Irwindale officials are meeting with their City Attorney to address a lawsuit that was filed after the council unanimously approved a project to reopen the Olive Pit mining quarry. The suit, filed by Baldwin Park, alleges the final Environmental Impact Report which Irwindale certified in December is inadequate and possibly in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act. The 190-acre Olive Pit site, which is bordered by the cities of West Covina and Baldwin Park, has been inactive since 1973. Prior to that, it was mined for aggregate material for nearly 50 years. Back in August, United Rock Products submitted an application to the City of Irwindale to construct, operate and reclaim the Olive Pit mine, located on Azusa Canyon Road. United Rock Products plans to resume mining for 32 million tons of aggregate reserves and reclaim the site as a potential urban development of 32 acres within seven years. The remainder of the site would be available for open area use after 30 years. The quarry, which has been owned by the City of Irwindale since 2012, is bordered by Olive and Los Angeles streets on the north and south, Azusa Canyon Road on the east and a Baldwin Park residential neighborhood on the west.
The Chino City Council has awarded a $129,800 contract to Mackenzie Electric Inc. of Highland for the construction of the sports lighting project at Ayala Park. The city in November purchased sports field poles and light fixtures for the project which are expected to be delivered in mid-month. Mackenzie will install lighting in fields 7 through 10 at Ayala Park. The firm had the No. 2 lowest bid among 13 firms that big on the work. The low bidder’s application was found to have flaws in it and resulted in it being rejected. The contract with Mackenzie includes up to $12,980 for contingencies and $6,000 for construction engineering services.
Zoning transfers to accommodate high-density apartments will be on the table again as the Chino Hills planning commission reviews the general plan update. Measure U features prominently in the staff report, states that residential units are being transferred but the number of units allowed on the properties is not increasing. Measure U, approved by Chino Hills voters in 1999, forbids more units than the general plan allows with the exception of satisfying state mandates on affordable housing. City attorney Mark Hensley previously said that under Measure U, the city has the right to increase density to comply with affordable housing laws, while a law known as the Dutra Bill mandates that if a property is down zoned (density is reduced), the city must relocate the units to another property. Any revisions will be included in the general plan update, which is built upon the 1994 general plan.
For the first time since 1988, the city will not hold an election. Mayor Joe Lyons and Councilmen Sam Pedroza and Opanyi Nasiali were appointed during a special meeting Dec. 16. The item was approved by a unanimous 5-0 vote. The council opted to cancel the election because the three incumbents were the only candidates who filed papers by the Dec. 8 deadline for the March race. They will serve four-year terms. Many on the council said they felt the special election this past November for Measure W was a substitute for the council race. In June, Claremont City Council allocated $75,000 to add their special election to the November ballot. Measure W, which passed with 71 percent approval, will allow Claremont to borrow up to $135 million in revenue bonds to finance the acquisition of the local water system owned and operated by Golden State Water Co.
The Diamond Bar City Council wants to restrict parking in city parks. In November, the Parks and Recreation Commission recommended restricting parking to park patrons only. The issue surfaced when residents complained about carpoolers leaving their vehicles all day in the lower lot at Summit Ridge Park on Grand Avenue. Summit Ridge Park is only two miles from the 57/60 freeways. On Nov. 26, deputies say 21 of the spots were filled, even though they found nobody in the park. City staff is concerned a similar parking problem could occur next year when the new Diamond Canyon Park opens near the 57 Freeway. The small park will have only 11 parking spaces, including two handicap stalls. Staff believes that a new parking ordinance could be enforced by L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputies in two ways. If a deputy saw someone park their car and leave in a second vehicle, they could cite the parked vehicle. Or deputies could mark the tires of parked cars, then return later. Before citing any vehicles, the deputy would check with people in the park. State law sets parking fines at $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second and $500 for a third violation and each one thereafter within a year of the first offense. While the ordinance would affect all city parks, actual enforcement would be limited to Summit Ridge and Diamond Canyon Parks unless parking became a problem in the other parks. City staff said it would cost $2,000 to install new parking signs in city parks.
