One of the biggest selling points of the 1,250 home master planned community of Rosedale was a brand new school built specifically for the development. The school would be state-of-the-art, within walking distance of the development’s children. So many, including the city of Azusa, the school district and residents, approved the project nearly a decade ago. At a special meeting held in mid-May, the Azusa Unified school board heard an update from its legal counsel and representatives of Rosedale Land Partners about the school’s status. The Rosedale development on the northern edge of the city was approved in 2004 and the school district entered into a mitigation agreement with Monrovia Nursery Company and its successor owners, requiring that a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school would be built on the property. But after the recession hit, a new partnership emerged to take on the oversight – and that’s where the issues begin. The school district has operated on the assumption that the developer would provide a 12.5-acre parcel of land and build a K-8 school for 600 students in the Rosedale community, as agreed upon by the terms of the mitigation agreement. The district believed there was $51 million available for the school from a tax on Rosedale residents. The current owner Rosedale Land Partners II LLC has come up with a different interpretation of the agreement and, after several months of discussions between legal teams, both parties have agreed to open the lines of communication and conduct business in the public’s eye. The discovery of two earthquake faults early in the investigation of the site and myriad delays spurred the district to action in January, according to letters released at the meeting. RLP stated that, since the project is at 40 percent capacity and the 300-student threshold is not projected to be reached before the end of construction, the partnership has offered alternatives to the mitigation agreement in addition to continuing progress with the school site. The meeting also uncovered a new concern for the district: funding for the school’s construction. While the District said the school would be fully funded, a tax fund that the district says was set up to pay for the school has been exhausted. RLP reassured the board that money was available to build the school, though they did not specify where the funds would originate. They also continued to say that, given projections that the development might not meet the 300-student threshold, RLP was willing to open a new discussion with the district. The district, meanwhile, rejects the claim that the school can only be built when 300 children from the development enroll in the district. The mitigation agreement specified that when the development reached 300 students, an expansion plan – not the actual construction of the school – would begin, said the District.
Chino Police Department will increase its overtime budget by $100,000 to help fight an increase in crime tied to prison realignment. The announcement was made at the city’s budget workshop. The Police Department’s 2013-14 budget represents a 3.6 percent decrease in its budget from the previous fiscal year. Overall according to the city’s proposed budget conclusion the 2013-14 budget contains increasing revenues resulting from an improving local economy as well as expenditure reductions through staffing changes and tight fiscal controls. The city’s General Fund budget presents an operating gain of $1.2 million with use of $1.5 million from reserves for the city’s street rehabilitation project. By the end of the fiscal year – June 30, 2014 – the city’s reserve balance will be $28.2 million. Each city department head went over their budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year. The departments: administration, finance, police, human resources, community development, public works, community service and redevelopment. Despite redevelopment agencies being abolished, the city will continuing paying the debt for at least 30 years. The workshop provided direction to staff on any modifications to the proposed budget in anticipation of a June 18 budget adoption.
Southern California Edison officials have stepped up their campaign to oppose what they say is an expensive undergrounding of 3.5 miles of high-voltage power lines through the city. Edison officials, who had been reluctant to aggressively speak out against the project other than testifying before the state Public Utilities Commission, have become more vocal as the final decision approaches. The dispute with Chino Hills – over a series of towers needed for the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project – began more than five years ago. City officials say Edison’s right-of-way is too narrow and that the project causes potential safety hazards. Once completed, the 225-mile Tehachapi project will bring wind-produced electricity from Kern County to the Los Angeles Basin. Most of the large towers have been completed in Edison’s right-of-way through Chino Hills. The PUC is expected to decide the issue in two months. Although the PUC approved the project in 2009, construction has been on pause since 2011 as the PUC contemplates an order to build the lines underground from the west starting near the west end of Eucalyptus Avenue and running between Pipeline Avenue and the 71 Freeway. Some of the towers in Chino Hills would then be removed.
