The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority has asked for a transfer of $33 million in sales-tax funds to jump-start plans and prepare bids for its next project, a 12.3-mile extension from Azusa to Montclair. As part of the push, the Authority will hold a series of open-house meetings this spring for residents in the six cities that lie within the path: Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont and Montclair. Both moves may be in anticipation of key votes coming from the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments in the next few weeks on which projects to fund. A transportation matrix was requested by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority from regional agencies throughout the county, so Metro can prioritize projects for funding. Money could come from a future sales tax slated for the November 2016 ballot which would resemble Measure R, a half-cent tax passed by voters in 2008 for rail and roadway projects. The Azusa-to-Montclair light-rail segment builds on the 11.5-mile extension from East Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border, which will be completed and turned over to Metro in September. Passengers are expected to ride early next year. The construction group will have $33 million left over, prompting a request to transfer the funding to the next extension. The Azusa-to-Montclair project has a completed Environmental Impact Report and a jump on station designs. He said the Authority could begin construction in 2017 and, if fully funded, be completed by 2023. The $1.18-billion Azusa-to-Montclair extension is not funded ($55 million would come from San Bernardino County). Dire traffic challenges that keep Southern Californians stuck on freeways for hours each day call for the funding of alternatives, such as light-rail, as soon as possible. In short, the projects ready to build should be funded first. A Gold Line extension to Montclair would be the first light-rail line from Los Angeles into San Bernardino County. The extension would serve 17,800 passengers a day, a conservative estimate taken from the EIR. Ridership on the L.A.-to-Pasadena portion has reached a high of about 41,000 boardings a day. Ridership on Metro trains increased 6 percent from 2012 to 2013. Metro trains gained 9 million trips in 2013 to equal 478 million.
Voters re-elected Mayor Joe Rocha along with Councilmembers Angel Carrillo and Uriel Macias. The unopposed mayor garnered more than 1,500 votes in an election that saw a ballot measure that will increase the city’s hotel tax pass. Rocha, who will finish 20 years at the end of the new term, expressed gratitude for his re-election and for residents trusting the city’s leadership. However the long-standing mayor said he may bow out in the next election. Azusa will get a small bump in its general fund, thanks to residents supporting a ballot measure that raised the city’s hotel tax from 7.5 percent to 10 percent, according to unofficial election results Tuesday night. The 10 percent tax on short-term stays at hotels, inns and motels should generate about $75,000 per year for the city’s general fund. Measure A brings Azusa’s hotel tax up to the same level as other foothill cities. Neighbor Glendora maintains a 6 percent tax, but most surrounding municipalities sit at about 10 percent. Measure A passed with 56 percent of the vote.
With the Gold Line expected to open next year, Azusa officials have started outreaching in an effort to attract new business to its downtown and Azusa Pacific/Citrus College stations, including the newest outlet of Porto’s Bakery & Cafe. The council has been hearing presentations on transit-oriented development and soon will begin clearing the land for a four-level parking structure north of the railroad tracks on Azusa Avenue. The city also is “proactively” seeking out the bakery, with city officials, council members and chamber of commerce leaders holding meetings with Porto’s.
An abandoned church and several other vacant buildings soon will be demolished to make way for a 51-unit gated condominium project after the Baldwin Park city counci approved the developer’s proposal. Mega 5 Village will be on the southwest corner of Merced Avenue and Baldwin Park Boulevard, bringing two- and three-story detached condos to a 3.65-acre lot. Each of the three- and four-bedroom units will have a garage and private yard, while the residents of the gated community will share a park with barbecue and seating area. The project meets existing fire and safety codes, and each building is equipped with fire sprinklers. The developer also changed two units along Kenmore Avenue from three-story to two-story buildings and added rear landscaping after neighbors voiced their concern about privacy between the new community and existing homes on Kenmore. The city will receive more than $1.3 million in fees from the project, while Baldwin Park Unified School District will receive about $380,000 in fees. Annually, the city will see a $6,500 bump in property tax revenues and assorted sales and gas tax increases from the more than 200 additional residents. The project also will require the merging of two AT&T and Verizon antenna facilities into one 69-foot-tall cellphone tower along Baldwin Park Boulevard, to be disguised as a eucalyptus tree.
The Claremont City Council is reviewing a proposal to install bicycle detection equipment at five signalized intersections along Foothill Boulevard. The bicycle detection will be implemented through the use of a video detection system and would help bring the intersections into compliance with new regulations that require bicycle detection capabilities.
