The City Council voted to allow Covina Irrigating Company the authority after a drawn-out battle with Crystal Canyon Home Owners Association has blocked progress on a project to replace an open canal system with underground water pipes. Covina Irrigating Company is a non-profit, mutual water wholesaler that provides water to cities like Covina, West Covina, Glendora, San Dimas and Azusa.
After spending some $600,000 to fight Vulcan Materials Co.’s mining expansion project in neighboring Azusa, Duarte officials say they will not continue to challenge an environmental review of the project.
In other Azusa matters, The Second Appellate District Court sided with Vulcan and Azusa in February when it backed a Los Angeles Superior Court decision against Duarte and found that the project’s Environmental Impact Report was adequate. That move, along with Duarte’s latest decision not to appeal, ends two and a half years of litigation over the project. The EIR found the project would not create any significant, unavoidable air quality impacts. However, Duarte officials fear the project, which is set to extract 105.6 million tons of aggregate from the mountain between now and 2038, will negatively affect air quality while destroying Azusa’s Van Tassel Ridge. Duarte and would like to further discuss alternatives to taking down Van Tassel Ridge. The South Coast Air Quality Management District said the agency is committed to doing monitoring there, as it has done before, and is working out the details, including the number of stations, with Duarte.
Prodded by the state Public Utilities Commission, Chino Hills is willing to contribute as much as $76 million if Southern California Edison undergrounds high-voltage powerlines. In a testimony before the PUC City Manager Mike Fleager said the city is prepared to make a financial committment of $70.45 million to $76.7 million to mitigate costs of undergrounding a portion of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project from Edison and other ratepayers. The city was asked to provide a detailed report in July. The lines are a part of Edison’s 173-mile project designed to carry wind-generated electricity from Kern County to the Los Angeles Basin. The project was approved in 2009 by the PUC but city officials have pushed for the portion of the project in the city to be placed underground. Per the PUC, the project has been on hold since 2011 to examining undergrounding the lines. According to the City, they would be willing to transfer the title of property to Edison and by doing so the city would sacrifice receiving the revenue from those properties. The city would also be willing to take on the cost associated with landscaping and maintenance of those properties located in the right-of-way for the transmission lines. Moreover, the city could also stand to lose the rights to the interest fees under the installation of telecommunication licensing agreements.
The Claremont City Council approved elimination of an inclusionary housing requirement for rental housing property because affordable rental housing can’t be required in newly created rental developments that receive no help or incentives from local government. A recent California Court of Appeals case found the rental housing requirement and in-lieu fees based on the requirements violated a state law governing rent control. Besides the rental housing item, council members voted to replace a long-term covenant requirement, which is when the city requires units to be affordable long-term, with a principal recapture and equity sharing agreement. The recapture and equity sharing agreement, is when apartment units are sold at market rate with the city recapturing the original principal and sharing a percentage of the equity appreciation.
A coalition of business interests including the Citrus Valley Association of REALTORS and the California Association of Mortgage Professionals are continuing to negotiate with the City of Covina on the Business License Tax issue.
The El Monte City Council unanimously approved the El Monte Norms Restaurant Project, a $4 million, 6,900-square-foot development that has been long planned for the southeast corner of Valley Boulevard and Santa Anita Avenue. As part of the project, the City Council also approved a plan in which Norms will be allowed exclusive access of up to 47 public parking spaces on what is currently a vacant city-owned parcel in exchange for $1 a year. City officials will negotiate the final terms of the proposed agreement and bring it back for final City Council approval at a public hearing in May. The vacant site was formerly home to a flower shop, tire retailer and small strip of businesses. The city acquired the site for $4 million and cleared it in order to make traffic and street improvements at the intersection. The upgrades to the intersection will reduce traffic congestion by widening the street to form new turning lanes and a bus turnout. The upgrades are scheduled to be completed by June. Because the acquisition of the businesses on that corner were paid by a portion of redevelopment money, any business proposed on that property will be subject to approval of the redevelopment oversight board. After the state dismantled redevelopment, oversight boards were created to oversee the disposition of redevelopment properties. The oversight board, which has recently heard a presentation of the project, will review the disposition of the property. It will then vote on whether to transfer it from the successor agency to the city’s nonprofit economic development corporation, El Monte Smart Growth. Officials said they anticipate between $35,000 and $50,000 in annual sales tax revenues and $64,000 in property taxes. Norms must continuously employ 40 El Monte residents for a five-year period, with 20 of these employees from low- to moderate-income households. To facilitate that, the city will reward the company with a $700,000 CDBG job creation grant. Additionally, the city also will secure a $700,000 construction loan for Norms. If all goes as planned, city officials said a groundbreaking would take place in October, and Norms would open in the spring.
