Unemployment rates in the city are higher than the county’s overall percentage. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Los Angeles County decreased to 9.2 percent in December, down from a revised 9.5 percent in November. The 9.2 percent unemployment rate was below the 10.3 percent rate in December 2012, according to the EDD. In Baldwin Park the unemployment rate stood at 11 percent, higher than the overall county percentage, according to the EDD monthly statistics. The city is among nearly three dozen cities and towns in the county battling double digit unemployment rates at the moment. California’s jobless rate was 8.3 percent in December, down from 8.5 percent in November and below the 9.8 percent rate in December 2012, according to the EDD. The comparable estimates for the nation were 6.7 percent in December, 7 percent in November and 7.8 percent a year ago. Total nonfarm employment increased by 1,400 jobs in Los Angeles County between November and December to reach nearly 4 million. The trade, transportation and utilities sector accounted for the bulk of the increase, adding 4,900 jobs, while the information sector dropped 3,700 jobs, according to the EDD. A total of 458,000 people were unemployed in December in Los Angeles County, which has a labor force of nearly 5 million. Statewide, 1.5 million people were unemployed, down slightly from November.
Residents in the northern portion of town have voiced their opposition to affordable housing as city leaders were addressing the city’s housing needs through 2021 and identified several low-income sites. Ultimately, the council agreed to send the document back to the Planning Commission for further review after it was criticized by several homeowners, including a petition signed by 446 residents. The document, known as the Housing Element Update, is required by the state to address current and projected housing needs. It was also met with opposition from City Council members, who said they feel they are being forced to comply with requirements that are no longer feasible since the state did away with the Redevelopment Agency — typically the city’s funding source to match federal or state money for affordable housing. The council thanked residents for their involvement in the issue but also urged them to stay involved in the process and plead to their elected officials to do away with the requirements. As part of the update, Claremont planning officials must comply with the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, which takes inventory of the housing needs in the state according to population growth. That figure is then divided by regions. Southern California has an allocation of more than 412,000 housing units while Claremont was tasked with identifying 373 units in the eight-year period. Based on residential projects in the planning and construction phase, Claremont needs to identify 157 units, except they have to be extremely low-, very low- and low-income housing categories. Ultimately, four sites in the city were identified to meet affordable housing needs, but many residents were concerned about one of the proposed sites. Referred to as Site #11, the lot sits on 4.4 acres on the east side of Mills Avenue across from Chaparral School. Residents said they are concerned about the high-density element because it would negatively impact their residential neighborhood. Some feared allowing the designation would increase traffic, which presents its own issues because of traffic already caused by the school. The item was referred back to the Planning Commission
On Feb. 27, city officials will break ground on El Monte Gateway, a $110 million development of nearly 500 homes and stores next to the El Monte bus station, off Santa Anita Avenue. The project has long been heralded as a way to breathe new life into a neighborhood and city that have struggled to attract investors. The project consists of three buildings on approximately eight acres. The first will feature 131 affordable apartments in a four-story building, to be built adjacent to the bus station and the Rio Hondo river channel. Next door to that and also bordered by the river and baseball fields, will be a five-story building with about 145 market-rate apartments. And closest to Santa Anita will be a larger five-story building featuring about 200 market-rate apartments built above 25,000 square feet of retail stores and restaurants. Parking will be underground. Developer Grapevine Advisors, LLC will begin by installing necessary infrastructure — new streets, sewer pipes, stormwater control — and removing soil contaminated when the area was a landfill. Among the more visible infrastructure improvements El Monte residents can expect to see are a new median along part of Santa Anita Avenue, wider sidewalks, a new streetlight, as well as greater interconnectivity and access throughout the property. That access includes an improved connection to the bike path that goes along the Rio Hondo. The neighboring baseball fields and park space could also receive a $1.5 million to $2 million facelift, including new restrooms and picnic areas. However, Grapevine and the city are still studying the feasibility of moving the ball fields to another part of El Monte and developing the 4.2 acre ball field site with more homes or retail. Construction of the buildings will be done in phases, starting with the affordable housing portion, which city staff anticipate will be done in the fall of 2015. Construction of the market-rate buildings will follow, starting with the building that includes retail space, though some work will be done simultaneously. The project will cost an estimated $110 million to $120 million, according to the report. While the majority is being funded through private investment, it is receiving millions in public funding through grants and loans. The approximately $30 million in infrastructure costs will be partially funded through a $14.8 million state grant and $4.9 million from the city to match to the grant. Grapevine is contributing $9 million toward the infrastructure but El Monte is transferring the land for the market-rate buildings to the developer in exchange for its contribution. The city has also provided Grapevine a $1.25 million pre-development loan. El Monte is also financing approximately $9.9 million of the affordable housing project, including the cost of the land and some fees. Some of those funds come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the city’s use on affordable housing. The city’s portion will be paid back over time. The state also awarded the project, being developed by Jamboree, also known as JHC-Acquisitions, $21.5 million in federal tax credits.
The Glendora Police Department has been selected to receive funding to continue taking part in minor decoy operations to deter businesses and adults from providing alcohol to minors. California Office Of Traffic Safety officials has announced Glendora police will be once again funded this year take part in the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s Minor Decoy-Shoulder Tap program. Glendora police have routinely taken part in the program in the past, officials said. During the last operation, carried out over the holiday season, 22 businesses were visited. None sold alcohol to the minor decoys.