The owners of Pizza N Such filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging the city took more than $164,000 of the restaurant’s money from in-lieu parking fees to construct the Village West Parking Structure, which they say is not located in or serves the downtown Claremont Village. Claremont’s response to the lawsuit is that it “fails to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action.” The city also gives 17 other reasons why the case should be dismissed. Pizza N Such owners allege in their lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and received by the Claremont City Clerk’s Office on March 6, that the money could only be used for the construction, development and improvement for Claremont Village. The parking structure, according to the lawsuit, is several blocks away from the main Claremont Village. According to the suit, city officials did not recognize the parking structure as “available spaces” for the downtown village because the structure was constructed for tenants and customers in an area of expansion that did not include the village. Because of the above reasons, the lawsuit alleges, the in-lieu parking fees paid could not be used to reimburse Claremont for expenses to build the Village West Parking Structure and the city did not comply with its own mitigation measures required under its Municipal Code. City officials maintain that the lawsuit fails to meet a statute of limitations, that the plaintiffs have failed to mitigate their damages or loss, that any damages were caused by acts and omissions of the plaintiffs and that the plaintiffs failed to exhaust all administrative remedies before bringing their claims against the city. The city asks the court to deny every item requested in the complaint and that the plaintiffs take nothing from the city, that the court enter judgement in favor of the city and that the court award the city its costs of dealing with the suit and reasonable litigation expenses, including but not limited to attorney’s fees. According to the Pizza N Such original lawsuit, the owners have lived in Claremont for nearly 60 years and owned Pizza N Such at the northeast corner of Yale Avenue and Second Street since 1979. The Claremont Village, according to the suit, has been defined as the area bounded by Indian Hill Boulevard, First Street, Fourth Street and College Avenue. In 1975, the city established an in-lieu parking credit system for the Claremont Village. The credit system was designed for properties that are unable to provide sufficient parking on-site or in which, from an urban design perspective, it was not desirable to provide on-site parking. City officials accepted payment of in-lieu fees for 12 parking credits in installments. The fees were placed in a fund, which can only be spent for the acquisition and development of off-street parking for the Claremont Village or reimbursement of private providers of such parking, according to the lawsuit. The agreement was 12 parking spaces at $9,000 per space and the plaintiffs signed a promissory note in the amount of $108,000, payable in 10 years at 5 percent.
El Monte’s new Public Works and Transportation Yard opened in late April. With 69,000 square feet of office, work and storage space on 7.6 acres, the city is in the process of moving 65 public works maintenance and transportation division employees to the new site from the previous location near the transit center at Santa Anita Avenue and Ramona Boulevard. Following a needs assessment several years ago, the city determined that combining the public works and transportation yards would be best and started looking for a site. The facility includes space for the water department, trash and recycling bays, a welding shop, storage for traffic and street light materials, plumbing, supplies and weed abatement. In 2010, the City Council took out $19 million in bonds to fund the relocation project, which transfers the public works yard from its current site at Santa Anita Avenue and Ramona Boulevard to the site at 3990 Arden Drive, which is the former home of the Ball glass jar company. Though the exact cost of construction is still being determined, city officials estimated the cost of the facility around $9.3 million and the cost to purchase the land was around $9 million.
City officials are considering updating Irwindale’s business license tax ordinance, which has been in place since 1960 without a comprehensive review or amendment, according to a city staff report. The city has retained consulting firm RSG Inc. to conduct a study of the city’s current ordinance and how it could be updated. The study should include an economic impact report on the role the city’s business license tax plays in factors that affect city revenues and a business’ cost of doing business in Irwindale compare with other cities. It should also look at how a business tax affects a business’s decision to move to Irwindale, or to leave the city. A change in the business license tax ordinance would have to be approved by voters. If City Council approves a proposed amendment to the ordinance, Aug. 9 is the last date that a measure could be added to the Nov. 5 general municipal election ballot.
In an effort to entice new businesses and help increase sales tax revenue, council members approved an economic development marketing brochure that details positive points about the city. City staff, worked with a liaison from Geographics, a Redlands-based marketing firm, for five months to develop the three-fold brochure and determine its layout and design. The brochure detailed a trade area stretching from Glendora to Upland in which area residents, it was reasoned would most be willing to drive to La Verne for retail businesses, restaurants and commercial enterprises. Entertainment and recreational opportunities at Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park, Fairplex, Brackett Field airport as well as equestrian and hiking trails in the San Gabriel Mountains were also highlighted.The brochure also identifies median age, income and educational levels of the city’s population, entertainment and retail operations along Foothill Boulevard’s Route 66 and in the historic Old Town downtown business district as well as general achievements at the University of La Verne, Bonita Unified School District and private and parochial schools in the city. The city’s 33.6-mile trade area is a $1.6 billion market that is notably underserved, despite existing retail development in La Verne and its neighboring communities.
