside dozens of homes and commercial buildings in the South El Monte area where cancer-causing chemicals have infiltrated the soil and parts of the groundwater basin, officials revealed on Monday May 16th. As of Friday May 13th, the EPA has taken air samples from 65 homes and 55 commercial or recreational facilities in El Monte and South El Monte to determine if spilled industrial chemicals rising as vapors from the soil are entering buildings through cracks in their foundations. Following the tests, the EPA installed treatment systems at five of the properties. The EPA did not release the addresses of homes or other properties tested for air contaminants due to privacy concerns. Air sampling is part of an effort “to determine whether vapor intrusion is occurring at the South El Monte Operable Unit of the San Gabriel Area 1 Superfund site. The “operable unit” is the name EPA gives to cleanup zones within large Superfund sites. South El Monte OU, which includes parts of El Monte and Rosemead, is one of eight other operable units identified by EPA in 1984, including Alhambra, Baldwin Park, El Monte, Puente Valley, Richwood, Suburban and Whittier Narrows. Groundwater wells in those areas contaminated with industrial solvents and rocket fuel from hundreds of industrial sources were closed and cleanup has been underway for decades. The EPA has not released the results of vapor intrusion sampling in the South El Monte area, saying it “will continue to evaluate the extent of vapor intrusion in the area, and will make and implement decisions as we collect additional data.” Chemicals the EPA is testing for include tetrachlorethene, also known as perchlorothylene, a chemical used in dry-cleaning and as a solvent for cleaning metal parts, and trichlorethene, another industrial solvent. Both are classified as probable human carcinogens. Vapor intrusion is a potential human exposure pathway — a way that people may come into contact with hazardous vapors while performing their day-to-day indoor activities, according to an EPA report released in June. San Gabriel Valley residents and elected officials expressed concerns, mostly for being left in the dark about the EPA activities. “We have not been notified about anything,” said South El Monte City Councilman Joseph Gonzales. “This is very concerning to me, that they are doing that.” Cleanup of groundwater contamination in the South El Monte area is extensive, according to the San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority, the state agency in charge of cleaning the vast, 170-square-mile basin of toxic plumes. The basin supplies drinking water for nearly 2 million people. Potable water from the basin has met all state and federal guidelines.
The City of Industry may hire former California Attorney General Bill Lockyer to help with the city’s reforms after officials determined the “extra layer of review and analysis” could increase public confidence in their efforts, according to a staff report. The City Council will vote on Thursday May 26th on whether to pay Lockyer, an attorney with Brown Rudnick in Irvine, a $25,000-per-month retainer to serve as Industry’s independent reform adviser. Lockyer led the state senate from 1994 to 1998, before becoming attorney general, a post he held until 2007. He then served as state treasurer until 2014. The $300,000 annual contract would remain in effect until Lockyer completes his tasks or until June 1, 2019, according to the agreement. Industry can end the contract at any time with 10 days’ notice. Industry came under fire last year when an internal audit revealed the city paid $326 million over 20 years to former Mayor David Perez and his family’s companies. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the state controller’s office subsequently launched probes into Industry’s finances. The controller found that few financial controls existed to prevent corruption in the business-centric city of about 200 residents. The D.A.’s Office has yet to conclude its criminal investigation into Perez. Because Industry owns nearly half of the city’s housing stock and rents the tax-free homes without any application process to officials’ friends and family, some have said the city is a breeding ground for corruption and malfeasance. The scope of services outlined in his agreement calls for reports on the independence of the city’s housing commission, on its new housing development, on the competitive bidding process and on the City Council’s compensation. Lockyer expects to produce quarterly reports on the city’s overall progress, with other public disclosures happening as needed. State Sen. Ed Hernandez, whose district includes Industry, introduced legislation in April that would force the city to restrict the City Council, city employees and their family members from living in city-owned housing. It would also require the city to follow the California Public Contract Code when hiring for municipal work. While the bill is likely to face constitutional challenges, the pressure brought by SB 1236 opened the door for negotiations between the city and the state senator that included Hernandez pushing for a watchdog position with responsibilities much like those with which Lockyer has been tasked. Though Hernandez feels progress is being made, he isn’t backing down on his bill. Industry’s city manager and new council, elected in the city’s first election in nearly two decades, say the city is moving forward with a series of reforms. There are a few signs that Industry is changing already. The City Council rejected a maintenance contract bid earlier this month when the city’s staff found a former employee required the winning bidder to hire specific contractors.
