The Azusa City Council voted to proceed with a previously contested parking structure in downtown Azusa, the latest step in preparing the area for the incoming Metro Gold Line station. The council approved an environmental impact report as well as use permit and design review applications for a three-story parking structure on the north side of the tracks, north of 213 E. Foothill Blvd., bordered by Azusa and Alameda avenues to the east and west, and 9th Street to the north. The 38-foot high Intermodal Parking Facility will have 550 parking spaces, including rooftop parking, which will provide Metro with the required 200 parking spots, 200 spots for Foothill Transit and 150 for city use. Vehicles would enter the structure from Azusa Avenue into the southwest corner of the parking structure and from Ninth Street onto Alameda Avenue into the northeast corner of the parking structure. All vehicles would exit the parking structure in the northeast corner of the structure north onto Alameda Avenue and to Ninth Street, according to the final environmental impact report. The structure partially occupies a space previously slated for retail development but has been much more widely accepted than the original proposed structure, which would have required a redesign of Veterans Freedom Park in the city’s civic center. The use permit now includes a requirement for Foothill Transit, Metro and the city to negotiate an agreement regarding maintenance expenses; restrictions on bus travel; public posting of a construction site plan with a 24-hour hotline for concerns; and a requirement for Planning Commission and council design review of the structure.
The Baldwin Park City Council approved a 30-year contract with Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc., to remove four billboards on Ramona Boulevard and Arrow Highway and replace them with four digital billboards along the freeway corridor. Because the city has an ordinance prohibiting the addition of new billboards within the city, the council also had to amend the municipal code to allow the conversion of existing static billboards to the new digital billboards. The billboards will be placed along the 10 and 605 Freeways and are limited by federal, state and local laws on the brightness, height and proximity. The Baldwin Park Ordinance 1355 prohibits moving images on digital billboards. Clear Channel will pay the city a one-time processing fee of $10,000 to offset the cost of city staff to prepare the agreement, while an initial payment of $200,000 due 90 days after the final inspection and approval of the new signs,. The second year, Clear Channel will pay the city $73,333.32, with a 2.25 percent annual increase starting in the third year. The city would receive an estimated $3,145,509.03 over the term of the 30-year agreement, the staff report said, in contrast to the existing static billboards, for which the city only received a one-time payment of $50,000 per sign in 1999. The revenue would be used toward aesthetic improvements in the area to offset the billboard impacts, such as landscaping, signs and street sweeping. The Planning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend the council adopt the mitigated negative declaration of environmental impact and approve the agreement with Clear Channel at its June 26 meeting. The council approved the agreement with little discussion and no opposition at its regularly scheduled meeting. As part of the agreement, the city will be provided advertising space on the digital billboards equivalent to two four-week periods per year and on a space-available basis.
Should a lawsuit be filed in the first two years of the agreement and the billboards are ordered to be removed, Clear Channel would be allowed to return the static billboards that were removed in lieu of paying the annual mitigation fee and the city would not be entitled to claim lost revenue or damages according to the agreement terms.
City officials are looking at how to resolve the issue of residents whose properties encroach onto public land. The possibility of allowing residents under some conditions to purchase the disputed land that both they and the city maintain is theirs was discussed at a workshop. Residents received a review of the current encroachment enforcement program and be provided an overview of options for modifying the program. The city in 2009 adopted its current program in which it identifies encroachments and works on resolving each issue one street at a time. Previously, the city had the same encroachment program as San Bernardino County’s, which was to sell residents odd pieces that caused the city more trouble to maintain than not. What happened was the city would sell the land to residents who were prohibited from putting any permanent structure on it. There are now 225 homes whose boundaries officials have identified as encroaching on city land. A handful go into public property by more than 500 feet. Before the legal transfer of any land can be completed, an environmental review of the sale would have to be done and the area would have to be rezoned. The cost of those requirements will have to be met by the resident.
The City Council unanimously approved residential permit parking for 10 areas adjacent to Claremont Hills Wilderness Park. City staff said that the objective was to “remove the parking from adjacent public streets, to improve pedestrian and vehicular safety, to provide sufficient parking for park users in off-street lots and to reduce the impacts that park users have on adjacent neighborhoods.” On March 22, the park opened with an expanded metered parking lot and had meters installed in the south parking lot, known as the Thompson Creek Trail lot. The council agreed to remove parking on Mt. Baldy Road from Mills Avenue to Via Padova and on Mills from Mt. Baldy to Pomello Drive. There had been a “substantial change” in parking habits since the removal, and cars were not in the affected areas, according to City staff. Residents in the affected neighborhoods were in favor of the restricted parking because of the traffic. As part of the recommendation, city officials can appropriate up to $6,000 to buy and install signs marking the permit-parking zones. The city can also use $54,620 in revenues from the citations, parking meters and permits for additional work on the parking project. The council and the traffic and transportation commission will review the impacts of the permit zone after a year. The permit zones are: Pomello Drive west from Mills Avenue to the end of the road; Dillard Avenue; St. Gregory Street; Pennsylvania Place; Mills Avenue from Pomello to Alamosa; Brigham Young Drive from Mills to the easterly end of the cul-de-sac; Independence Drive; Alamosa from Mills to Bonnie Brae Avenue; Elmira Avenue north of Pomello; and Vincennes Court, north of Pomello. Council members also voted to include the sections of Alamosa and Pomello east of Mills without going through a commission process.