The Cucamonga Valley Water District is appealing a recent Planning Commission decision that puts a delay on a city demolition order on the historic Chinatown House until an environmental impact review is conducted. The decision also instructs the district to stabilize the district-owned building, which was deemed unstable and dangerous to public safety by the building official. The district, last December, was ordered to demolish the building in order to remediate the unsafe condition, as per city code. Historic preservationists, alarmed by the prospect of the demolition of the last remaining Chinatown-related structure in the Inland Empire, have opposed demolition plans. They hope to work with the district to come up with a preservation plan. The new appeal indicates the district has “no pressing need to demolish the Chinatown House at all and would simply forego the demolition process entirely if the city were to rescind its order. “ At issue for the district is its being the “applicant” in the demolition process, which would require the agency to pay for the environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act.
The City Council unanimously voted to transfer an additional $10,000 from the general fund account to pay the city’s final share of costs to upgrade and improve the exteriors of downtown businesses. Staff reported the final phase is nearly complete on the year-long effort to rehabilitate, upgrade and improve the exteriors of several businesses in Frontier Village and the downtown historic area along Bonita Avenue between Exchange Place and Monte Vista Street. Six business buildings with deteriorating facades were targeted for upgrade a year ago. City staff and business owners have worked together in a cooperative effort to make the necessary improvements. Three antique stores, Computer Village and O’Malley’s Flowers have already completed $275,000 in repairs and rehabilitation. The council’s action added to the $40,000 general fund transfer the council approved in March, increasing the transfer to $50,000 for the final rehabilitation effort involving ICI, an import-export business. The estimated $88,000 total cost for the ICI project will be shared with business owner Ko Ishikawa. He will pay $42,000 and the city will pay $46,000. The additional cost of the final project materialized when windows were discovered beneath old wood facades. Those windows will either be replaced or, if possible, rehabilitated. The improvements have included upgrading exterior facades, installing new awnings and signs, rehabilitating external bricks to maintain the historic look of the businesses and replacing or rehabilitating windows.
The city’s Finance and Economic Development Committee was updated on the city’s fiscal situation. City staff presented the mid-year financial update in March, but due to the city’s fiscal condition they gave the committee a nine-month update. The budget forecast is based on revenue and expenditure assumptions that could result in $500,000. City revenues are projected to be $418,000 less than what was reported in March due to a decrease in sales and other taxes. The Christmas shopping quarter was $140,000 lower than last year. About $200,000 for a quarter’s worth of revenue from the new retail stores in the Colonies Crossroads shopping center is included in the forecast. Expenditures are projected to be $970,000 less than what was expected in March. City departments have curtailed expenditures. Decreased costs for legal services, public works and public safety also resulted in lower projected expenditures. If the city completed the current fiscal year as projected, they will have a $1 million ending fund balance in the general fund. The city’s general fund reserves fell below $1 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year.
The city has filed a lawsuit against the state of California, applicable state agencies and other taxing entities to prevent the state from taking away $12.2 million in legally repaid loan payments the city received prior to the elimination of redevelopment. The action was filed May 1st in the Sacramento Superior Court of California. The city claims the state is trying to invalidate legal loan agreements between the city and its former redevelopment agency. The city loaned the former West Covina Redevelopment Agency more than $21 million to help eradicate blight in the community. And since 1973, West Covina had received repayments on loans that previously were recognized as valid agreements by the state and Los Angeles County. The loans were used to develop a variety of signature projects, including the Westfield West Covina mall, Eastland Center, the Lakes Office Complex and the Big League Dreams sports complex, among others. All told, more than 7.6 million square feet of building space has been constructed with a total value of more than $600 million. Redevelopment also created more than 6,400 new jobs, including 4,000 construction jobs. It also generated more than $12 million annually in sales and property taxes that have been used to fund a variety of public services include police and fire. The state officially eliminated redevelopment agencies on Feb. 1 as means to access billions of dollars that otherwise would have been invested in local communities. In its haste to access even more funds to help balance its budget, the state granted itself the authority to reach back another 13 months prior to the elimination of redevelopment. The city says it has tried to reason with the state and has provided documentation indicating that the loans were legal, valid and contractually binding agreements under state law. But the state denied the appeal and demanded that the city remit payment to the county auditor or be subject to penalties and raids on future sales and property taxes. Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, and state senators Bob Huff, R-Brea, and Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, sent a letter to Steven Szalay, a local government consultant with the state Department of Finance, in support of the city’s stance.