Compiled by Bill Ruh, CVAR Government Affairs Director
The Baldwin Park City Council panel approved development plans for all 15 of the city’s prospective marijuana businesses. The approval came in a split 3-2 vote, with Councilwomen Cruz Baca and Susan Rubio opposed. Their opposition was primarily because the blanket vote included approving the agreement for Rukli Inc., the lone marijuana distributor allowed to operate that was initially granted a lifetime, exclusive contract with the city.
The Rukli agreement presented to the council on April 18 was no longer a lifetime deal but now sunsets after 49 years. The other 14 agreements were for five years each. Baca and Rubio both had concerns about the city’s legal exposure for granting Rukli exclusivity. The city is already facing at least one lawsuit, and the councilwomen said the city should wait for that matter to be adjudicated before allowing Rukli to set up its operation in Baldwin Park.
Rubio also took issue with the fact that, unlike a permit to sell alcohol in the city, Rukli’s permit to move marijuana and other cannabis products in and out of Baldwin Park could be transferred to new owners with no approval needed by the city council. At Rubio’s request, City Attorney Robert Tafoya confirmed that Rukli’s permit was transferable at-will, but would not go as far as calling it a monopoly.
Chino Hills residents may notice people in vests and identification badges looking at street lights in their neighborhoods over the next few weeks. The employees are with Tank Lighting, the company hired by the city to gather information about street lights it plans to purchase from Southern California Edison in the coming months. The city, which currently pays a lease rate for maintenance and electricity, is in the process of purchasing 4,500 street lights to save money.
Chino Hills will spend $2.7 million on the purchase initially, but plans to use $1.1 million in rebates from Edison to retrofit the street lights with LED light bulbs to reduce energy costs. The initial investment will reportedly be returned after about nine years of reduced energy and maintenance costs. Then, the city expects to save $500,000 annually.
Courtesy Chino Hills
In October, Diamond Bar and Chino Hills sued to block the sale of the Tres Hermanos Ranch, more than 2,400 acres of undeveloped land owned by Industry but located within Diamond Bar and Chino Hills. During litigation, the City of Industry withheld or redacted thousands of pages of documents in an effort to cause delays in the plans to build a massive solar farm.
Officials believed the $42 million price, set by a county oversight board, violated state laws requiring former redevelopment assets to be sold for the “highest and best use.” An appraisal valued Tres Hermanos at $100 million and at least one company offered to beat that price.
Attorneys for the two cities are asking a judge to force Industry to the release the records. They say they can’t proceed with earlier lawsuits without the documents. Industry’s city attorney said his office has complied with the requests. Industry officials previously claimed they needed to obtain records held by third parties before they could fully respond to the requests from Diamond Bar and Chino Hills.
The two cities filed a second lawsuit in November accusing Industry of violating environmental laws by moving forward with the 440-megawatt solar farm before completing the necessary studies. The project, which would be capable of supplying enough power for 10 percent of Los Angeles, would be the largest of its kind in Los Angeles County.
The attorneys for Diamond Bar and Chino Hills say they’ve received some records related to the project — such as leases, emails and other documents — but often, they’re inundated with thousands of duplicates and certain key documents are missing. Emails they’ve received reference environmental impact reports and other studies carried out by contractors that Industry’s counsel says do not exist. Other documents were redacted when they should not have been, according to the lawsuit.
Southern California Edison (SCE), the Rosemead-based investor-owned utility, will have installed the 1,000th charging station by May or June as one of 10 units under construction at South El Monte High School.
The district and SCE are finishing up the installation of 44 charging ports at six district sites, including five high schools: El Monte, South El Monte, Arroyo, Rosemead and Mountain View. The district headquarters soon will receive five chargers. The district is the first public school district to be accepted into the program.
Mayor Mendell L. Thompson, center.
In March the Glendora City Council elevated Mendell Thompson as Mayor Glendora. Consistent with city protocol, Thompson will serve a term of 12 months in this leadership role. For the past 32 years, Thompson has been President/CEO of Glendora-based Americas Christian Credit Union, which has been headquartered in Glendora since 2005. He was first elected onto the city council in a special election early in 2015.
Throughout his years in Glendora, Thompson has been responsible for organizing and sponsoring numerous community events, and has been recognized for his support of local organizations such as Shepherd’s Pantry and the Glendora Education Foundation. Through ACCU, Thompson has led community efforts to honor veterans, support adoptions, elevate the work of fostering families, and support various local businesses.
