The Baldwin Park City Council approved a contract for the city’s police chief, setting the salary at $165,000 A year with no automatic pay raises. Mike Taylor has been serving as the city’s police chief since Dec. 10, and the salary increase would apply retroactively, the staff report states. The contract was approved on a 3-1-1 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Ricardo Pacheco dissenting and Councilwoman Monica Garcia abstaining. Pacheco objected to the annual salary, saying Taylor would be underpaid compared to surrounding cities, while Garcia balked at the $10,000 a year raise from the previous chief’s salary.
An undated document on the city website lists executive salaries and benefits, which include contributions for health, dental and vision; auto allowance or city car; cell phone allowance; insurance; retirement and leave accruals; and payouts in accordance with city policies. The police chief’s position is listed with a base salary at $155,000. A December report of cities’ 2012 salary information compiled by the state Controller’s Office shows the Baldwin Park police chief was the fifth-highest-paid city employee, earning $161,265 in total wages and $69,589 in total retirement and health cost. Two police lieutenants earned more than the chief that year, racking up $171,937 and $172,839 in total wages.
In comparison, Azusa’s police chief was listed as the San Gabriel Valley’s third-highest-paid employee with $241,000 paid in 2012. The most recent city in the San Gabriel Valley to hire a new police chief was West Covina in January of 2014. The city approved a base salary of $190,500, adding an education incentive of 6 percent to bring the total compensation to $201,930, according to the Jan. 21 staff report. The city’s website states it had 90 sworn officers, 68 civilians and 55 part-time positions in 2013.
Before that, Irwindale hired a police chief in December for a total annual cost of $245,000, including salary and benefits, the contract states. Taylor has served as the Baldwin Park police chief since Dec. 10, when the then-captain was appointed by the Council to be chief and executive team manager
Chino Valley Fire District Interim Chief Tim Shackelford was officially named the chief by the district’s board of directors. Shackelford has been interim fire chief for the department since January 2014.
Shackelford has been with the department 23 years, starting as a firefighter and working his way up through the ranks. He replaces Paul Segalla, who was the department’s chief about a year before stepping down. Shackelford has an Associate Degree in fire technology, a Bachelor of Science in fire science and a Master of Science in occupational safety and health. He is enrolled in the executive fire officer program through the National Fire Academy.
The Diamond Bar Council deferred naming the city’s newest park planned for the Willow Heights section under development by Lennar Homes. The developer plans to build nearly 200 homes on 30 acres of land purchased from the Walnut Valley Unified School District for $40 million. The project is at the corner of Brea Canyon Road and Diamond Bar Boulevard. As part of the plan, Lennar agreed to build a new community park. The proposed park will have almost 5 acres, including almost an acre of land on the west side of the Brea Canyon Flood Control Channel, and 3.8 acres on the east side. They would be connected by a pedestrian bridge. Suggestions included Willow Heights Park, Brea Canyon Park, Gateway and Peaceful Garden Park. It also could be called Crooked Creek Park because it serves as the trail head for Crooked Creek Trail, The Council also voted to approve the plans for the east side of the park. That section will feature a rain garden that has a dual role as a stormwater collection system for the residential development and public recreation. The basin will empty into the Brea Canyon Channel during non-peak periods. The rain garden will offer interpretive signs and bench seating. It will be enclosed by tubular steel fencing with lockable gates to close during bad weather. Residents also will find 5- and 10-foot-wide foot paths winding through the park. A dozen benches will complement two shade structures. There also will be six exercise stations and two water fountains. Security lighting will include 21 lighted bollards along the trails.
