Cities Reports

April 2019 Cities Report

Compiled by Bill Ruh, CVAR Director of Government Affairs

AZUSA

The Azusa Unified School District (AUSD) will consolidate and close two schools at the end of this school year as a result of declining enrollment.

Both Mountain View and Gladstone elementary schools are set to close their doors.

District Superintendent Linda Kaminski said students should be able to stay in any specialized programs which will be transferred to another school. The Superintendent acknowledges the inconvenience facing families, but says the district had to make the tough decision to close schools.

AUSD cites changing demographics for the consolidation. More families are aging in place, their children are grown and have moved away; younger families are having fewer children; families are moving to areas that are more jobs rich, and there’s a lack of affordable housing.

The AUSD board will look into leasing the two closing campuses next year. Receiving revenue will help the district tackle the $3 million cuts it needs to make.

BALDWIN PARK

The Baldwin Park Unified School District (BPUSD) is partnering with Care Solace, an online research tool that assists individuals in finding local counseling-related services, to promote the importance of mental health and ensure the well-being of the district community.

Care Solace services are available at no cost to BPUSD students, families and staff. To use the program, individuals answer 10 questions and are directed to an extensive list of referrals for care providers. A search algorithm matches individuals with mental health care resources. A Student Care Tracker also is available so parents can monitor their child’s progress and take steps to locate additional resources if needed.

Care Solace generates referrals that take into account a variety of insurance policies, including private insurance, Medi-Cal, Medicaid and Medicare. If uninsured, Care Solace also identifies local care providers that allow individuals to pay out-of-pocket for services.

The site does not require a username, home address, phone number or date of birth. To find out more information, visit http://www.caresolace.com/bpusdfamilies.

CHINO HILLS

The city of Chino Hills has deemed the chain-link fence surrounding the closed Vellano Golf Course as a visual blight that is grossly out of character with the community, denying the developer’s final appeal option with the city. The council voted unanimously to reject WGP-Vellano’s request for a permit that would have allowed the fence to remain up.

WGP-Vellano purchased the 18-hole golf course in 2017, shut it down in May 2018, and installed a chain-link fence around a portion of the golf course without permits. The company is requesting that another 9,200 linear feet of fence be installed to complete the project, for a total of 3.5 miles.

The gated community of $2 to $4 million homes is located off Woodview Road, west of Peyton Drive. Residents applauded the council’s decision, and assert that the developer installed the fence to retaliate against the Vellano homeowners, who opposed its plan to build houses on the golf course. WGP-Vellano officials have said golf courses aren’t making money anymore, citing an oversupply of golf courses, declining membership, and the high cost of water.

The city staff report contains legal arguments as to why the chain-link fence is not allowed, citing the municipal code and the conditional use permit issued to Vellano in 2004 authorizing development of the golf course with specific architectural guidelines. WGP officials cited public safety as the top reason the fence is necessary and produced photographs showing evidence of trespassing and newspaper articles about liability dangers resulting from unregulated golf courses.

WGP officials have not disclosed their next course of action.

EL MONTE

A developer and the city of El Monte are close to finalizing a deal to build 87 townhouses on vacant land next to the Santa Fe Trail Plaza, half of which would be five-bedroom, four-bath rental units geared toward multigenerational families.

The developer, Scott Choppin of the Urban Pacific Group Group of Companies, calls the three-story units “urban town houses.” He said they uniquely fill a need in the housing market—units for large, extended families who share space, cars and expenses and need more space than a typical apartment but can’t buy a single-family home.

The City Council  voted on a deal would sell the 4.83-acre site east of the Santa Fe Trail Plaza to Urban Pacific, which proposes to build 42 of the rental units, 45 for-sale condos and a 1-acre public park. The vacant public land, currently used to temporarily store cars, was formerly owned by the El Monte Redevelopment Agency.

Like other similarly owned public parcels in cities across the state, this one is being sold as part of the liquidation process spurred when redevelopment agencies were abolished by the state in 2011. City officials chose Urban Pacific as having the best proposal via a competitive process. Officials determined it would be best to build a housing project at the site because there are already vacant storefronts in the city. More homes means more shoppers who could help spur business in empty retail spaces.

The Festival Companies, which finished building the Santa Fe Trail Plaza in 2015, had an option to buy the adjacent land for expansion that expired in mid-2017. It was last assessed in 2018 at $7.4 million, although the final purchase price will be based on a new appraisal.

The rental units are what the housing industry refers to as the “missing middle”—they’re not low-income units built using government subsidies, nor are they high-rise luxury condos that only the wealthy can afford, said El Monte officials.

