by Bill Ruh, CVAR Government Affairs Director
Six new digital billboards will be constructed along the 10 Freeway in Baldwin Park under a new contract approved by the City Council. The council voted 3-2 to enter into a contract with Bulletin Displays, LLC, to install six new billboards and provide a time extension for an existing billboard along the 605 Freeway. The council also approved an amendment to city zoning code to allow for the addition of the billboards. The agreement is expected to bring in more than $10 million to the city’s general fund over the next 30 years. The new signs, which will have one digital face and one static face each, will be 48 feet in width and 14 feet in height, rising up to 65 feet above the freeway.
Chino Airport has received the go-ahead from the Federal Aviation Administration for construction of a parcel delivery facility on 139 acres abutting the eastern edge of the airport. The site is in Chino but belongs to San Bernardino County. Proposed is a 745,478- square-foot sorting and distribution hub for ground parcel delivery only. No air freight is proposed into or out of Chino Airport and no home deliveries would originate from the site. FAA approval is required because the western and southern 63 acres of the project site fall within the airport development zone. That zone is restricted to airport and aviation related facilities, services and administration, along with incidental office uses, according to municipal code. The project calls for changing the zoning in this portion of the site to light industrial. The remaining 76 acres of the site is within the Preserve specific plan, which is also covered by a form of zoning called an “overlay” to ensure compatibility of land uses with airport requirements.
The site is bordered on the north by Ontario. To the east is Watson Land Company’s 3.8 million-square-foot Chino warehouse project, which is nearing completion. The City of Chino has prepared a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance study and plans an environmental impact report for the project. A portion of the property is still in dairy use, according to the study. Two dairy farm enclosures and two residential structures remain on the site, with various outbuildings. Tractor-trailers would access the site from a 5,328-square-foot gateway building at Flight and Remington avenues. Other structures would include a 14,028-square-foot building for trailer maintenance on the southwest corner of the parcel, and two 220-square-foot guardhouses. The project site is approximately 4 miles west of the 15 Freeway, 3.3 miles south of the 60 Freeway and 3.2 miles northeast of the 71 Freeway. The CEQA study is available at city hall. Comments can be directed to senior planner Andrea Gilbert, (909) 334-3328.
Last month, Southern California Edison energized 500 kV lines buried in Chino Hills, completing a 10-year undertaking known as the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project. Overhead lines were activated in Chino and Ontario, concluding the 173-mile project from Tehachapi wind farms south to the Mira Loma Substation in Ontario. Edison informed property owners in October that the lines would be energized. The city of Chino Hills was informed the day after activation by Edison’s regional government affairs representative, Jennifer Menjivar-Shaw. The city spent more than $5 million in legal fees battling the utility giant to get rid of the towers. In July 2013, the California Public Utilities Commission ordered Edison to remove the 200-foot towers installed in 2011.
Claremont wants to reinstate its Committee on Human Relations. The Community and Human Services Commission voted unanimously to recommend restarting the committee, which was dissolved in 2013 after a lack of a quorum. The recommendation will now be sent to the city council for review. If approved by the council, the committee will be comprised of Paul Buch, Ellen Taylor, Lauren Roselle, Rose Ash and Michael Edwards. The committee in its first incarnation was created in 1996, as a way for the city to promote education and human relations in the community. After awhile, however, the committee was directionless and routinely lacked a quorum, according to Human Services Director Anne Turner. In 2013, it was closed by then-Human Services Director Kathleen Trepa in favor of the Human Relations Community Response Team (HRCRT), an action committee focused solely on helping people who were victims of hate crimes. Many of the hate crimes reported in Claremont in the years since took place at the colleges, however, and their own support structure rendered the action committee irrelevant. After several incidents in the community in 2016, the decision was made to do away with the HRCRT and reboot the Committee on Human Relations, comprised of HRCRT members Mr. Buch and Ms. Roselle, and community members Ms. Taylor, Ms. Ash and Mr. Edwards. To prevent the ineffectiveness that beset the previous committee, the committee has been tasked to come up with a plan for the next year on what to do in times of crisis as well as normalcy. If the committee is approved at the next council meeting, members will have until the March Community and Human Services Commission meeting to come up with a plan and present it. Monthly “benchmark goals” will also be established, regarding issues such as the duties and practices of Claremont police officers in regards to immigration.