LINC Housing continues to expand its portfolio of affordable housing as construction begins on Mosaic Gardens at Pomona. The new 46-home apartment complex is expected to welcome its first residents in late 2017. Located at 1680 S. Garey Ave. in Pomona, Calif., Mosaic Gardens at Pomona will feature one-, two- and three-bedroom homes for low-income families, with half of the apartments designated for formerly homeless households who are being served by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. According to LINC Housing, Mosaic Gardens at Pomona is part of LINC’s initiative to integrate affordable housing with health resources and other services. During predevelopment of Mosaic Gardens at Pomona, LINC Housing sought input from local government officials, city staff, and community advocates. In addition, LINC staff participated in meetings of the Pomona Continuum of Care Coalition, a group focused on working together to address issues surrounding homelessness. The Coalition includes more than 40 agencies including service providers, advocates, faith-based organizations, local government representatives, and county departments, as well as, homeless and formerly homeless people and concerned citizens. A variety of resident services will be offered through LINC Cares, LINC’s resident services department, and Ocean Park Community Center (OPCC), which has a contract with the county to provide intensive case management services to the 23 formerly homeless households that will call Mosaic Gardens at Pomona their home. Funding for the $19.7-million development comes from a number of sources including the Los Angeles County Affordable Housing Funds, a construction to permanent loan from Citi, a Citi subordinate loan, and tax credit equity from Raymond James Tax Credit Funds Inc. The 23 homeless units, which include one, two, and three bedrooms, will receive rental subsidies from the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services as administered by Brilliant Corners. Funding for predevelopment of the site was made possible by generous support from The California Endowment, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and Partners in Progress. Residents of the new apartment community will benefit from convenient parking, a community room, and a spacious courtyard with tot lot. The courtyard will be on a deck above subterranean parking and will serve as a gathering space for families to talk, children to play, and all residents to get to know each other. The community room will include a large living room-type area, computers for resident use, and ample space for resident services programs and events. Three offices in the community building will provide space for private meetings with case managers, therapists or other visiting service providers.
The new complex will have a number of sustainability features including 35 kW of solar photovoltaic to offset common and resident use, high-efficiency mechanical systems, and a foam roof for added insulation. The building also has high-performance windows and building envelope, and both the HVAC and water heating systems are very high efficiency. Other environmental features include low-flow plumbing fixtures, LED lighting, drought tolerant landscape, on-site recapture of rainwater, permeable paving surfaces, and healthy building materials throughout. Southern California Edison provided support for the project’s energy efficiency features through its Emerging Technologies program. Mosaic Gardens at Pomona has been registered with the U.S. Green Building Council and intends to pursue a LEED Platinum certification. The community was designed by D33 Design and Planning, and the contractor is Walton Construction Services.
The Rancho Cucamonga City Council approved a developer’s plans to transform Empire Lakes golf course into a high-density, urban community with new homes, a community center and shops.
Officials hope the development — to be built 160 acres north of Fourth Street, west of Milliken Avenue, east of Cleveland Avenue and south of Eighth Street — will attract a desirable workforce and boost the local economy, while opponents fear increased traffic, the loss of open space and impact to services. The council voted 4-1 after a lengthy hearing. Councilman Bill Alexander was the dissenting vote. Empire Lakes Golf Course is slated to be sold May 31 to the Lewis Group of Companies, which wants to build between 2,650 and 3,450 homes — with a mix of rental and for-sale units — and 220,000 square feet of nonresidential uses, such as light retail, commercial services, recreation amenities and a community center. The site is a 15-minute walk from the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink station. Lewis said the company hopes to attract younger buyers, retirees and renters who are looking for different housing options. City Planning Director Candyce Burnett said the city’s economic strategic plan identifies the need for a higher-density, urban type of housing product that appeals to millennial professionals desiring walkable amenities, locations near transit options and nearby entertainment and activities.
