During a closed session on Monday, July 17, the City Council voted 4-0 to accept City Manager Troy Butzlaff’s resignation. Citing personnel matters, which by law must remain confidential, the city gave no reason. On Tuesday, Mayor Joe Rocha said Butzlaff left because of personal health concerns. However, one councilman questioned that explanation. Mayor Pro Tem Uriel Macias missed the closed session due to traffic but stated during open session he was upset with how the situation had been handled over the past several weeks. According to Azusa Police Chief Steve Hunt, who is now acting as interim city manager, Butzlaff had been placed on “approved leave” following a special closed session June 26, the same meeting during which the City Council was supposed to evaluate Butzlaff’s job performance.
Hunt is expected to serve as interim city manager until either another interim city manager is tapped or the city finds a permanent replacement. After coming out of the closed session Monday, the City Attorney reported the resignation will be effective Aug. 22. At that time, a resignation agreement will be presented to the city that will outline a severance payment agreement and Butzlaff’s accrued vacation time. According to his contract, such a package would likely cost the city nearly $225,000. However, under the original contract, no severance or vacation time would be paid if he resigned.
His contract was set to expire in February 2018, with the option of two, one-year extensions. Butzlaff has served in the top position since February 2015. His annual total package salary was $228,934. Butzlaff, who previously served as city administrator at Placentia, was hired after an extensive search following the departure of former city manager James Makshanoff, who left in September 2014 for a similar post in San Clemente. Interim City Manager Don Penman was hired in October 2014 and served until Butzlaff’s arrival.
A majority of voters in Chino rejected plans in a special election for a high-density, for-sale housing development in the northern part of town. Results from the San Bernardino County Registrar of voters, as of Wednesday, showed 6,695 no votes versus 1,282 yes votes. Opponents said the project is incompatible with surrounding development, would negatively impact traffic and safety concerns and cited the need to preserve the rural environment in north Chino. A number of supporters and opponents had actively campaigned for votes in the run-up to the election to determine whether the 30-acre project, in an area south of Frances Avenue between Vernon and Benson avenues and near the Chino Promenade shopping center, should proceed. Current zoning at the proposed Brewer site project allows for one home per acre. Voter approval would have allowed a density of an average of six homes per acre for a 180-home project, which the city planning commission unanimously rejected in March. But the City Council voted 4-1 in April to allow voters to decide the matter through the city’s Measure M ballot initiative process, in addition to approving an environmental report. Mayor Eunice Ulloa provided the dissenting vote. Supporters said the project would have spurred job creation, stimulated economic growth for the north part of Chino, provided new amenities and public infrastructure, provided home ownership opportunities for young families and helped improve declining school enrollment in the area.
Claremont Hills Wilderness Park has been enlarged, now that Pomona College has announced plans to donate 463 acres of wilderness to the city. The land consists of Evey Canyon and three Padua Hills parcels, which will be incorporated into Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, college officials announced at a Claremont City Council meeting. The addition will expand the park to nearly 2,500 acres. The transfer will come with a condition: That the land be preserved in its undeveloped state and remain available to the public for recreational use. Evey Canyon is home to the Herman Garner Biological Preserve, which has been used by the college’s biology department for research. The council directed City Manager Tony Ramos to sign an agreement for the transfer. City staff will bring back all necessary legal documents to the City Council for approval at a later date. The college does reserve any water, oil, mineral and gas rights belonging to the property. As part of the agreement, the city will retire 21 development credits, which could have allowed for 21 homes to be built on the hillside. There will be no purchase costs to the city, but there will be administrative costs associated with the transfer. Final costs will be brought back to the council in six months. Any costs incurred are expected to be offset with wilderness park parking meter revenues, as well as anticipated grant funding from Los Angeles County Measure A, which will become available in July 2018.
Sprouts Farmers Market is in the process of hiring more than 100 employees for a 30,000-square-foot Diamond Bar location that will occupy part of a former Kmart store. The market, at 239 S. Diamond Bar Blvd., is scheduled to open Oct. 11 and openings are available for a variety of full- and part-time positions, including department managers, produce, dairy and bakery clerks, meat cutters and administrative and scan coordinators, among other roles.
Sprouts’ “healthy living for less” approach to grocery shopping has resonated with many of the same consumers who shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market. Headquartered in Phoenix, Sprouts employs more than 25,000 at more than 260 stores in 15 states. Sprouts has 76 locations in Southern California, and additional stores will be opening this year in Claremont, Redlands, Cerritos and San Diego. Diamond Bar’s Kmart store, which included 84,000 square feet of inside retail space, plus a garden center of about 10,000 square feet, opened in 1975 and closed in 2014 amid the company’s ongoing financial struggles. A Ross Dress for Less will move into another portion of the building, and a third section will be subdivided between three tenants that have yet to be named. Another 10,000-square-foot addition, where the garden center used to be, is under construction. Also proposed are two drive-thru buildings out front. One will have a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and a Chipotle Mexican Grill and the other building will have a Habit hamburger restaurant. The new lineup of stores is tentatively being called Diamond Bar Ranch, sitting adjacent to the Diamond Bar Plaza shopping center. The building’s conversion also has generated some welcome construction jobs. Tony Gonzales of Savant Construction Inc. in Chino said his company has 15 to 20 workers doing interior work on the Sprouts store.