Under the multi-year agreement, XG Communities will begin marketing the city’s street light poles and other assets for small cell co-location. This effort will enhance the ability for La Puente to deploy wireless connectivity throughout the city. XG Communities LLC, is a provider of wireless, asset marketing and engineering services for cities and municipalities across the United States, and works with communities to market and manage wireless coverage solutions.
As wireless carriers densify existing networks, it is estimated that the industry will deploy hundreds of thousands of small cells, making it increasingly difficult for cities to manage the application and deployment process. In collaboration with the carriers, XG Communities will streamline applications with a predictable process, while preserving community aesthetics and generate long-term revenue to the city of La Puente.
The decision for the city to partner with XG Communities was based on maintaining control, preventing visual blight and increasing connectivity for businesses, residents and citizens. The solution will be the foundation to deploy Smart City infrastructure, enhance business investment, and improve public services.
This month the city council could decide to issue as much as $55 million in pension bond obligations in a move that would essentially refinance the city’s financial burden at a lower rate. The city council gave staff direction during its April meeting to initiate the process.
By selling pension obligation bonds, the city can secure the money to pay off its pension costs in one lump sum and pay off the debt over the same 30-year-period at a lower interest rate. The bonds won’t show up on property tax bills, rather, repayment will come from city coffers.
The exact amount still needs to be determined. City leaders have brought in a financial adviser to determine the amount of pension debt that is currently unfunded.
That number could be $52 million by June 30, according to a staff report. The figure represents a gap between the retirement costs for current and past employees and the amount that the California Public Employees Retirement System currently has or expects to generate to cover those pensions.
The move is not uncommon. La Verne did this in 2006 when it issued $8.3 million in pension obligation bonds.
The reasons for the city issuing the bonds 12 years ago are different than what’s driving the issue today. In 2006, CalPERS adjusted and grouped La Verne’s actuarial with other cities, which spiked the city’s obligation. The city decided then it would be best to issue bonds to pay off the city’s portion. La Verne still has $2 million before paying off those bonds.
The council will hold a study session in May to discuss financial data and give final authorization possibly by June.
For the second time in less than a year, the city council has reached a deal to sell the three-story mixed-use building on the northwest corner of Mission Boulevard and Garey Avenue. Except this time, it accepted less for a larger project.
The $5.75 million deal will eventually turn over the property to downtown business owner and investor John Peña.
Last year, the council agreed to sell the property to the Optimax Irrevocable Trust I and Private Eq. Irrevocable Trust for $6 million, but the deal didn’t close. According to the staff report, the trusts then made a new offer of $3.9 million, which was rejected by the council.
The latest transaction includes the homes on the third floor. Prior offers did not include the residential component. The Mission Promenade, built in the early 2000s, was a project of a private developer and included financial assistance from the city’s now defunct redevelopment agency.
Because the building is owned by the successor agency to the redevelopment agency, it doesn’t have to go through a typical government bidding process. The city’s inventory for sale is listed on Pomona’s website, and anyone can pitch an offer. This gives the city the ability to pick and chose buyers and projects.
The site is considered as a “distressed asset,” for several reasons: The building is 50 percent vacant and 50 percent of the first and second floors still need tenant improvements. On top of that, the second phase of the project, a parking structure, was never completed, which means it will be hard for the owner to attract leases from national companies.
For several weeks, officials have been working to gather input from Rancho Cucamonga residents to determine their priorities for the land that abuts the city’s northern boundaries. Residents want the city to make open space preservation a priority, but equestrian use has been missing from the list.
Zoning in the area supports equestrian living and allows horses on lots larger than 20,000-square-feet. There is also a network of bridle trails.
At a March meeting, residents were asked to rank their priorities for future development of the land. Adding new equestrian facilities did not make the list. City officials have assured equestrians that the city has no plans to remove the equestrian zoning nor are there plans to remove equestrian amenities.
The lower portion of the annexation area, about 1,200 acres surrounded on three sides by the city of Rancho Cucamonga, is owned by the San Bernardino County Flood Control District. The district no longer needs the land for flood control and wants to sell it to help fund other projects. Annexing the property would mean any future development would fall under the city’s zoning laws. The city would also benefit from property and sales tax revenues from any future project there, which would help pay for the development’s impacts on the city.
The March workshop identified local control, avoiding new taxes and development compatibility as their priorities for the property. Open space preservation, meanwhile, emerged as a priority in a recent virtual workshop attended by 264 people.