A $76 million railroad underpass project that has kept Baldwin Avenue in El Monte closed for exactly a year will reopen to traffic in March 2015, a full two months ahead of schedule. With the ACE’s double-track, concrete-and-steel railroad bridge nearly complete, crews in the next few weeks will shift freight and passenger trains from the temporary tracks, called a shoo-fly, to the main tracks 40 feet above a recessed Baldwin Avenue between Gidley and Rose streets. Next, construction crews will start building the southern half of the underpass as well as a pedestrian bridge that will connect the Bessie Avenue cul-de-sacs. What was to be a 24-month closure may be shortened to 22 months. The re-opening of Baldwin Avenue early next spring follows the mid-May re-opening of Rosemead Boulevard, part of a $20.7 million, 18-month Temple City beautification project that gives Temple City, Rosemead, Arcadia, El Monte and San Gabriel residents one more unrestricted north-south thoroughfare to travel between the 10 and 210 freeways. Once Baldwin Avenue reopens, trains will travel faster and will no longer sound their horns, and about 28,000 vehicles per day will pass underneath on a new four-lane boulevard that connects to both the 10 and 210 freeways. About six passenger trains — all Amtrak — and 14 freight trains cross the intersection every day.. The Federal Railroad Administration had recorded two train vs. car crashes at the crossing in the past 10 years. Once complete, cars, trucks and emergency vehicles can cross freely without stopping for a train. Pedestrians and bicycle riders can use the separate, elevated lanes on both sides of Baldwin Avenue. The facing of the bridge contains the words “El Monte” embossed in concrete. The project has been in the works for 11 years. ACE had to buy commercial properties and an apartment complex that were razed to make room for the underpass. Ground-breaking began in January 2013. It is one of 22 grade crossing projects on ACE’s list, including three projects concurrently under construction. The other two are:
• The San Gabriel Trench, a 2.2-mile project costing $337 million near the San Gabriel Mission that will take another four years to complete.
• The Nogales Street underpass near Gale Avenue that will cost $117.3 million. Nogales will be closed at least until April 2016. The intersection, with 10 car vs. train collisions in the past 10 years, is one of the most dangerous at-grade crossings in the state.
ACE, a $1.4 billion agency funded by county half-cent sales tax as well as federal and state transportation dollars, will start on the following underpasses within the year: Puente Avenue and Workman Mill Road near Valley Boulevard in Industry; Fairway Drive near the 60 Freeway; Hamilton Boulevard in downtown Pomona; and Durfee Avenue in Pico Rivera. ACE could complete all its roadway/train track underpasses by 2019. All projects can’t be started at once because that would shut down freight train service. Projects take longer because the Union Pacific service must not be interrupted. ACE must build temporary tracks to keep trains moving during construction. The Los Angeles region gets 40 percent of all international trade. Trains and trucks carry a majority of those goods throughout the San Gabriel Valley and the Inland Empire to points east.
The City Council approved a 24-unit addition to the previously approved Avalon Bay development on Route 66. The 280-unit project at 121 E. Route 66 is adding two three-story garden-style apartment buildings with 24 private garages and 14 surface parking spots at 221 E. Route 66. The addition also adds another driveway for residents to access the project from Route 66. The mixed-use project, which was originally approved by the City Council in February 2013, has 280 apartments and 4,000 square feet of commercial space on 5 acres at the northeast corner of Route 66 and Glendora Avenue. The addition will replace Glendora Tire and Brake Center and a home currently on the property, which city officials have said do not conform with the area’s section of the Route 66 Corridor Specific Plan. The Planning Commission had recommended the council approve the proposed addition at its April 15 meeting after discussing potential traffic impacts the project might have.
The City Council unanimously voted to extend City Manager John Davidson’s severance package from six months to one year. Mayor Mark Breceda had called an emergency closed session meeting on Easter Sunday to discuss Davidson’s performance evaluation. The meeting was canceled due to lack of quorum and was rescheduled for the following day, however that meeting was also canceled. The council met in closed session before its April 23 meeting. Davidson was hired in October 2011 at an annual salary of $185,000.