The Glendora Village will be adding new attractions for shoppers on Saturday mornings as the Business Improvement District Advisory Board approved a proposal to conduct a farmers market this summer. The pilot project is slated to begin May 11, operating weekly from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays through Sept. 28. It will be located in the parking lot behind the Village Plaza, off Vista Bonita Avenue. The market will offer a variety of certified farmer’s produce, noncertified items such as preserves, pickled cucumbers and packaged items, and craft vendors. Ready-to-eat foods such as popcorn or sandwiches will be prohibited, however, to avoid conflicts with restaurants and shops already in the Village. The board approved a contract with Family Festival Productions, which currently operates several markets, including ones in La Verne, Monrovia and the City of Hope. The contract with FFPI states that there must be a minimum of eight certified or noncertified farmers and a maximum of five crafts vendors that will not conflict with businesses in the Village. The marketing committee has recommended a budget of $9,215 for the 20-week program, which has an estimated cost of $400 per event. Vendors will be charged 10 percent of gross sales, with a maximum of $25 from artisan vendors, FFPI will provide monthly reports on the success of the market, based on reviews and sales reports. The board also recommended the City Council add a line item to the 2013-2014 budget to account for the farmers market.
Although officials are projecting to end the 2012-13 fiscal year with a balanced budget, a decision that indebted the city with $10 million for the construction of a youth center six years ago is coming back to haunt the city’s financial state. The City Council held a mid-year budget review, in which staff explained that last year’s budget projections are much better than expected. La Puente’s general fund revenue has experienced a growth of $322,000, and has a reserve balance of $6.3 million, about $300,000 more than what was projected last year. Damaging the city’s positive fiscal outlook are payments on a $10 million loan the city took out in 2007 for the construction and renovation of the La Puente Community Center and Youth Learning Activity Center. To pay back the loan, the city was contributing interest-only payments of $419,910 annually, and this year began paying the principal also, ballooning the payment to about $ 1 million. Payments are expected to reduce slightly each year until 2029. Officials were supposed to arrange a restructuring plan for the debt but have yet to do so. A $565,000 payment, a portion of which will be absorbed by the general fund, is due July 1. Despite the debt, officials say the city’s current fiscal condition remains “cautiously stable” and is a stark contrast from the financial emergency predicted last year. Last February, city staff was warning the council that La Puente was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. Beginning in fiscal year 2014-15, cash balances were projected to be too low for the city to continue operating and short-term borrowing would be inevitable. By fiscal year 2015-16, the city would run out of cash. However, through reductions to the council’s travel budget, contract negotiations, increases in animal license fees and other long-term plans, city officials were able to turn things around. Officials have tentatively scheduled a 2013-14 budget workshop with the council on May 24 and a public workshop on June 6. The final adoption is tentatively scheduled for June 18.