For the second time, Covina’s city council denied a plan for 67 homes in an Edna Place industrial park. The council members recast their votes after the developer, Gran Covina LLC, threatened to sue the city for not properly holding its last public hearing, but the outcome remained the same. The development has gone through a roller coaster of approvals and denials. After the planning commission denied it, the council overturned the commission’s vote, before rejecting it themselves on second reading. Residents to the north praised the development as removing blight, while business owners along Edna Place said it would put their operations at risk. Both sides contended that a zoning change for the homes would eliminate less than 1 percent of the city’s industrial space. The six-acre development would have included one acre of commercial at the corner of Edna and Grand Avenue The council denied the development in a 3-2 vote.
Gary Boyer, Mendell Thompson and Judy Nelson won the three open council seats for the Glendora Council on March 3rd. Three-term councilman Doug Tessitor chose not to run for re-election, meaning there would be at least one new face on the council.
In other news, city officials said they would re-examine a decade-old zoning plan that allowed a five-story structure to be built on Route 66. At issue is the Avalon Bay, a 280-unit housing and retail development at Glendora Avenue and Route 66. Some residents assert that it is out of character for the area, specifically objecting to a five-story parking structure in the middle of the complex and the buildings’ proximity to the street. However, the developer was allowed to build under the specific Route 66 plan. The Route 66 plan sets zoning regulations for Route 66 between Amelia and Barranca avenues, dividing the historic road into sections for commercial, retail and housing. The plan was approved in late 2003 after several years of community input and professional study. The city wanted to revitalize Route 66 by creating a higher-density housing and retail zone near the future Gold Line stop. Height and density incentives are used to encourage developers to build like Avalon Bay. The developer bought 13 parcels along Glendora Avenue and Route 66 to build retail shops, apartments, playgrounds and a parking structure. The parking structure is 62 feet at its highest point. The proposal was submitted to the planning department, then given to the Planning Commission for initial review at its Dec. 4, 2012 meeting. Two public hearings were held with the commission before the council approved the 256-unit project at its Feb. 26, 2013 meeting and a 24-unit extension May 13, 2014. Public hearing announcements are distributed to property owners within 500 feet of the project and announced on the city’s website. Residents can sign up for email alerts when a public hearing is set. The next step will be to have the planning commission look at the Route 66 Specific Plan beginning in April.
In a final certified tally for the La Verne municipal election, he numbers changed, but the results remained the same with Mayor Don Kendrick, running unopposed, garnering the most votes with 3,396; Planning Commissioner Tim Hepburn staying the top council vote-getter with 2,268 and incumbent Councilman Charlie Rosales receiving 1,905 votes for a second term. Kendrick, a businessman and former Planning Commissioner whose family has lived in La Verne for several generations, first ran for the City Council in 2005 and for mayor in 2009. The town mayor is required to run every two years when council positions come up for local election. Rosales, a retired Covina Police Department sergeant and Vietnam War veteran, was first elected to the council in 2011. Hepburn, owner of Gehl Electric Co. in Brea, was appointed to the Planning Commission in June 2011. This is his first term on the City Council. City Clerk Jeannette Vagnozzi, Deputy City Clerk Lupe Gaeta Estrella and Dan Pabich of Irvine, a volunteer with Martin and Chapman election consultants, conducted the count of 418 absentee ballots that were postmarked on the March 3 election date and received within three days at City Hall. The final tally also involved counting 71 provisional ballots cast by registered voters who didn’t receive ballots and simply went to one of seven polling places on election day to vote.
Development plans for 3 million square feet of industrial space on one of the last big swaths of vacant land in the city — north of the 10 Freeway, near Vineyard Avenue — could bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in potential revenue to the city. Irvine-based development group Sares-Regis is in the process of acquiring 150 acres of a total of 250 acres of the undeveloped land, owned for about 50 years by the Meredith Family Trust. The property, located southeast of Fourth Street and Vineyard Avenue and west of a flood control channel, is one of the few remaining undeveloped pieces of land in Ontario. If approved and completed, the project is expected to generate over 5,000 jobs and about $85 million in revenue to the city of Ontario over 20 years. The original specific plan for the 250 acres call for mixed-use development of high density housing, apartments, retail and office space. If approved, the plan amendment would allow for development of light industrial buildings on the 150 acres in the process of being acquired, he said. The remaining 100 acres, adjacent to the 10 Freeway, and south of Inland Empire Boulevard, would remain zoned for mixed-use development. Sares-Regis, plans on building a high quality, environmentally sustainable project, that would include drought-tolerant landscaping and pathways for bicyclists and pedestrians. The project will feature seven industrial buildings, including some warehousing. Solar panels are planned for the roofs of the buildings, which will provide 1.6 million kilowatt hours per year. Sares-Regis hopes to break ground this summer, with 12 months of construction expected prior to the first tenant moving in.