LA VERNE

The Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority, which is overseeing a 12.3-mile extension of the Gold Line from Glendora to Montclair, is considering expanding White Avenue, the main thoroughfare between the 10 and 210 freeways, to four lanes. Residents along White Avenue in La Verne fear that widening it will result in more congestion, speeding and, in some cases, could impede the lifestyle of the community.

The street widening would stretch six city blocks, from First to Sixth streets, to ease traffic flow issues that exist and likely would worsen with the arrival of the light rail extension, which plans a stop in La Verne.

Currently, White Avenue at Arrow Highway has two lanes in both directions, and the northbound lane narrows to a single lane as it nears First Street. The tree-lined road then becomes a single lane in both directions with a dedicated median turn lane, and no street parking allowed.

Given public interest, La Verne officials held a workshop April 29 to give the City Council and the public a chance to learn more details about the project’s modifications.

Gold Line extension plans.

The original plan was for all six light-rail stations to finish more or less simultaneously in 2026, but a recently revised timetable brings the Gold Line to La Verne–assuming all plans pass environmental muster–by 2024. Pomona, Claremont and Montclair wouldn’t receive Gold Line service until 2028—if at all.

The revision called for dividing construction into two phases, because anticipated costs have risen 38 percent, from $1.5 billion to $2.1 billion.

In March, the authority released a supplemental report which analyzed the environmental impacts to parking and traffic if either La Verne or Pomona were the temporary terminus. The analysis of White Avenue found there would be more traffic during evening peak hours as a result of the light rail.

About 6 feet of public easement would be needed to widen the street. La Verne controls about 10 or more feet via parkways and sidewalks on each side of the street, so no private property would be needed.

One option could be to implement a queue cutter signal that would prevent any vehicle from getting stuck on the tracks. The signal can detect when traffic is backing up near the tracks and alerts motorists to wait at the intersection until it is safe to proceed.

Residents told the council they are petitioning the authority for traffic signals at Second and Third streets.

Comments may be sent to Lisa Levy Buch, chief communications officer, Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, at LLevyBuch@foothillgoldline.org or 406 E. Huntington Drive, Suite 202, Monrovia, CA 91016.

ONTARIO

On April 16, Chicago-based Bridge Development Partners announced that it has acquired the site of the former Scandia park, and plans to build two speculative industrial buildings on the 11.9-acre site. The company is building them without tenants lined up.

The first building will sit on the southern part of the property. When completed, the 178,462-square-foot building will have a 32-foot clearance inside, a 155-foot truck court, along with 10,000 square feet of office space. It will also have 23 exterior docks and parking for 99 cars.

On the northern end of the parcel, the second building also will have a 32-foot internal clearance height in a 90,252-square-foot building. It will have a 137-foot truck court, 8,000 square feet of office space, 11 exterior docks and parking for 56 cars.

Including the Ontario development, Bridge Point has 8.5 million square feet of property in development in California, according to a company news release.

The property is the site of the former amusement park adjacent to the southbound I-15 freeway, near the Jurupa Street off-ramp. It’s also a mile south of the interchange with I-10, close to State Highway 60.

The new buildings are expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2020.

POMONA

It’s likely to be three years before Pomona has a better idea of the long-term development plans for the nearly 500-acre Fairplex campus.

Currently, Fairplex hosts 500 events a year, everything from boat and RV shows to the Los Angeles County Fair. About a year ago, the organization–with public input–updated its mission and core values with an eye toward the next 100 years of operation.

After taking into account residents’ concerns, Fairplex agreed last November in lieu of requesting amendments to current zoning laws project-by-project, it would be amenable to a specific plan to cover the entire site. A specific plan guides development in a defined area to such detail that when developers propose projects, they can sail through the normal approval process as long as they adhere to the guidelines.

In the meantime, a tentative agreement with city officials, if approved, would allow Fairplex to hold six new music events in the next three years while providing funds to study noise and traffic generated by Fairplex’s activities.

The agreement is expected to come before the council either at the last meeting in May or early June. Once approved, Fairplex would pay the city to hire a consultant and the work can begin.

As promised, Fairplex will create a nuisance fund to help mitigate the issues residents are currently experiencing. Residents have complained about noise, traffic and trash.

RANCHO CUCAMONGA

The City of Rancho Cucamonga and National Community Renaissance (National CORE) broke ground on Day Creek Villas, an affordable housing community for seniors aged 62 and older located along the Pacific Electric Trail. The project will feature 131 one-bedroom and eight two-bedroom apartment homes for seniors making between 30% and 60% of the area median income, and one additional unit for the manager.