In a City commissioned report, El Monte may face economic difficulties. Tax hikes, cuts to public safety, and significant reduction of employee compensation are all possibilities on the agenda as El Monte grapples with anticipated annual budget deficits of $5 million to $9 million, or worse, in the coming years. By comparison, at the peak of its fiscal woes in 2009, the city faced a $12 million deficit. That resulted in some of the most drastic reductions the city has faced in recent history, including laying off some 100 employees, among them police officers. El Monte has made major cuts, eliminating 25 percent of their workforce, laid off police officers, yet they were not enough to achieve financial stability. The City faces more difficult choices, according to a report issued by Management Partners, the firm hired by the city to author the 124-page report, known as the El Monte Financial Sustainability Plan. The report reiterates many of the same things city leaders have heard for years. Pension costs and retired employee health benefits are too high. The city’s retirement tax fund will be depleted in 2019, at which point the general fund will have to be used to fund retirement costs. That same year, the city’s half cent sales tax, Measure GG, will expire. El Monte still relies too much on revenue from auto dealerships. And though city leaders have, of late, pointed to new development projects advancing in the city as proof things are turning around, the report warned that economic development alone cannot solve El Monte’s financial challenges. El Monte also lacks basic information technology used in many cities to understand finances, drive efficiencies and plan investments in infrastructure, according to the report. The unknowns produced by these shortfalls mean the city’s budget deficit in the coming years could be much higher, than the $5-$9 million estimate. One of the main goals of the report is to present possible solutions to the structural deficit. While the report offer myriad alternatives to reduce spending and increase expenditures, the top possibilities include:
— Making the half cent Measure GG sales tax permanent. That tax is set to disappear in 2019, taking with it $4-5 million in annual revenue.
— Closing one fire station in the city to produce an estimated cost savings of $2.2 million. A fire station was closed for a year during the recession and later reopened.
— Contracting police air support from the county, for an estimated savings of $263,000. El Monte owns and operates three helicopters and provides air support services to neighboring cities through contracts.
— Reducing employee compensation, including no longer paying employee retirement contributions, for an estimated savings of $768,000; eliminating the cash-in-lieu of medical insurance given to employees who are insured through other means, for an estimated savings of $1.1 million; and changing the formula for overtime to eliminate the inclusion of vacation and sick hours in total hours worked, for an estimated savings of $281,000. While many of these benefits are unusual in neighboring cities, because El Monte employees have already made significant concessions in recent years, these compensation adjustments will be difficult for them to swallow during contract negotiations next year.
A debate over housing density in La Puente’s downtown district is a top concern for the City Council. The city’s zoning plan update resurfaced in July after languishing with no real progress since 2009. Residents are opposed to higher density in their neighborhood near La Puente’s struggling downtown, where many shops operate with limited hours. The zoning code update brings the city’s zoning map in line with a general plan approved in 2004. Currently many inconsistencies between the two exist and some of the language has not been updated in 50 years, according to staff reports. The most controversial part of the plan doubles the amount of units someone can build on an acre in the neighborhood between Main Street and Las Vecinas Drive, bordered by Glendora Avenue and 5th Street. The city’s idea is that having more people living near their downtown will mean more people in the shops on Main Street. Some developers have already expressed interest in building mixed-use housing in the downtown district, with retail space on the ground floor and apartments above. Some shop owners say they’d welcome the zoning change.
La Verne Police Department has received a $50,000 grant to improve vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle safety in the city. Although the city fatality rate remains low with none in 2011, one in 2012 and two in 2013, there are more traffic collisions resulting in injury and more citations for driving-under-the-influence, right-of-way violations and failure-to-yield, left-turn violations. The grant was written to the Office of Traffic Safety in January for federal funds channeled through the state. The department was notified in late October that it had received the $50,000 to fund 12 safety presentations designed to better educate the general static citizenry and University of La Verne students. The latter focus was prompted by the nearly 50 percent increase in ULV’s student population, many of whom are from out of the state and also come from other countries and who aren’t necessarily familiar with California vehicle codes and traffic safety matters. The grant additionally focuses on bicycle safety, misconceptions about pedestrian right-of-way codes and inexperienced, newly licensed teen drivers who tend to take greater risks while driving. The grant dollars will also be used to correct common misconceptions about pedestrian right-of-way.