Covina voters will decide whether to extend a utilities user tax that generates about $5 million annually for police, fire and other city services in the March 7 election. First adopted in 1992, the 6 percent tax is levied on telephone, gas, electricity and water services and is currently scheduled to sunset in 2019. The ballot question, Measure CC, asks voters to extend the tax at the same rate to March 2029. Behind property and sales taxes, the utility user tax is the general fund’s third-largest revenue source, representing about 15 percent of the fund’s revenues. If the ballot measure is not approved, the city would have to make significant cuts across all city departments, said Finance Director Anita Agramonte. The general fund’s biggest expenditures are the city’s police department and fire services, which are provided by the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The fund has a total budget of about $34.2 million, with nearly 70 percent, or $23.8 million, used for police and fire services, according to city documents. Agramonte said it wasn’t realistic that the city would be able to raise property and sales taxes enough in the near future to completely eliminate the utility tax, which has been charged at higher rates in the past. Utilities user taxes are becoming more common in the state, she added. The council decided to propose a sunset for the tax to keep the option open, according to Councilmember Walt Allen.
The long awaited Walmart Supercenter project could be delayed for months as the city may have to prepare a new environmental report on the store’s potential impacts. The project was slated to be developed at the northeast corner of Valley Boulevard and Arden Drive. In November, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the original report failed to adequately address the project’s impacts on traffic and air quality, and as a result, “the public will suffer irreparable harm.” In response, the city requested a new trial and reconsideration of the November judgment. Judge John Torribio heard arguments from both the city and lawyer Gideon Kracov, who represents resident Aaron Montenegro and other residents who filed the lawsuit against the city in January 2016. A final ruling on the motions is expected by mid-January. While the city and Walmart have yet to decide on their future course of action, city Economic Development Director Minh Thai said it would cost $80,000-100,000 and take six months to prepare a new environmental report that addresses the areas the court deemed inadequate. The new environmental report would then have to be approved by the city planning commission and then by the city council. Supporters say the city needs the Walmart for increased access to retail and the sales tax revenue that would be generated. The first environmental report said the store would generate an estimated $623,000 annually in sales and other taxes and fees, while costing the city approximately $115,000 for public safety and infrastructure maintenance. But opponents remain concerned that the store’s prices will put local stores out of business and its low wages will not help residents maintain a living. El Monte first approached Walmart in early 2010, hoping to bring the retail giant to a lot partially owned by the city at Santa Anita Avenue and Valley Boulevard.
Amid calls from residents and local activists to support all minority groups, not just undocumented immigrants, the city council unanimously voted to adopt a resolution declaring the city a sanctuary for immigrants, people of color, religious minorities, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities. The resolution, which was presented by Councilman Argudo and several residents, states that city officials will not enforce federal immigration laws or use city resources to apprehend people “whose only violation is or may be a civil violation of immigration law.” It was approved by the council in a 4-0 vote. Councilman Dan Holloway was absent from the meeting. The resolution adopted by the council was one of two brought forward for consideration in the wake of the election of Donald Trump for president. The other resolution was aimed only at undocumented immigrants and was modeled after the sanctuary city resolution adopted in Cudahy.
Logistics Plus Inc., a leading worldwide provider of transportation, logistics and supply chain solutions, has established a new long-term, full-building warehousing and fulfillment operation at 1291 S. Vintage Ave. in Ontario. The 272,448-square-foot building sits on 11 acres, 1.5 miles from Interstate 15, and features a fully secured yard, freeway access and 64 loading doors. In addition to its new Ontario facility, Logistics Plus has an existing Los Angeles warehouse located at 2207 E. Carson St. in Carson. The expanded presence in Southern California was driven by the company’s recent growth of supply chain solutions provided to WeWork, the world’s leading co-working space provider, and increased demand from Amazon retailers seeking third-party import, warehousing and fulfillment services.
Haven City Market, is taking shape in Rancho Cucamonga. The plan is to repurpose an older store property, in this case a former 85,000-square-foot J.C. Penney at 8443 Haven Ave. that closed in 2014, into something to attract millennials. The concept, according to city officials, will be similar to the Anaheim Packing House, which served as somewhat of an inspiration for the new retail proposal.
The Anaheim Packing House, opened in 2014, is located in a 42,000-square-foot, renovated 1919 Mission Revival-style citrus packing house. The historic property’s interior was transformed into a food hall that hosts a number of boutique food and beverage retailers. The Haven City Market, a short distance south of City Hall, will include a food hall, a gourmet food market, and retail space for food and beverage boutiques and retailers, and an outdoor garden area. According to city staff, a number of local breweries have expressed interest in leasing space when it opens sometime in 2018.
A similar project, called the Redlands Packing Plant, is planned for a historic 1912 packinghouse at 330 N. Third St., near the Kirkorian Cinema. Officials say the property will be restored to historic standards and will offer space for restaurants and specialty food retailers. Included will be history displays, public art and common areas. The project is anticipated by officials to take about two years to complete, with construction expected to start in 2017.