Many living in San Dimas are angered by what they say are louder and longer train horns by Metrolink.
During a City Council meeting on April 26th, a San Dimas resident demonstrated the type of sound he wakes up to on his homemade horn. Another resident brought in cellphone video to show how long she can hear the horn, which lasted 33 seconds in that clip. Metrolink says federal law requires a horn to last a quarter of a mile as the train enters the crossing. And at times, there are a series of crossings in a row. A spokesperson for Metrolink says just this year they’ve been leasing freight locomotives that have louder horns. It’s in response to a federal investigation still underway, but they say they do not plan to renew that lease when it’s up at the end of October. Residents want the city to fight for quiet zones. It would exempt the crossings from the horns but could cost millions to build safety measures. The City Council meeting ended with a plan to hold a community meeting and discuss the issue further. That date has yet to be set
A defense attorney in San Bernardino County’s Colonies corruption case has filed a motion in Superior Court seeking dismissal of the case on grounds that prosecutors destroyed evidence. The motion, filed May 13 in San Bernardino Superior Court, states that prosecutors with the state Attorney General’s Office destroyed emails defense attorney Stephen Larson requested on behalf of his client, Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum, a defendant in the public corruption case. Burum is accused of paying $100,000 in bribes to three former top county officials to fix a $102 million settlement among Burum’s Rancho Cucamonga investor group, Colonies Partners LP, and the county in November 2006. The settlement ended a nearly five-year legal battle over who was responsible for flood- control improvements at Colonies’ 434-acre residential development and shopping center in Upland, Colonies at San Antonio and Colonies Crossroads, respectively. Larson was seeking the emails to show that prosecutors had been communicating with former San Bernardino County Counsel Ruth Stringer and Deputy County Counsel Mitch Norton prior to the April 2011 grand jury proceedings and had knowledge they had reversed their opinions regarding the settlement. While Norton and Stringer testified before the grand jury in 2011 that in 2006 they believed the settlement was not justified and refused to ratify it, prosecutors did not elicit testimony from the two that they had since changed their opinions and believed the settlement was legitimate. Following a court order in November to produce the records, Deputy District Attorney Lewis Cope informed the court that the requested emails for the specific time period in question had been destroyed at the Attorney General’s Office, where policy calls for emails not archived by the recipient or sender to be destroyed after 90 days, according to Larson’s motion. Also indicted in May 2011 were former county Supervisor Paul Biane, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for former county Supervisor Gary Ovitt. All four defendants deny any wrongdoing
A councilman’s proposal to seek a ballot measure to repeal West Covina’s nearly 30-year ban on safe and sane fireworks was defeated on Tuesday May 3rd after residents urged the council to drop the idea. Several council members said that while they supported the notion of letting the voters decide whether to repeal the ban on sprinklers, fountains and other fireworks that do not explode in the air, they were not willing to ask taxpayers to pay for a special election. Councilman Mike Spence requested a report on the city’s options for such a measure in March, saying it was “important for us to at least look at it” because of the council’s ongoing discussion on establishing administrative citations for those who store or set off fireworks within the city limits. Last month, the council approved an ordinance that allows law enforcement to issue $1,000 fines to those found selling, using or storing fireworks. Spence reiterated that message during the Council meeting and argued that if the city does not place a measure on a future ballot then it opens up the possibility for an industry-backed initiative on the matter. A large number of residents, including two former council members, urged the council to reject the proposal during public comment, saying that allowing the use of “safe and sane” fireworks in the city would increase injuries and public safety costs. Some questioned the motives behind the proposal and noted that no residents have asked the council to reverse the ban, which was adopted by the City Council in 1988 and upheld by voters during a referendum challenge.