Glendora is among the latest cities threatened with a costly lawsuit claiming it disenfranchises minority voters by holding at-large elections. The City Council hesitantly voted to begin the process to switch to by-district voting last week during a special meeting, after receiving a threat letter from a Malibu-based lawyer. Currently, Glendora voters get to select each of the five council members as they come up for election. Under district voting, people can vote only for the candidates running in their district. The council voted to begin the transition to take advantage of a provision to the law that gives cities 45 days to start coming up with voting districts before lawsuit is filed, potentially saving money in legal fees. Other local cities hit with the same legal threat include South Pasadena, which voted to start the process at its City Council meeting Wednesday, and Arcadia, which will hold a special meeting when it’s expected the council there too will start moving toward voting districts. Other cities, even school districts, accused of being in violation of state law have paid legal fees in the hundreds of thousands, and in the end, had to convert to by-district voting. One of the advantages of getting ahead of possible litigation, aside from financial savings, is the city maintains control over where the district lines will be drawn. By moving ahead, Glendora will pay $30,000 in legal fees to the lawyers raising the challenge, and about $30,000 for its own lawyers. The demographer will cost about $40,000. The letter, received June 6 from attorney Kevin Shenkman, states he represents Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. He writes the city’s at-large voting “dilutes the ability of Latinos (a protected class) to elect candidates of their choice or otherwise influence the outcome” of the city’s elections. It is noted that currently in Glendora, successful candidates need about 2,500 votes. With district voting, about 500 votes puts you on the council. We, as a community need to encourage everyone to get out and vote. To begin the transition process—and avoid the lawsuit—the council must hold two public hearings within 30 days. Eventually, a demographer will come in and help draw up the districts, followed by more public hearings before an official ordinance is adopted outlining the new districts. The city can choose to go with five districts, and rotate the mayoral position, as is done now, or council members can opt for four districts and make the mayor’s position filled by an at-large election. For more updates on the process, go to the city website at www.ci.glendora.ca.us/departments/government/districts.
In the months to come La Verne city leaders will meet with the goal of plotting out a way to address an ongoing budget issue that is looming large—employee pensions. La Verne City Council members recently approved a $56.3 million budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year that began July 1. The no-frills budget was balanced with the help of cost-saving strategies from the previous fiscal year and by dipping into the city’s reserves, using $835,000 of its rainy-day fund dollars to close a budget gap. The gap was created by increases in the city’s contributions to the California Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS, which cover employee pensions. Many cities around the state are handling similar increases. However, the already lean La Verne is dealing with the predicted financial pain sooner rather than later. Representatives of CalPERS have notified La Verne officials that the city’s costs will increase about $800,000 annually in the next five years. As part of a strategic planning process, city leaders will discuss how best to address the ongoing expense. The approach is one the city has used in the past to set priorities and resolve concerns. For the 2017-18 fiscal year, city administrators are projecting La Verne will experience an increase in revenue of about $1 million over the fiscal year that just ended. The increases in revenue are expected to be generated by a rise in property taxes and vehicle in lieu fees, along with one-time revenues in the form of building permit fees. The city has been experiencing a decline in three traditionally stable revenue sources—franchise fees, utility users tax and parking citations. These three sources are expected to bring in $300,000 less than they have in the past. The decline in the first two sources is tied to residents shifting to renewable energy sources, such as solar, resulting in lower utility bills. The decline in parking citations is partly attributed to the University of La Verne opening a $16 million parking structure in September 2016. In response, the city has scaled back on some parking enforcement staffing, a task that is handled by a contractor. La Verne has also taken steps to reduce expenses, such as refinancing pension obligation bonds, which resulted in a savings of $275,000. The city is getting in on solar too. It recently installed a series of solar panels at some municipal facilities, including the city yard. Combining savings on the utility bills with a refinancing of the bond debt meant about $350,000 for the city. La Verne has a strategy which focuses on attracting businesses to Foothill Boulevard, a major city thoroughfare, resulting in 95 percent occupancy. The city is taking steps to maximize economic development opportunities associated with the eventual arrival of the Gold Line light rail station. The station is expected to open in about 10 years in the area of Arrow Highway and E Street in downtown. The area will be known as La Verne Crossing, a place within the city that is close to Fairplex and the University of La Verne. The goal is to create something that is both long lasting and beneficial to all those involved.