La Puente’s city council may revoke El Caminante Restaurant and Bar’s permit to sell liquor because of state alcohol violations and a high number of crime calls in the past three years. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department responded 40 times to El Caminante since it opened in 2011, according to sheriff’s logs. The calls ranged from noise complaints to reports of fighting, drug possession and car thefts. Few calls resulted in arrests, but deputies listed incidents of patrons being hit with beer bottles, car tires getting slashed and large fights spilling into the parking lot. La Puente’s planning commission voted unanimously to revoke the bar’s permit at its April 1 meeting, but bar owner Marco Gallardo appealed the decision to the council. Alcoholic Beverage Control fined Gallardo $1,335 in Sept. 2013 for serving alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person. Earlier this month, Gallardo pleaded guilty to serving alcohol past 2 a.m. Gallardo explained both incidents as being out of his control. A second customer bought the intoxicated woman the drink that landed him with the fine. The other violation happened after his bar stayed open five minutes too late while Gallardo and his security were chasing down a purse thief.
Meeting in a special study session, the La Verne City Council considered capital improvement projects that could include a new aerial ladder fire engine, upgrades to the city-operated water system, a traffic signal to improve safety for motorists and pedestrians and better bathrooms and tennis court lighting at local parks. The projects, if all are approved, would mean $4,391,000 in capital improvements for 2014-15. The majority of the projects would be paid for with restricted funds for specific purposes, not the city’s general fund. Council members also looked at a five-year plan that identifies major projects through 2019-20. The session identified projects from purchasing fire and police vehicles or a public safety generator, installing a traffic signal at D and Dover streets west of La Verne City Hall and south of Stater Bros. Market or determining street maintenance schedules in the city’s industrial and residential zones, each project is prioritized. Additional proposed capital projects for next year include upgrading restrooms at Las Flores and Kuns parks and changing tennis court lighting at Las Flores and Live Oak parks to more efficient systems. Critical capital proposals for 2014-15 involve water pH adjustment and reservoir chemical feed systems, water meter and waterline replacements, zone 3 reservoir mixing systems and well and reservoir rehabs to enhance the quality of water delivered to local residents by the city. These improvements will allow city workers to check for leaks, find cracks and pull apart, inspect, clean, repair and reassemble problem lines and equipment.
City Council members directed city administrators to prepare documentation leading to the creation of a moratorium on the establishment or expansion of recycling or waste processing businesses in the city. Council members voted unanimously in favor of having a proposed urgency ordinance drafted by city staff. The proposed ordinance will be presented at a future meeting. When the proposal goes to the council, city leaders will also establish a committee that will include the participation of city residents and various others. The study will review several things including the impacts of the recycling and trash facilities on nearby residential areas and the environment.
Residents on the city’s west side are now able to connect with one another and staff on proposed changes to the area, using the online tool and social network site Mind Mixer. Like Nextdoor, Mind Mixer allows the city to hold an ongoing “virtual town hall,” with residents to review, understand and provide feedback on a host of topics provided by city staff. Rancho Cucamonga is moving toward a restructure of its west side districts. The plan calls for the combination of all the existing west side districts for parks, lighting and landscaping on the western half of town into eight neighborhood-based boundaries. It is also part of an effort to realign fees associated for those services with current costs.
The social site requires residents to sign in through Facebook or via email to communicate or connect with each other and city staff, It also provides a forum for city staff to engage with residents with a single click of the button. Fees in these districts have not been increased in 20 years, and in some cases 29 years, but the costs have not. The city is facing financial challenges for the maintenance of parks, lighting and landscaping for most of the western and southern parts of the city. The current level of service in the area, which includes two of the city’s largest parks: Red Hill Park, in the western part of the city, and the equestrian-friendly Heritage Park, has involved cost cutting measures and some deferred maintenance. Rates are proposed to go up an average of $100 per household, but could be more or less, depending where the resident lives. The city expects to take the ballot measure to residents in 2015. Until then, the city is engaging in a public information campaign.