The City of Covina has made $6.1 million in improvements to its water system, giving the city more reliable water distribution, increased water storage and better emergency supplies. Covina’s water system services residents in Covina, West Covina and portions of unincorporated Los Angeles County. The city added a new 3-million gallon water tank at Charter Oak Reservoir that increases the city’s ability to store water for unpredictable events, such as droughts or fires. The public works department also renovated one of Charter Oak Reservoir’s existing 3-million gallon tanks and refurbished the 1.5-million gallon Cypress Street Reservoir. Cypress Street Reservoir was built in 1896. The refurbishment gave the reservoir a needed clean up and seismic retrofitting. A new booster pump station on Holt Avenue will ensure the water supply does not get cut off in the event a reservoir goes down.
The City Council has taken the first step in adopting a Mobile home Park Rent Stabilization program that will hopefully ease the burden of exorbitant space rent fees for some mobile-home park residents in the city. The ordinance, after some amendments by Mayor Pro Tem Norma Macias, will create the El Monte Mobile home Park Rental Review Board, a seven-person body appointed by the City Council to hear rent adjustment applications and determine whether to approve, modify or disapprove a mobile-home rent adjustment. The board will grant rent increases it determines to be fair, just and reasonable. A rent increase is fair, just and reasonable if it protects homeowners from an excessive rent increase and allows a fair return on investment to the park owner. Mobile-home parks with 100 or fewer mobile homes are excluded from the ordinance, as are parks where rent is less than $760 a month. Essentially, the ordinance would only apply to two parks in the city — Brookside and Daleview Mobile Home Estates. The ordinance will be in effect for 12 months, unless further action is taken by the City Council. The complete ordinance will be posted on the city website. The ordinance also ensures the protection of mobile-home owners from retaliation from mobile-home park owners, including penalties and misdemeanor liability for demanding, accepting or retaining payment of rent in violation of the ordinance. The City Council commissioned Waronzof Associates Inc. and Stanley R. Hoffman Associates Inc. earlier this year to perform an economic study of mobile-home parks in the city. The study showed there are 33 mobile-home parks in the city. A large percentage of mobile-home owners are low-income and mobile homes are seen as a good source of affordable housing.
The City Council accepted its fiscal year 2013-14 budget without making cuts to trim an estimated $380,000 shortfall. Growing general fund revenues and a limit on expenditures should take care of the deficit. La Puente has roughly $5 million, or 50 percent of its $10 million general fund budget, in reserve, The city’s IT budget for 2013-14 is $199,829. La Puente plans to spend $33,000 to repair or replace city computers — $23,545 of which will go toward 10 new computers, dual monitors and copies of Office 2010, according to a city budget analysis. The city has 34 computers. The IT department’s largest costs in 2013-14 include $35,000 for website replacement and $61,400 for IT support. The total proposed cuts would have removed more than $360,000 from the deficit, but council instead accepted the budget with the deficit in order to keep services at the same level. The biggest chunk, roughly $120,000, would have come from freezing the city’s vacant Director of Administrative Services position, which has largely been made unnecessary because of the city’s contract with a management analyst. Other cuts included slashing $57,500 from La Puente’s emergency preparedness budget, eliminating staffing at Puente Creek Nature Center to save $16,700, reducing council’s conference budget to $3,000 per member and discontinuing the city’s quarterly Spotlight newsletter and annual calendar for a total of $46,000. The budget originally showed a $680,000 gap. Council used a $300,000 general fund surplus from fiscal year 2012-13 to reduce that deficit by nearly half. The city also refinanced a $10 million loan for its community center earlier this year, a move estimated to save $670,000 in interest over 16 years.