For the past three months, construction crews have been gutting the interior, replacing everything from the ceiling to electrical. Other workers have focused their attention on the exterior of the 42,000-square-foot building adjacent to Montclair Plaza. The former home of Borders will open on May 17th as an Ashley Furniture Home Design Center. Borders closed in April 2011, and a month later, Ashley inquired about the property, indicating it was looking for a couple of locations in Southern California. Last year, Ashley purchased the building and signed a long-term lease on the land. The company chose the Montclair location in part because of its synergy with the mall and the freeway visibility. Besides Montclair and West Covina, the next closest store is in Colton, where the company’s manufacturing hub is situated and where 1,500 are employed. The opening will also create 35 to 40 jobs. Even though the home-store location is part of a larger network, Haines said it is important that each of their stores are part of the local community and are already a part of the local Chamber of Commerce. The dome above the entrance -a signature fixture of Borders bookstores – has been removed and is making way for a more modern design which will include elevating the windows. When the Montclair store opens in May it will mark the 10th Ashley Furniture home store to open since 2010 and the second in 2013 for a total of 16 in the Los Angeles market since 2007. Earlier this year Ashley opened a store in West Covina.
Preservationists are objecting to the findings of an initial study on the Chinatown House in Rancho Cucamonga that indicates the building has lost historical significance and no longer qualifies as a historic landmark. Groups from local Chinese-American heritage associations are pressing the case to save the house, which has been red-tagged by the city as unsafe, from demolition. They say the home, a two-story building made of red clay bricks, once housed Chinese agricultural and water channel workers in the early 20th century. The house was designated as a city historic landmark in 1985, but a city report released this month indicates that the building has deteriorated to the point that the house has lost its historical significant and no longer qualifies as a historic landmark. A planning and historic preservation commission meeting will be held Wednesday to discuss the matter and to provide direction to the building official on how to proceed on the demolition requirement. On the southwest corner of Klusman Avenue and San Bernardino Road, it was built in 1919 on the site of a once-thriving Chinatown. City officials say the house poses a danger to the public and late last year, presented a demolition order to the Cucamonga Valley Water District, which owns the property. The water district had earlier approved plans to demolish the house and use some of the original brick work for a monument to honor the Chinese laborers who had lived in or near the building in the early 20th century. That recommendation was echoed in the city’s initial study to mitigate “significant impacts to the historical value of the site due to the demolition of the structure. ” Among the mitigation measures:
— “Prior to demolition, the structure shall be cataloged and recorded through a historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record. ”
— “During demolition, at least three pallets of salvageable materials shall be set aside on-site for incorporation into a future development project. ”
— “After demolition, a monument shall be constructed on the corner of the site utilizing the brick materials salvaged from the structure commemorating the Chinese laborers who once occupied the China House. ”
After hearing from preservation advocates earlier this year, the water district requested and was granted a 60-day extension to come up with a potential preservation plan.
The City Council tentatively approved a contentious citation ordinance, that will attempt to gain compliance through the threat of daily fines. The council approved the first reading of the revised ordinance Monday April 8, several months after approving an original version of the ordinance drafted by then-interim City Attorney Jimmy Gutierrez. The council held off on the final approval of the ordinance in July after residents protested. They agreed to have the City Council Advisory Committee take a look. They met in October and February, making several changes, before recommending it to the council during their March meeting. The City Council Advisory Committee made several changes to the ordinance. These include ensuring that property owners with tenants also receive the notice of violation, the hearing officer is a third party not affiliated with the city and that fines be included in a resolution and will be up for review annually. When implemented, the ordinance would allow the city to levy daily fines on property owners who fail to comply with the Municipal Code. The fines, which were also tentatively approved through a resolution, are categorized by violation type and the number of violations in a 12-month period. For general violations, such as debris on property, unmaintained parkways/landscape, needed building maintenance, illegal building/structure or and illegal home business structure, are $100 for a first offense; $200 for a second offense and $500 for a third offense. Building and safety violations, such as dilapidated structures, unsecured stagnant pool; dilapidated pool fence/gate or sewage outflow, are $500 for a first offense; $750 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third offense. When fully implemented, violators would receive a notice of violation, with a letter stating they may be fined and attached fines, and will be given 10 days to respond. If they do not, then a code enforcement officer will make a second attempt, giving them 30 more days to comply. If they still fail to comply, the officer can issue a citation adding an additional 15 days to abate the violation without incurring a fine. The property owner then will have an opportunity to appeal or request a hearing. If the appeal is granted the case is dismissed, otherwise they will be required to pay the fine. If a hearing is granted, then they are required to pay a $210 deposit. Waivers are available for people who cannot afford to pay the deposit. The hearing will be set within 10 to 21 days. If the outcome is in favor of the property owner then the case is dismissed, but if it is in favor of the city then they must pay their fines within 16 days or go to court. Under the city’s current policy, code enforcement officers send two notices of violation.