City Council members voted 5-2 to continue with plans for what is to be known as Phillips Paw Park. The two opposing votes were cast by Mayor Tim Sandoval and Councilwoman Elizabeth Ontiveros-Cole. Although the dog park project will continue moving forward, council members opted to reduce the length of the canine facility by about 25 percent or 60 feet. The park had originally been planned out to measure about 290 feet by 100 feet. Residents said part of their concerns are connected to the fact few details on the project had been available. When the information was out, the project moved quickly and was soon before City Council members and giving residents little opportunity to give their opinions on the park and its location. Councilwoman Ginna Escobar, who represents the area where the canine park will be located, said the project had come up before the City Council more than a dozen times, six times during the current calendar year. Seeking to bring a dog park to the city is a project people knew she has been working on for the last five years and is one for which “there’s never been malicious intent.” The project is one that will bolster and revitalize Phillips Ranch Park, Escobar said.
A development that will include a hotel, residential units and restaurants will significantly change the southwest corner of Day Creek Boulevard and Base Line Road. The project, known as Day Creek Square, will bring 380 residential units on 28.4 acres of vacant property. Built by developer D.R. Horton, it also will include a 71-room luxury hotel and two restaurant buildings totaling 12,000 square feet. The goal when Horton approached the city in 2015 was to create a project that offers what Granger calls “inter-connectivity and walkable connections.” Officials did not say when construction would begin or give a timeline for the project’s completion. Daniel Boyd, vice president of entitlements for Horton, said officials have not determined the homes’ prices, but they could range from $400,000 to $600,000. It will depend on the market. The vacant lot had long been zoned for office and commercial use, but in 2015, D.R. Horton applied to change it to mixed use.
City leaders unanimously signed off on the request to change the regulations and allow the project. The Planning Commission had signed off on the project June 14. The architecture of the residential units will be Craftsman-inspired and designed in four different villages.
Village A, the smallest village, has several design elements that invoke a Craftsman style. Units will range from 1,200 to 1,400 square feet.
Village B is touted as having more edgy, Craftsman-style architecture, such as metal awnings, brick veneer and tower features. Its units will range from 1,500 to 1,800 square feet and will include optional decks.
Village C will be the most unique of the project, featuring adobe and Craftsman-style architecture. These units will have balconies and roof decks. Units will range from 1,800 to 2,200 square feet.
Village D will feature the single-family Craftsman style, Santa Barbara style.
Two restaurants will flank the southwest corner of Day Creek Boulevard and Base Line Road. A public plaza and a central fountain will be included.
During the week of July 17, the Local Agency Formation Commission approved Upland’s request to dissolve its fire department into San Bernardino County Fire as a money-saving move. With the approval, the city’s fire station properties, employees, assets, obligations, as well as liabilities, will be transferred Saturday to San Bernardino County Fire. On July 20, officials gathered at the Carnegie Building, where the flag of the Upland Fire Department was retired. The ceremony concluded with the administering the swearing of the oath to the Upland fire personnel. More than 40 Upland fire personnel will move from a city operation to county fire, which has more than 600 firefighters. Currently, Station 12 in San Antonio Heights is staffed by a two-man crew from San Bernardino County Fire, going forward there will be three firefighters at the station. The city has four fire stations with 12 firefighters per shift, but because Upland Station 162 is only 1 1/2 miles away from Station 12, 162 would close. The property at Station 162, 2046 N. San Antonio Ave., would remain with the city and could be repurposed. Founded in 1911, the department began with a group of volunteer firefighters. The first fire chief was F.H. Manker. In 1913, the department faced its first serious fire which destroyed all the businesses on the east side of Second Avenue, south of Ninth Street. This fire generated interest in further protecting the community, and in 1915, the fire station on D Street was built. It wasn’t until 1963 that the first full-time firefighters were hired. The Upland Fire Department grew over the years to four stations, an air base, three engine companies, one truck company, one helicopter, and 47 Fire Department employees.
West Covina officials are seeking input on how to divide the city into five council districts for next year’s city elections. During the first of at least four public hearings, the council asked residents to come forward with ideas, including, but not limited to:
- Which neighborhoods or communities should be kept in a single district
- Which streets, utilities or other physical barriers could act as borders between districts
- What points of interest are of particular concern to individual communities
Maps will be drawn and presented after a second public hearing on Aug. 15 and a series of community meetings. Community members can submit maps for consideration along with maps drawn by the city’s demographer. In January, the City Council abandoned its at-large voting system and adopted by-district elections, in which council members will be elected every four years from five different areas of the city. The decision was prompted by a lawsuit alleging the city’s at-large election system violated the state’s Voting Rights Act by creating “racially polarized voting” that disenfranchised Latinos in the city. Because the chances of winning the case, which could have cost the city millions win or lose, were low, a majority of the council agreed to adopt districts and settle the lawsuit even though they preferred the at-large system. The district-based system will take effect in November 2018 when three of the five council seats will be up for election.
For more information about how to submit a map, go to: http://www.westcovina.org/districts