Compiled by Bill Ruh, CVAR Director of Government Affairs
Southern California Gas Co. filed a proposal on Feb. 28 to serve millions of households with renewable natural gas derived from the methane from human waste and dairy farms.
If the California Public Utilities Commission approves the plans, SoCal Gas Co. would offer renewable natural gas to its 21 million customers in central and Southern California.
Renewable natural gas is a fuel produced from waste and agriculture that can be used to heat homes and businesses, for cooking, and to fuel trucks and buses. In addition to serving as fuel, it could help to reduce greenhouse emissions by capturing methane waste and converting it to clean energy. The fuel is carbon-neutral or carbon-negative, meaning that it can take more GHG emissions out of the air than it emits as an energy source, according to the utility.
Under the proposed program, millions of Californians would have the option to purchase a portion of their natural gas from renewable sources, just as many currently can opt to purchase renewable electricity.
The program is expected to create increased demand for renewable natural gas, which should help increase supply and lower its cost over time, similar to what has happened with renewable electricity created from wind and solar power, according to the utility.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY
Amazon will fund computer science courses at select San Gabriel Valley high schools and more than 1,000 other high schools across the country, the company announced. The Amazon Future Engineer program will reach tens of thousands of students from underprivileged, underrepresented, or under-served communities. Students from underprivileged backgrounds are eight to 10 times more likely to pursue college degrees in computer science if they have taken AP computer science in high school, according to Amazon.
The chosen high schools will offer Intro to Computer Science and AP Computer Science classes through curriculum provider, Edhesive.
See complete list of LA County High Schools picked for the program by clicking here.
Each year the Amazon Future Engineer program provides select high schoolers access to Intro or AP Computer Science courses; awards 100 students with four-year $10,000 scholarships, as well as offer guaranteed and paid Amazon internships to gain work experience.
Schools, administrators, and teachers interested in applying to any stage of the Amazon Future Engineer program can apply and learn more here. https://www.amazonfutureengineer.com/
Increased property taxes, sales taxes and developer impact fees, and under-spending has resulted in an $8.2 million surplus for the city of Chino’s General Fund reserves for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The surplus brings the total general fund reserves for the City to $55 million for the 2017-18 fiscal year.
The surplus, which was discovered during the City’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), an end-of-the-fiscal-year report required by the state, came as a surprise to city officials because the original budget, adopted in June 2017, had predicted a $2.2 million deficit. At that time, the city had identified one-time capital expenditures of $6.2 million and $1 million in continuing appropriations, resulting in a decrease in the general fund reserves of $9.4 million.
The city attributed the rise in development revenue—approximately $3.3 million more than expected—to developers paying development impact fees early because the city increased those fees in July, the start of the 2018-19 fiscal year. The surplus could help the city with its projected $10 million to $12 million cost for expanding the Eastside Water Treatment Facility, which will provide water to residents living in the Preserve and College Park areas.
The city’s CAFR received a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association and the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers.
Claremont city leaders want more time to understand how a proposed ordinance would affect the development of granny flats built in the city. Changes to state law have eased restrictions on granny flats and provide more flexibility in development standards, forcing cities to adjust their regulations. Claremont’s draft ordinance would allow what are called accessory dwelling units on all properties that are at least 6,000 square feet.
Council members were set to give final approval of the ordinance at a marathon meeting Tuesday night that went into early hours of Wednesday. Instead, they put off a vote to hold a study session. Mayor Corey Calaycay said he wanted more time determine what might be its unintended consequences.
Under the city’s current law, adopted in 2003, only certain single- and multi-family properties are eligible to build granny flats that are no larger than 700 square feet.
The draft ordinance puts in place two levels of review. The first is a ministerial design review process for granny flat proposals 400 to 700 square feet. This type of addition doesn’t require a notice to neighbors.