After a nearly six-year effort, the sounding of train horns will be restricted 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to the “Notice of Establishment of New Quiet Zone” signed by the cities of Industry and Walnut. The restriction went into effect on April 22 for both Union Pacific freight trains and Amtrak passenger trains crossing Fairway Drive, Lemon Avenue, Brea Canyon Road and the Benton Feed Yard.So far, the cities have not heard an objection from the Federal Railroad Administration or the California Public Utilities Commission, the agencies responsible for enforcing quiet zones along railroad tracks in towns across the United States and California, respectively. In 2006, residents who live in Snow Creek and other developments in Walnut south of Puente Avenue and north of Valley Boulevard began complaining about the loud train blasts that would literally make them jump or wake them up in the middle of the night. Since the train tracks are located in Industry, but the impacts falls on Walnut, so Walnut officials began talking to Industry about working on a federal quiet zone. The issue has come up in the last two Walnut elections and is often raised during Walnut City Council meetings by members of the public. Industry had to make the intersections safer in order to render the horns unnecessary: At Fairway Drive, there are three gates, while the intersection of the tracks and Lemon Avenue contains four gates, Joshi said. The idea is, more gates, less chance of a car getting struck by a train. In addition, new traffic signals were installed to better control traffic and alert motorists to the rushing locomotive. For example, new traffic signals sense when the train is coming and switch to a flashing no right-turn message, he said. A better signal stops cars farther north of the tracks on Fairway.
The West Covina Police Officers Association has dismissed a public records lawsuit it filed against the city that questioned the municipality’s finances and demanded access to discipline records, pay stubs and correspondence with the City Council. The union dropped the action just days after former Finance Director Thomas Bachman – whom they believe was “fixing the numbers” – retired after 11 years with West Covina. The association filed its public records suit in November after the city declined to provide information regarding the city’s administrators, including Bachman, former City Manager Andrew Pasmant, Deputy City Manager Chris Freeland and Interim Human Resources Director Theresa St. Peter. Police union officials said they dropped the suit earlier this month in an effort to work under the new direction of the city, which includes city manager Chris Chung and newly appointed Finance Director Nita McKay. Police for years have been going back and forth with the city over their compensation. The officers recently agreed to pay the “employee contribution” share of their pensions, a payment formerly made by the city. At its peak in the 2007-08 fiscal year, West Covina had 445 full-time employees, including 127 sworn police officers. Now there are 338 full-time employees, including 90 sworn police officers. The union has since been taking concessions in lieu of raises to help the city through its financial crisis. City officials last year presented a balanced 2012-13 fiscal budget after chopping a nearly $9 million deficit by two-thirds. According to figures presented at a City Council meeting, the city saved $2.4 million by eliminating 30 positions; cut $3 million by having public safety employees pay their pension share; and eliminated $890,000 through other public safety cuts. Those savings combined with reducing workers compensation and other expenditure cuts allowed West Covina to slash $6 million from the deficit. City officials projected nearly $3 million in additional revenue to make up for the remaining deficit. For 2014, according to financial records, the city is at risk of using a large portion of its $28.8 million general fund reserve, which includes a $16.1 million outstanding loan to the former redevelopment agency. The city’s fund also includes a $12.2 million loan repayment the now defunct redevelopment agency made to the city last year, which has been declared invalid by the state Department of Finance.