Officials, with the help of the public, are determining future development in Central Park. Close to 70 acres remains undeveloped. The city does have a master plan for the land, with an aquatic center planned as the centerpiece. Officials in 2007 had hoped to open the project, dubbed Phase Two, in 2011. The project, which is envisioned with a “lazy river,” and children’s splash pad, among other features, was to have cost $35 million. But with the economic downturn and the loss of redevelopment agency funds, officials said that building and funding operations at the aquatic center would be unrealistic for the near future. A recent city-wide parks and recreation survey indicated residents are interested in completion of Central Park, which already includes a community center, and a small children’s playground. The current master plan for the area includes the aquatic center, tennis courts, and a gymnasium. Separately, survey respondents indicated a desire for city-owned aquatics. Some on the council said the plan ought to remain, while more financially viable interim development could take place incrementally and sooner. Among the ideas is the placement of trees and shelters for a “passive park,” where visitors can have a picnic or relax. The city is in the process of developing a future master vision for parks and recreation amenities and facilities in the city.
Robert Pacheco, who began his political career in local government and went on to serve six years in the state Assembly, is returning to the City Council. The 79-year-old Latino Republican stood out among an impressive field of 10 candidates, winning the appointment by a 3-0-1 vote of the Walnut City Council meeting. Pacheco served two years on the City Council in the 1990s. He was elected to the Assembly in 1998 where he served until 2004, the only person from Walnut ever elected to state office. Pacheco will fill the seat of long-time council member Thomas King, who moved to Orange County. He will occupy the unexpired council term until April 2014, at which time he said he will run for a full, four-year term. Pacheco received support from Mayor Tony Cartagena and council members Mary Su and Nancy Tragarz. Councilman Eric Ching abstained. Ching nominated Howard S. Chang, who ran for City Council in 2010 and lost. The Citrus Valley Association of REALTORS congratulates Councilmember Pacheco on his appointment.
Two separate proposals from city officials and West Covina residents could limit future development at the city’s contested civic center. Residents rallying under the banner of the West Covina Improvement Association prevailed in court last year putting a halt to a deal city council approved with CGM Development Inc. to construct a four-story medical office building on the property near city hall. The association opposed the project because it would allow commercial entities to move into the area, uprooting the city’s limited greenery and disrupting parking near a branch of the county public library system. The proposed ordinance follows a petition for a ballot initiative circulated by members of the improvement association, which would require voter approval for the sale, lease or development of the public land at the civic center. The West Covina Improvement Association plans to move forward with an initiative the group fears council could reverse the decision after November’s election. Three council member’s terms expire this year. The civic center has sparked a number of legal problems for the city since 2012. The city’s attorney refused to release how much money it has spent on litigation related to the civic center. West Covina is currently involved in at least three legal procedures involving the civic center, including the public record’s case, a liability claim brought against the city by CGM Development Inc. and a pending appeal of the court’s original decision to block the civic center project. The appeal, filed in March, is not to revitalize CGM Development’s project, but to reverse the precedent it sets for future city-owned land developments, Alvarez-Glasman said. The court ruled in favor of the association because the city had not updated its housing element — which it has since done — and because the project did not comply with California’s Surplus Land Act The ruling determined the city also needed to create an environmental impact report before the project could proceed. The development would have removed 141 trees, though many may still get uprooted in an upcoming widening of the 10 Freeway, according to the city manager.
The City of Upland has filed a lawsuit against its insurers claiming bad faith and breach of contract by the two companies regarding the 2004 Colonies lawsuit. Lawyers from the Claremont-based law firm Shernoff Bidart Echeverria and Bentley claim Independent Cities Risk Management Authority (ICRMA) and Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania (ISOP) refused to defend Upland in the indemnity case involving San Bernardino County. Upland was covered by a memorandum of coverage issued by ICRMA and an excess liability insurance policy issued by ISOP, said Gregory L. Bentley, a partner with the law firm currently representing Upland. The city is seeking reimbursement of damages from the case, including attorney fees of more than $6 million. The lawsuit was filed July 17 at West Valley Superior Courthouse in Rancho Cucamonga. The county alleged in its lawsuit filed in November 2004 that Upland, Caltrans and San Bernardino Associated Governments – the county’s transportation planning agency also known as SanBAG- should be held partially liable for any damages to Colonies Partners private property in Upland should Colonies prevail in its lawsuit against the county Flood Control District. In November 2006, the county settled with developer Jeff Burum and his investor group, Colonies Partners LP, for a landmark $106 million. Burum and Colonies brought the suit against the county in March 2002. The city sent the lawsuit to their insurance companies, asking to be defended in litigation. But the companies denied them and Upland had to pay several million dollars out of pocket to fight the lawsuit, Bentley said. In March the county, Upland, SanBAG and Caltrans entered into a “walk away” settlement. The county agreed to drop its case and the defendants agreed not to pursue attorney’s fees from the county. Upland did not have to pay damages, but they did have to pay legal fees, attorneys said. Taxpayers put up tens of millions of dollars to cover the cost of the lawsuit. The county spent roughly $28 million, Upland $6 million and Caltrans $12 million, officials said.