Three City Council candidates, who ran a tight race, missed the deadlines to file campaign finance disclosure forms that were due before the Nov. 5 election. As of January 22nd, Councilman Albert “Albie” Ambriz and former Councilman David “Chico” Fuentes had not filed campaign finance disclosure forms required by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, according to Acting Deputy City Clerk Armando Hegdahl. The campaign finance disclosure forms should have been filed by either Sept. 26 or Oct. 24, depending on whether the candidates file individually or if they form a committee, according to the FPPC. Fines can be imposed against the candidates for filing late. The fine is about $10 per day, although the total amount of the fine can’t exceed the total amount of contributions raised. Councilman H. Manuel Ortiz filed his forms Jan. 13. Ambriz filed forms on the evening of January 22, after inquiries were made about the reports.
City officials plan to support a proposal to bring Smart & Final to Amar Road at an upcoming planning commission meeting. The grocery chain submitted an application to build a new store at 15429 Amar Road and is now waiting for approval from the planning commission. The Smart & Final will take the vacant spot of a former Hollywood Video, officials said. mart & Final touts itself as a “smaller faster warehouse store where businesses and households find great savings on quality food and supplies,” according to its website. The chain is headquartered in Los Angeles and operates nearly 250 stores under multiple brands.
Financial solvency, a balanced budget, a park place permanently honoring late Councilman Robert Rodriguez, street signal modifications to improve safety and thriving economic developments are among the highlights in the city, Mayor Don Kendrick said in his State of the City speech. Kendrick’s annual address, presented by the city, La Verne Rotary Club and Hillcrest Homes. Kendrick noted “You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with and the quality people you daily spend time.” He then recognized the continuing commitment of council colleagues Donna Redman, Robin Carder, Charlie Rosales and Ron Ingels, city department heads and their staffs and the legion of activists who volunteer thousands of service hours. Kendrick said the biggest and saddest challenge the city faced in 2013 was the death of Robert Rodriguez, the councilman who held the city record for the most years of elected service and seven decades of community volunteerism. The city will express its permanent gratitude to the man everyone called “The Pride of La Verne” by establishing the Robert Rodriguez Pavilion at Las Flores Park. The pavilion will be dedicated in spring, Kendrick said. The council’s commitment to financial solvency is reflected in the city’s balanced $29.1-million budget for 2013-14, general fund reserves at higher than the 15 percent minimum so officials can quickly respond to “rainy-day” municipal emergencies and the creation of a thorough information brochure which improved economic enterprise and development, he said. Kendirck continued that partnerships with University of La Verne, Bonita Unified School District, Tri-City Mental Health Authority and other organizations help the city maintain solvency and stretch resources by sharing costs on programs and services when possible. Public safety is enhanced by the fire department’s participation in an electronic patient care reporting system enabling firefighter/paramedics to transmit vital medical data to hospitals during transport, and a $42,000 grant to the Police Department for six DUI checkpoints. The city will save $20,000 to $30,000 in energy costs with the installation of solar panels at the city yard. Traffic safety, especially for Hillcrest Homes seniors and ULV students, will be improved with the installation of a signal at Bonita Avenue and B Street and left-turn pockets at Bonita and White avenues. A highway safety improvement program grant pays for the traffic improvement projects. Families will enjoy new shade structures at Emerald Park, new playground equipment at Live Oak and Mills parks and a new semi-public park on an old fruit packing plant property at D Street, north of Arrow Highway in 2014. A brochure developed last year greatly advanced economic development by identifying lot sizes, zoning, demographic and comprehensive information for new businesses and clean industries. Completion of six new housing projects, including improvements and restoration of the historic Price House and Kuns House, and commercial development of 23 acres for the La Verne Technology Center will also highlight 2014 projects.
The Public Works committee agreed to recommend the City Council adopt a resolution asking residents to voluntarily participate in a water conservation program. While there is not one solution to meet the 20 percent voluntary reductions, city officials said there is one area that could have the most impact: outdoor irrigation, which accounts for about 75 percent of Upland’s water use. Upland already has a four-stage conservation plan which sets up the criteria for penalties for those who are in noncompliance. It also created an appeals court. Currently, the plan asks users to voluntarily avoid outdoor irrigation between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. If the next stage – moderate – is implemented, it would only allow outdoor irrigation by residents and other water users based on even days of the month if their address ended with an even digit. Not only has Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency, urging agencies conserve water, the Legislature has also issued 20 percent reductions by 2020. Moving in this pattern of conservation now not only puts Upland at the forefront of the issue, but ahead of something it would be required to do in the future. To help inform residents about the voluntary reductions, Public Works staff will pass out door hangers that can serve as warnings to a resident who may not be meeting the benchmarks. It will also direct them to the various resources and rebates that are available to residents.
The City council unanimously shutdown the possibility of strip clubs or sex shops coming to town in the immediate future with a moratorium that could last up to a year. The moratorium, adopted as an urgency ordinance on February 4th, blocks staff from approving any business with sexual themes or nudity including hotels that offer hourly rates, strip clubs, sex shops, nude modeling studios and pornographic theaters for at least 45 days. Council could extend it up to a year. The preemptive stop comes after an inquiry about establishing an adult business at the old Crazy Horse restaurant, near city hall and Westfield Mall. The city has not updated the section on adult-oriented businesses since 1996. The moratorium buys the city attorney time to strengthen West Covina’s rules before someone starts the official process of opening up shop. The city legally cannot indefinitely block adult businesses.