The community is located at the end of Firehouse Court, within walking distance of the Day Creek Marketplace and the Estate Winery Marketplace, providing residents access to grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, and other local businesses. Amenities will include a swimming pool, outdoor lounges, fireplaces and a community center.

Development partners include the city, California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, California Debt Limit Allocation Committee, Chase, Hudson Housing Capital, Century Housing, Housing Authority of the County of San Bernardino, and FHLB of San Francisco AHP.

SOUTH EL MONTE

In a special closed session meeting May 2, the City Council voted 3-2, with council members Hector Delgado and Gracie Retamoza opposed, to fire City Manager Jennifer Vasquez, who had served as city manager since 2016 after her predecessor, Anthony Ybarra, resigned.

Ybarra resigned in August 2016, not long after FBI investigators revealed former mayor Luis Aguinaga took tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from a city contractor. Aguinaga was sentenced to a year in prison and a year of home arrest as a result.

Deputy City Manager Rachel Barbosa is serving as acting city manager until the City Council selects an interim city manager to lead the staff until a permanent replacement can be found.

Barbosa has served as deputy city manager for 1 1/2 years and was previously district director for Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis,  and prior to that represented Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Olmos said that while Barbosa hasn’t worked in city administration for very long, she has a great deal of experience working in local government.

While some residents have taken issue with Barbosa’s lack of a college degree, Olmos said the city has much greater problems to worry about.

The agreement that had Aguinaga pleading guilty indicated an unidentified city official from South El Monte participated with him in the bribery scheme spanning seven years, for most of the time that Aguinaga served as mayor. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has not released the identity of the second city official.

Barbosa doesn’t hide her lack of a college degree, but she said her career has given her years of hands-on experience in local government, which has earned trust from elected officials, such as Ridley-Thomas and Solis. At the same time, that career left her less time to complete her degree.

UPLAND

The Upland City Council voted May 13 to fire City Manager Jeannette Vagnozzi, the city’s sixth manager since 2005. Within months of her hiring, an overwhelming number of union workers said they lacked confidence in her leadership, fueled by 11 years without cost-of-living pay increases, officials within the Upland City Employees Association said.

Vagnozzi was the assistant city manager before being appointed interim city manager, then became the permanent replacement for the job in November. The council voted 4-1 to dismiss her, with Mayor Debbie Stone casting the lone vote of dissent.

“We decided it was in the city’s best interest to move forward with a new city manager,” Councilwoman Janice Elliott said following the Monday meeting. “This was a difficult decision … and was reached with all due deliberation.”

Vagnozzi will remain on administrative leave until her official last day, June 13. The council voted unanimously for City Engineer Rosemary Hoerning to act as city manager until a new manager is found.

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Atlanta-based Wood Partners plans to break ground on Alta Upland, a 203-unit multifamily community in Upland. The project is located on the last undeveloped parcel of The Colonies at San Antonio Master Plan, and is adjacent to The Colonies Crossroads, a popular Inland Empire retail development.

Alta Upland is the first new apartment community to be built in Upland in over a decade.

The new neighborhood will offer a combination of one, two and three-bedroom floor plans. Amenities include an expansive courtyard that will house a pool and spa, and the community will also include a business center, a clubhouse and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

 Construction on the new multifamily community, located at 1160 East 19th St., is expected to begin within the next month and be completed in fall 2020.

WEST COVINA

Looking for extra help with the city’s finances, West Covina moved to expand the role of its audit committee and change its name to Finance & Audit committee, and expand its responsibilities to include:

  • Reviewing monthly city financial reports.

  • Comparing actual revenues and expenditures to those anticipated in the city’s annual budget.

  • Providing quarterly reports to the City Council about its financial status.

Previously, the Audit Committee, whose members include City Councilman Dario Castellanos, Councilwoman Jessica Shewmaker, elected Treasurer Colleen Rozatti, and residents Jim Grivich, David Lin and Marsha Solorio, was primarily responsible for oversight and review of the city’s annual independent financial audit.

A major impetus for the change is the projected multimillion-dollar budget deficit anticipated for the city’s 2019-20 budget, which the city staff is in the midst of preparing for City Council review.

Last year, the council did not approve a budget until a month into the fiscal year. The first draft presented in May included an $8.7 million general fund deficit, and the gap was only bridged after several rounds of cuts to staffing and 10% cuts to all department budgets except Planning and Fire.

Concerned that the council was abdicating its financial oversight responsibilities, several residents cautioned the council against rushing to approve the changes to the committee.