Southern California Edison issued a reply to the City of Ontario’s petition to bury the 500 kV lines running through the community, stating the city had plenty of time to participate in extensive public proceedings. The CPUC re-opened the Tehachapi proceedings in late October after the City of Ontario asked for a stay in construction on the grounds that the community had not anticipated the appearance of the 200-foot towers. Administrative law judge Jean Vieth allowed Ontario until Dec. 15 to respond to Edison and two non-profit organizations that also opposed the city’s request. Ontario attorneys Joshua Nelson and John E. Brown of Best Best and Krieger argued in a document submitted just before the deadline that the impacts to Ontario are as bad or worse than those in Chino Hills. The attorneys pointed out that the towers are the same height as those in Chino Hills and the right-of-way is the same 150 feet. The city’s attorneys also said that failure to bury the lines in Ontario will have a discriminatory impact on Hispanic and black residents. The affected population in Ontario is 49.5 percent Hispanic and 14.1 percent black. In Chino Hills, 22.8 percent of the affected population is Hispanic and 4.6 percent is black. They pointed out that Ontario’s population is 163,924 with a median income of $54,994 and 16.4 percent of residents living below the federal poverty line.
The west side of Rancho Valley Drive in southern Pomona is mostly a construction, but gradually the 10.6-acre property will develop into the second phase of the Rio Rancho Towne Center.
A Carl’s Jr. restaurant is expected to open sometime in late January, becoming the first of series of businesses that will open this year at the center, said Randall W. Lewis, principal with Lewis Retail, which is developer of both the first and second phases of the center. Phase I of the development was built across the street and is home more than a dozen businesses including a Target store and a Ross Dress For Less. The second phase of the center will have a mix of businesses. Tentative plans call for a Corkey’s restaurant and a T-Mobile store to open this summer. A health club, Planet Fitness, is expected to open sometime during the fourth quarter of the year, he said. A UPS Store, Wingstop, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Pieology Pizzeria and a Del Taco are all expected to open before the end of the year. The completion of the first phase of the center has created some momentum that continues to grow and could spread west of the 71 Freeway where another development company, YK America, continues to grow an existing retail center.
The San Dimas Dog Park within Horsethief Canyon Park, will be closed for general maintenance and repairs from Jan. 6 to Feb. 27. The City Council asked residents to spread the word about the annual closure and cleanup. Regular dog walkers in the San Dimas park can find another dog park in the region during our closure by visiting the website www.sandimasdogpark.org. The website and dog park activities are coordinated by the Friends of the San Dimas Dog Park. San Dimas Parks and Recreation Department , said the extended closure will let city crews complete turf renovation, irrigation repairs and general maintenance at the popular park. Individuals wanting additional information on the park may call San Dimas Parks and Recreation Department, 909-394-6230.
A long vacant Ford dealership in West Covina’s auto-mall is under new ownership. Ford of West Covina, the site of the former Clippinger Ford, plans to celebrate its grand opening Jan. 31. The company, run by three owners, signed a 25-year lease with land owner Ziad Alhassen at the end of last year. It’s the third of Alhassen’s bankrupt dealership properties to land a new tenant and the fourth new West Covina dealership announced in the past year Ford of West Covina is the third dealership to come back to West Covina since the city and Alhassen settled a lengthy legal battle. The other dealerships include Premier Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram and Drive-Time, which is slated to open this year. Separately, a Lotus dealership, owned by Sage Automotive, also recently opened. Per the settlement agreement, Alhassen must maintain at least three new car dealerships in the city. Those lots must sell at least 25 cars a month for nine and a half years after the vacancies are filled. It is estimated that the Ford dealership will average about 150 cars per month once the dealership gets going, a total of about $3.75 million per month in sales. The city estimates it’ll bring in about $400,000 per year in tax revenues.
It will be at least another six weeks before crossing guards are implemented at schools. The city has asked for additional engineering reports after counts at a half-dozen school came back low. The reports provide vehicle and pedestrian counts at each campus. Restoring crossing guards at schools became an issue after the death of 11-year-old Isaiah Shelton. The Cabrillo Elementary sixth-grader was killed in a hit-and-run accident on his way to school on Oct. 23. Crews came out Dec. 9 to conduct a new traffic study at 21 intersections covering all of the Upland Unified School District’s elementary and junior high schools. Counts were low at about a half-dozen schools. The report was taken a week before Christmas and officials said they was not sure if the pre-holidays affected the counts. Progress is also being made on the student pedestrian safety program the city and Upland Unified are adopting. The four-part strategy: student pedestrian education, restoration of crossing guards at key intersections, enhanced