City administrators are projecting the 2014-15 fiscal year will end with slightly more revenues coming into the city’s coffers than anticipated and expenditures lower than expected. City administrators’ presented the information in a midyear budget report that Pomona City Council members. The item was approved without council discussion. The council approved amending the 2014-15 operating budget to reflect the reclassification of a recreation coordinator position within the Development and Neighborhood Services Department to recreation supervisor. The reclassification will cost about $1,300 for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and about $3,900 for one full year. The council also approved creating a fund within the city’s Housing Authority budget to hold revenues and appropriations for its low and moderate income housing assets. The state Department of Finance directed the city set up such a fund. City administrators project the 2014-15 fiscal year will end with general fund budget revenues exceeding the $88.6 million estimated in the budget by about $749,600, according to a city staff report. Expenditures are expected to be about $1.7 million below the $88.6 million. Although the numbers are expected to change, at this time city administrators are projecting the year will end with $525,000 more than was initially budgeted. City administrators are also predicting the fiscal year will end with the utility users’ taxes generating about $50,000 less than expected. Development related revenues are also expected to be around $3.9 million. City administrators had original expected to generate about $4.3 million.
City leaders have agreed to start a process to eliminate existing property assessments for the west side and instead create an annual tax that would be decided at a special election in November. The move would increase funding and restore services for the West-Side Parks and Street Lighting District, which encompasses 27,000 parcels, 10 parks and 6,000 street lights in the city. The city council unanimously agreed to initiate the process to form a Community Facilities District which would eliminate existing property assessment fees and instead establish one large district with residents paying an annual $89 special tax. The council also set aside $205,800 for the process, which includes conducting a survey and education. The decision will be put to a vote in a special election in November. In order for the measure to pass, the facilities district option requires a two-thirds voter approval. If the facilities district is approved, residents would no longer be allowed to vote on increases. Rates would now go up each year to align with operating costs or by 3 percent, whichever is less. Low-income seniors could be eligible for a 50-percent discount. A majority of the residents would see an average increase of $58 per year, however, it is still less than what some could have seen under a previous proposal. The issue stems from a structural deficit in the district budgets in part because assessment fees in the west end have not been increased since 1993. To make up for the shortfall, the city council last year approved a series of cost-cutting actions, including draining the lake at Red Hill Park, after residents overwhelmingly were opposed to proposed steep increases. The city has asked sports and youth groups to help maintain the parks such as mowing the fields. Rancho Cucamonga anticipates spending $137,500 to contract a firm to conduct a survey and public outreach efforts. It would cost the city another $168,300 for engineering, legal and San Bernardino County services for the special election, Lewis-Huntley said. The city’s general fund would be reimbursed by the new facilities district for the cost of the special election, which officials estimate could cost $100,000.
Incumbent Emmett Badar received 32.3 percent of ballots cast and incumbent John Ebiner received 28.4 percent of votes and maintained their seats on the San Dimas City Council when the final votes were tallied. Mayor Curt Morris, who has served the city since 1980, was also handily returned to office with 2,398 votes. He ran unopposed, again, for the position he has held since 1996. San Dimas City Clerk Ken Duran, Deputy City Clerk Debra Black and Dan Pabich of Martin and Chapman election consultants completed counting absentee ballots received late and provisional ballots. They then certified the final results of the March 3 municipal election. In certifying the final tally, Morris received 100 percent of votes cast for the mayoral position. The other individual counts included Badar, 1,731; Ebiner, 1,522; Casey Higgins, 1,176 or 21.9 percent; Dina Higgins, 711 (13.2 percent); and Tyler Fischella, 207 (3.8 percent).
Even as the city recovers from the brink of bankruptcy, difficult choices are ahead, the city’s mayor told residents in his annual State of the City. Among the choices — and challenges — will be how to pay for future pensions. Upland will aggressively address the pension issue – how to pay for current employees’ future pensions – in the coming year. The city will continue to look for new revenue streams to pay for infrastructure improvements and maintain the level of service that residents have come to expect.
Upland has confronted difficult economic challenges by implementing a number of recommendations from its Fiscal Task Force, a committee of local residents set up to recommend ways the city could save money.