The City Council has voted 4-1 to approve the Spanish colonial architectural design and landscaping for CareMeridian. The council vote affirmed the recommendations of the planning staff and the Development Plan Review Board for the proposed establishment of a rehabilitative medical facility in the city’s Via Verde area that would serve military and law-enforcement wounded warriors, stroke victims and patients with severe accident-caused spinal cord and brain injuries. People with congenital disorders and traumatic and catastrophic pulmonary, neuromuscular, orthopedic and complex wound injuries would also be among the clients at the 15-bed CareMeridian facility at 1136 and 1148 W. Puente St. The majority of the patients would be non-ambulatory and need help with basic hygiene and feeding. There are no kitchens or bathrooms in patient rooms at the 24-hour nursing facility. CareMeridian slightly reduced the square footage of the inpatient building from 10,000 to 9.400 square feet and the outpatient center for physical, occupational and speech therapy from 2,350 to 1,650 square feet. The development review board is normally the final approval hurdle developers face, but because of the continuing controversy the council asked staff to bring it back for final council approval of the architectural and landscape conceptual plans. The council had approved the operation of a rehabilitative medical facility in the administrative-professional zone on Jan. 14.
The council has agreed to allocate $48,000 to hire a public relations firm, which would help Upland set the record straight about what it intends to do in the next few months to address recommendations made by the task force. At recent council meetings, the most common speculation has been over what will happen to the city’s water system. As part of the agreement, the City has asked for $27,000 to be able to hire an agency to survey residents on whether they would support a possible sales tax or a business license increase.
The City Council voted unanimously to end their red light cameras by allowing a contract with RedFlex Traffic Systems to expire on May 27. The controversial cameras were installed in 2007 at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Amar Road, next to Mt. San Antonio College. Since then, the digital cameras have caught thousands of unwary motorists, with many complaining about the city’s photo enforcement program. In fact, the city issued more than 5,000 citations in 2013, according to RedFlex reports. There was no discussion of the consent calendar item, but later Mayor Tony Cartagena said, “the statistical review of the RedFlex camera program did not reflect a reduction of traffic accidents, nor could the data support the cameras made the intersections safer.” During the public comment earlier, RedFlex Program Director Robert Warner disagreed and asked for a one-year extension. The Council was presented with a petition containing more than 130 signatures of residents asking for an end to the red light cameras. Statistics indicated that rear-end accidents were up 67 percent and total collisions up 37 percent since the cameras were installed. Staff reports show there were from five to 12 accidents a year at the intersection before the cameras were installed. After the program went live in January of 2007, the number of accidents ranged from 10 to 20 annually.
A new Chrysler franchise operated by a New Orleans-based automotive group will replace one of the old Clippinger dealerships bought back in a federal bankruptcy auction last year. Premier Automotive Group’s Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership at 298 N. Azusa Ave., began selling cars in April, but did not get most of its inventory until mid-May., The group leases the space from developer Ziad Alhassen, but has no ties to the former occupants. Four of the 26 employees at the dealership previously worked at Clippinger, but the shop is not yet fully staffed. The West Covina dealership is Premier Automotive’s only one in Los Angeles County. The nearest operates in Orange County, but the company has locations across the country. Premier plans to have an official grand opening in late May or in early June, but the exact date has not been ironed out yet. The dealership is the first of Alhassen’s properties to come back online after he won them in a federal bankruptcy auction in September. Sage Automotive, which plans to start selling British-made Lotus sports cars at 2501 E. Garvey Ave. North later this summer, wanted to open another franchise at the former West Covina Lincoln Mercury Mazda property nearby, but decided to move to Covina after negotiations with Alhassen fell through. The longtime developer lost 10 properties in West Covina and Covina in a 2011 bankruptcy, but bought all of them back through a second company, Dighton America. Three of the properties remain contested by city officials who refused to approve the sale until Alhassen agrees to certain terms. A global settlement between the two entities has started to move through a lengthy approval process, but the city council has yet to disclose the details. The return of the dealerships could mean significant revenues for the city. West Covina staff estimated the dealerships generated approximately $2 million a year in sales tax. A financial forecast given last month showed those revenues could allow the city to hire eight police officers and nine firefighters over the next five years.