by Bill Ruh
CVAR Director of Government Affairs
After less than a year on the job, Hermosa Beach City Manager Sergio Gonzalez has resigned from his position to take the same position in Azusa. His resignation from Hermosa Beach is effective March 22. Gonzalez said he accepted a city manager’s job in Azusa to be closer to his family in the San Gabriel Valley. Gonzalez had worked for 14 years in South Pasadena before becoming Hermosa Beach’s city manager less than a year ago after a national search. Gonzalez replaced Tom Bakaly as city manager in April 2017. His base salary started at $219,000 a year. Gonzalez said it was in January when he heard about the job opening in Azusa. In a statement last week, he said the new position offers him an opportunity for professional growth, has a tremendous amount of potential with its own water and power operations, light rail system and is home to a private university.
Months after awarding 15 businesses permits to cultivate, manufacture and distribute cannabis, Baldwin Park may allow the companies to move to different locations in the city to expand their operations.
The City Council will consider adopting an amendment to the city’s cannabis ordinance in March that would allow permit holders to relocate with the council’s approval. To do so, permit holders would need to file a change of location application with the city’s planning department, according to a staff report.
City Attorney Robert Tafoya proposed the change, saying that multiple permit holders have asked how to expand their locations or move to bigger locations, but the current ordinance does not allow them to do so. Baldwin Park’s ordinance allows the commercial cultivation, manufacturing and distribution — but not sale — of medical and recreational marijuana in the city’s industrial and commercial zones.
The ordinance allows businesses to operate in facilities of up to 22,000 square feet but several permit holders are currently licensed to operate in much smaller facilities. It was not clear how many permit holders or which permit holders were looking to take advantage of the proposed amendment. Tafoya said in an email he believed at least five have inquired about making a change. The amendment will now be considered as a regular ordinance at the council’s next meeting, meaning only a majority of votes will be needed for it to be adopted.
Newcastle Partners, Inc., a real estate investment and development company, announced significant construction milestone with the Chino Hills Commerce Center. The Center, located at 15291 Fairfield Ranch Road, is situated on just under five acres. Grading recently began and construction on the 100,326-square foot project is anticipated to be completed in August. The property features approximately 5,300 square feet of two-story office space, 10 dock-high loading doors, one grade-level door, 118 auto parking spaces and secured truck court and yard area. It offers easy access to the 71 freeway which connects to the 60, 91 and 15 freeways.
A change in regulation is coming for back houses or Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). A new state law meant to spur development of ADUs has left the city deciding on how to adapt to the new regulations. ADUs are better known by the terms “back houses” or “granny flats.” The three bills—SB 1069, AB 2299 and AB 2406—were signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2016 as a way to alleviate the current housing crisis by easing restrictions on back house laws and jumpstarting development. The bills took effect on Jan. 1, 2017. Claremont has the option of adhering to the state law, or passing its own ordinance. Under the state law, cities have local control over the permitted sites for back house construction, the back house size and number of bedrooms, the number of units per lot, parking, height restrictions, setbacks and lot coverage, owner occupancy, architectural review and landscaping. The new state laws differ significantly from the Claremont codes, according to city staff. For instance, the state law has a maximum back house size of 1,200 square feet, compared to 700 square feet in the Claremont codes. The city presented a sliding scale of back house square footage compared to the size of a property—the owner of a 5,000 square foot lot size could build a 700-square-foot back house, while the owner of a 20,000 square foot lot could build a 1,200-square-foot back house. It was referenced that under ADA compliance that 700 square feet was too small for a disabled person to use. Another issue facing the city is parking. Current Claremont laws require one parking spot, covered or uncovered, per back house. State law notes that parking spots may not be required for back houses within a half mile of transit centers, within architecturally historic districts or within a block of a rideshare car service. City staff explained that much of the Village could qualify under the state’s definitions. The problem is that the state laws could conflict with Claremont’s existing overnight street parking restrictions, as car-owning back house residents who don’t have a parking spot may be forced to park in the street. The decision was made for a subcommittee to be created to tackle the complicated issue until a new ordinance is placed in front of the Claremont city council for approval.
