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.
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.