Residents of Calle Bandera and Avenida Loma Vista can expect to see trucks passing through the area for the next several weeks as plans move ahead to create a loop trail on a 61-acre property known as the Walnut Creek Open Space and Habitat.
The project is in unincorporated Los Angeles County and will feature a passive recreation area, wildlife habitat, an oak tree preservation area and a trail. While the majority of the oak- and walnut tree-studded open space is on property owned by the Water Conservation Authority, a small portion is in and owned by the city of San Dimas.
Crews have been inspecting the buildings for any lead and to determine if any of the old clay tiles in the buildings could be salvaged. There are no specific plans for any materials that may be saved. Once the buildings have been cleared, the demolition process will begin. Residents were informed about the development and told the entire process is expected to last for about six weeks.
When completed, the 1 1/2-mile trail loop will connect to the existing L.A. County Antonovich Trail. Public access to the Walnut Creek trail will only be available from the west side of the Antonovich Trail, a regional trail stretching from San Dimas to Rowland Heights.
A timetable has not been identified for when the trail would be developed or completed. The contract for building the trail has not been awarded yet.
For more information on the project, visit www.watershedconservationauthority.org or contact the Community Development Department at (909) 394-6282
On May 1 water rates went up by 17 percent, and will be followed by a 9 percent increase in January 2019, a 9 percent increase in January 2020, a 5 percent increase in January 2021 and a 3 percent increase in 2022.
The city council approved the rates in April after hearing from about a dozen residents, including a few who supported the increases. The city received more than 200 written protests by the start of the public hearing held on the matter, far below the few thousand state law requires to stop such increases.
A typical Upland water user would see an additional $19 on their bi-monthly water bill this year, then an additional $10 in January 2019. The increased water rates would help the city replace a 40-year-old 7.5-million-gallon water reservoir at 17th Street and Benson Avenue, as well as numerous other infrastructure improvements, according to city officials.
The rates would also address a $2.4 million increase in annual water supply costs and help shore up the water fund reserves. This series of increases follows one implemented in 2014, which did not account for the effects of the statewide drought.
The city’s water fund saw a decline in revenue as residents conserved water, causing the city to pull from reserves and put off infrastructure improvements. In addition to the rate increases, the council approved a surcharge that would protect the city from a loss in revenue due to decreased water use in the future. Councilwoman Janice Elliott, who shared her own analysis of the water fund budget, cast a dissenting vote on the matter. Elliott motioned for lower rate increases, but did not have support from her fellow council members.
A settlement between Mount San Antonio College and the city of Walnut ended nearly four years of court battles over campus building projects. As part of a tentative agreement, Mt. SAC will scuttle a 2.2-megawatt solar farm proposed for a steep Walnut hillside that neighbors and City Hall said would be an eyesore. As a result, the city will drop its lawsuit.
The college also agreed to scrap from its master plan a five-level parking garage planned for the western edge of campus abutting the Timberline neighborhood.
Mt. SAC will be allowed to proceed with an $87 million renovation of Hilmer Lodge Stadium, which had been held up for the past two weeks by the city of Walnut through citations and a lawsuit. Instead, the plans will receive an “over the counter” review at City Hall, meaning it will require no formal votes. This will enable the college to complete the project in time to host the 2020 Olympic Trials in track and field.
The city agreed to drop its lawsuit against the stadium project and not oppose the construction. In return, the college will keep the city up to date with the progress through a stadium task force that will include both city and Mt. SAC representatives; also, the city will be able to use the stadium by request, according to the agreement.
Earlier in April, the city council voted to allow city staff to negotiate the sale or lease of city-owned parking lot acreage surrounding the mall with its owner, Starwood Retail Partners. That would allow Starwood to consider that land in part of its future plans.
As of now, Starwood owns 22.84 acres on the site, and the city owns 21.22 acres. Other land owners include Sears, J.C. Penney, Macy’s, Centermark and the United States Postal Service, among a handful of others. The company is looking to open up the mall along West Covina Parkway to make it more inviting to community members and also intend to find a location on the mall site for a transit center to serve Foothill Transit.
With “big box” stores on the decline, the plaza could try to capitalize on its strong brands and bring in nicer restaurants, entertainment offerings and housing, all of which are part of most modern mall designs.
Porto’s Bakery and Cafe broke ground in January at the site of the former Crazy Horse bikini bar and grill at the Plaza West Covina.