Shopoff Realty Investments, a national manager of opportunistic and value-add real estate investments, announced that the company has successfully sold Brookside Mobile Home Park for $72.5 million, after an 11-month holding period. Located at 12700 Elliott Ave., El Monte, the manufactured housing community consists of 421 mobile home sites set on more than 45 acres. Shopoff purchased the property in April 2017, together with Ladder Capital, a New York based real estate investment trust, in a joint-venture partnership for $52.7 million, which included $14.7 million in equity and $38 million in debt provided by Ladder. The sale resulted in a 1.76 property-level equity multiple. According to Shopoff officials, Brookside Mobile Home Park was off-market and unsolicited when they were approached by the buyer with an offer to purchase the property at an acquisition price substantially higher than their original purchase price. Shopoff’s original business strategy for this acquisition included physical improvements to the property, the addition of new mobile homes to the property’s vacant sites, as well as improving park operations. Shopoff said that during the time they owned Brookside, they were still able to add value to the property. Shopoff said that they streamlined park operations by combining the fee land and the leasehold/operations. In addition, they worked closely with the city of El Monte to secure approvals that allowed carports to be built at the property, which was previously not allowed by state code. Shopoff said that were able to change the outdated view of Brookside with mobile home dealers, ultimately building partnerships with dealers that will help facilitate the move-in and sale of new homes at the property in the coming year.
Glendora is now home to the latest Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza, which opened on March 1. The restaurant is located at 1331 S. Lone Hill Ave., near Home Depot. The 2,100-square-foot pizzeria seats most of its customers on an exterior patio, where 54 can dine, while another 34 can be accommodated inside. Since 2012, Blaze Pizza has been serving artisanal pies that they claim are both fast and affordable. Each restaurant features an interactive open kitchen format that allows guests to customize one of the menu’s generously sized personal signature pizzas or you can create your own, all for around $8. Blaze says that very pizza features made-from-scratch dough crafted in house daily, all-natural meats and vegetables, and is finished in an open flame oven that cooks pizzas in three minutes flat. Blaze offers gluten-free dough, vegan cheese, animal rennet free dairy, and tree-nut free pesto. Each of these elements have assisted the brand with becoming the fastest growing restaurant in history. The Glendora restaurant is constructed with recycled and sustainable materials, uses eco-friendly packaging, and features energy-efficient LED lighting. The new location will create 46 new jobs.
The City of Industry fired its top employee on Feb. 27, roughly a month after a previous attempt to terminate him failed. The City Council voted unanimously to end City Manager Paul Philips’ contract on the second attempt, with council members Mark Radecki, Abraham Cruz and Catherine Marcucci — who all opposed firing him Jan. 25 — now supporting the decision. The city has been rife with controversy. Philips is the fourth high-profile dismissal in the last month. In January, the City Council fired reform monitor William Lockyer, City Clerk William Morrow and Anthony Bouza, an attorney working on efforts to expand the city’s utility. Lockyer, hired to ensure the city reform various practices that troubled state officials, accused the city’s leadership of firing him for speaking out about a prominent family’s influence over city decisions. In a statement about the Phillips termination, Mayor Mark Radecki said the council wanted to “go in a new direction.” Philips said he was not given a reason for the firing. He praised the city’s employees and City Council for moving forward with reforms that tightened credit card spending, established an in-house finance department and created new bidding procedures for city contracts. Philips said he hopes the city will keep the reforms in place and won’t back away from the progress made. Philips, who earned about $275,000 in 2016, will continue to receive pay until Dec. 31 as part of his severance package. The Industry City Council did not name an interim city manager and is expected to rely on its department heads until a decision is made, according to City Attorney Jamie Casso. Philips took over as city manager in 2015 following a historic election in Industry during which three challengers beat out long-standing incumbents. Philips, along with City Attorney Casso, were touted as reformers brought in to clean up decades of poor practices. Shortly after the election, a state controller’s audit found “pervasive and serious deficiencies” with about 85 percent of the city’s internal controls and questioned about $200,000 in credit card purchases made by past officials. In the first two years, Industry tackled a number of recommended fixes under Philips’ administration. But other reforms, particularly those requested by state Sen. Ed Hernandez, whose district includes Industry, struggled to gain traction. Hernandez (D-West Covina) pushed Industry to establish market rate rents for city-owned housing and an independent application process. Most of the homes in the city are rented to city officials, their family members and friends at heavily discounted rates. No application exists and tenants still do not provide any proof of income to the city. According to Lockyer, efforts to build 25 new homes in Industry—which would increase the city’s housing stock by about 30 percent—triggered the political backlash that led to his firing and the previous attempt to fire Philips. In response to the firings, Hernandez has called for a state investigation from the attorney general’s office.