After the City Council banned all marijuana-related activities in October and voters turned down a measure that would have allowed for recreational use, residents might have assumed the issue of marijuana was settled. But in October, city leaders received 4,700 signatures asking that they overturn the 2016 ordinance establishing a marijuana ban. On Jan. 9, the council had to decide to either overturn the ban or leave the decision up to the voters through a special election, which would cost the financially strapped city a minimum of $100,000. Instead, the council agreed to continue the item to a future workshop. Some in attendance were pushing for a special election. If the council ultimately decides to accept the referendum, then it would have to adopt an ordinance repealing the ban. That would mean the city would not be allowed to replace the so-called super ban with another ordinance for at least a year. In that scenario, Upland would have to revert to the ordinance it previously had in place. City Attorney Richard Adams said there is language in the original ordinance that could still prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana once Proposition 64 goes into effect Jan. 1, 2018. Or, Upland could direct staff to begin the process of holding a special election on the referendum. The earliest a write-in election could be conducted is in May, or a standard election in June, according to Deputy City Manager Jeanette Vagnozzi. There are eight dispensaries still illegally operating in the city, which the city manager said have been closed but they reopen the following day. In the last year the city spent $285,000 trying to eradicate illegal dispensaries, he said.
A proposal to develop a Dunkin’ Donuts at a West Covina shopping center was soundly rejected by the city’s planning commission last week, but that doesn’t mean the coffeehouse chain won’t come to town. In a 5-0 vote, the commission denied LT Global South Hills Plaza’s proposal to renovate a 5,175-square foot building at the corner of Azusa Avenue and Aroma Drive into a Dunkin’ Donuts facility with a drive-through and outdoor dining area. The unanimous decision came after dozens of residents spoke in opposition to the project, which they fear will put the neighboring Rainbow Donuts shop out of business, and more than 5,000 signed a petition urging the city to keep the coffeehouse chain out of the plaza. The commission still has to officially adopt a resolution outlining the reasons for denying the project at its Jan. 24 meeting, at which point the applicant can appeal the commission’s decision to the City Council for up to 10 calendar days. LT Global representatives, who have said they believe both businesses can succeed at the plaza, have not said whether they’ll appeal the decision. In February, a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee signed a lease with LT Global to occupy the space next to Rainbow Donuts, which has been owned and run by Sing Yam for nearly 30 years. While they acknowledged they couldn’t deny the project simply because of concerns about competition for Yam’s business, commissioners said they felt the proposed use for the space was inconsistent with required findings necessary for approval. For example, due to concerns about increased traffic in an already congested area, commissioners said they didn’t think the proposed use was “necessary or desirable to provide a service or facility which will contribute to the general well-being of the neighborhood or community,” as required to approve a use permit for the drive-through and outdoor dining. Planning Director Jeff Anderson said that because donut shops are allowed in the city “by right,” the only way to deny the project was to determine the proposed use was inconsistent with city planning findings.
In other news, after reversing an earlier decision to adopt a by-district voting system in which council members would be elected from four districts and a mayor would be elected at-large, the West Covina City Council this week instead moved forward with a five-district system to resolve an ongoing lawsuit challenging the city’s current at-large election system. The council voted 3-2 in favor of adopting an elections system in which council members are elected every four years from five geographic areas of the city. By establishing five districts instead of four, each council member would have the opportunity to serve as mayor for one year. The issue of whether to change the city’s current electoral system was prompted by a lawsuit that alleges the city’s current election method violates the California Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit alleges the system has created “racially polarized voting” in the city, meaning the preferred candidate of a minority group—Latinos in this case—is not the preferred candidate of the rest of the electorate. Because the chances of winning the case–which could cost the city millions, win or lose–are low, three of the five council members have said they must adopt districts even though they prefer at-large systems. The vote on a five-district system came after Councilman Lloyd Johnson made an ultimatum earlier this month. Johnson, who initially voted in favor of a four-district system with a directly elected mayor, said he had heard from several residents who were concerned that if the city elected a mayor directly they would never see a mayor come from their neighborhoods. The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in September, was the latest in several attempts over the last decade to establish a system in which council members come from all parts of the city. In 2009, a group of residents, including one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, collected enough signatures to place a measure on the ballot to establish council districts in West Covina, but the ballot measure failed. Since then, the plaintiffs’ attorneys have sent two letters, one in 2011 and one in July 2016, demanding that the city abandon at-large methods. Historically, the majority of the city council has hailed from the South Hills neighborhood in the northeast end of West Covina. Currently, no council members live south of Francisquito Avenue, a fact that makes some residents feel they are not adequately represented on the city’s governing body.