Arrow Services, Inc., a Californian waste disposal and recycling company, has opened its first Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling station at 14241 Proctor Ave., La Puente. The station is a limited-access station, enabling it to also serve NASA Services, Inc., another local refuse service company which utilizes CNG vehicles. Less than two miles from the 605 freeway and between the 10 and 60 freeways, the station provides convenient accessibility for Arrow’s fleet of 20 CNG refuse haulers, which serve Los Angeles and Orange counties, as well as the Inland Empire. The station includes a 140 horsepower, 200 SCFM (standard cubic feet per minute) compressor and 20 time-fill posts, with 21 (20 time-fill and one quick-fill) hoses so that vehicles can fuel simultaneously overnight. It is projected that the station will dispense more than 152,220 DGE (diesel gasoline equivalent) in the first year of operation. The station was constructed with the help of $100,000 in Clean Transportation Funding from the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee (MSRC) which serves cities and counties within the South Coast air district of California. The MSRC allocates funding from a $4 surcharge on vehicle license fees, specifically to be used for local projects designed to reduce air pollution from motor vehicles.
Flame Broiler continues its expansion in the 2018 with an additional location at 1548 Foothill Blvd., La Verne. The new location was commemorated with an official grand opening on Feb. 9, and featured a special buy-one, get-one for 50 percent off discount on all bowls or plates. This will be the first Flame Broiler location for franchisee Josh Fuentes, who is looking forward to transitioning from previous work with the Southern California Gas Company to focusing on Flame Broiler full-time. Flame Broiler’s core menu features rice bowls that start at 140 calories. The bowls are reportedly made with non-GMO white or brown rice, Angus beef, all-natural chicken or organic charbroiled tofu, freshly blanched vegetables, and topped with chopped green onions. For an added flavor kick, guests are invited to top bowls off with Flame Broiler’s proprietary hot sauce, double hot sauce, triple hot sauce or its Korean BBQ-inspired Magic Sauce. The hours will be 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. For more information, visit the web site at www.flamebroilerusa.com.
After extensive interest from top real estate investment firms throughout the Southern California region, MGR Real Estate secured the purchase of One Lakeshore Centre in Ontario, CA for $36,850,000. One Lakeshore is a Class-A office campus, comprised of two buildings, totaling 176,813 square feet, on a 6.7 acre site. The buildings house 28 tenants, including Farmers Insurance, Regus, Prudential, Ignite Design & Advertising and Pacer Technology. MGR Property Management will be handing leasing and management of One Lakeshore Centre. In recent years, Ontario has become one of the fastest growing population centers in the United States. With the Inland Empire being named as the second fastest growing area in high-tech jobs, the influx of companies, both foreign and domestic has increased exponentially. The expansion reflects a region of advancement and economic improvement, as it changes with the technological growth of society. Just two miles from the Ontario airport, One Lakeshore Centre is a prime location for many of the foreign companies opening branches in the area, particularly Asian businesses. With the recent news that China Airlines is making Ontario International a new hub for non-stop flights, the demand for office and residential space will only continue to increase in this market.