The discretionary review process allows an applicant to deviate from set development standards but with a heightened level of review from the Architectural Commission, the Planning Commission or both. Under this process, the buildings can be 850 square feet, two-story or even built over garage. In either case, the owner of the property is required to live in either the granny flat or the main house.
A date has not been set for the study session. Any changes that are proposed by the council during the study session at that time means the ordinance will have return to the Planning Commission and then back to the City Council for final approval.
A perceived increase in the homeless population hanging around Covina Park may be linked to the close proximity of Inter-Community Hospital, which includes a mental health unit. City officials believe that many individuals coming to get services at the hospital end up staying in Covina because they lack the ability to get back to where they want to be.
Covina residents looking for information about the city’s growing homeless population, especially in Covina Park, organized a community meeting with city leaders on March 6.
Inter-Community Hospital is not the only agency servicing the mentally ill. The city is also home to Aurora Charter Oak Hospital and the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services’ East San Gabriel Valley Health Center, which provides primary care services to adults who are clients of the Los Angeles County East San Gabriel Valley Mental Health Center.
The city and police department recently met with representatives from all three health care facilities to discuss their discharge programs, City Manager Brian Saeki, and both plan to keep in close contact to ensure the providers adhere to their plans.
The city participates in two regional programs—the Homeless Assistance Liaison Officer program and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homeless Outreach Services Team—and recently learned its coalition with Azusa, Duarte, Glendora and West Covina will receive $343,250 in Los Angeles County Measure H funding to hire case managers to help local homeless people connect with services.
The city of El Monte is fulfilling the housing needs of homeless veterans and low-income families with the opening of Palo Verde Apartments, located at 4704 Peck Road.
Palo Verde Apartments, developed by Hollywood Community Housing—a nonprofit affordable housing developer and service provider—features 49 units, 25 designated for homeless veterans and 23 designated for low-income families, and one unit for the on-site manager. During the lease process, the property managers received over 2,000 pre-applications for the income-qualified units, reflecting the dire need of affordable units. A lottery system was established to determine the order of interviews to determine eligibility.
The newly constructed housing development is designed to meet the Platinum LEED-certification, the highest level of distinction awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. The units are available in one, two and three bedrooms and also feature Energy Star appliances, such as refrigerators, stoves, ranges, dishwashers and solar panels to heat water. In addition, residents will be able to enjoy features such as community rooms, a computer lab, laundry rooms and a landscaped courtyard with fruit trees.
In more development news, after facing delays, the next phase of the massive El Monte Gateway project is under construction; the retail offerings and 208 apartments are slated for completion by mid-2020.
Meanwhile, the other three remaining phases are also moving forward after the city earlier this year issued construction permits and the developer continues to iron out deals with tenants. The entire mixed-used development adjacent to Metro’s El Monte Station should be finished within the next three years, according to James Acevedo of Grapevine Development, the firm behind the $700 million Gateway project.
With three Marriott hotels, restaurants and affordable and luxury apartments, the completed 14.3-acre project will be a dramatic new addition to the city’s retail and housing landscape—where Acevedo said previously struggled to attract investors.
This next phase will include 25,000 square feet of retail and dining space, a community center and a four-story apartment building with two levels of underground parking. It was originally slated for completion at the end of last year but faced delays related to financing and permitting. That phase’s expected completion in mid-2020 will come after the first phase, The Exchange at Gateway, brought 132 units of affordable housing to El Monte when it opened in 2015.
Two more phases are planned: One is set to include two Marriott hotels, a Panera Bread and more, the other is planned to include a complex known as The Vine at the Gateway, located right off the 10 Freeway at Santa Anita Avenue. The 12-story building is expected to include a movie theater, gym, hotel and luxury condos.
Among the catalysts for development in El Monte was the 2012 renovation of the Metro transit station—the largest west of Chicago—that quickly ferries commuters to and from downtown Los Angeles and offers bus connections to other San Gabriel Valley cities.
Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers is looking to set up shop in the Glendora Marketplace. The fast-growing chicken finger chain is looking to build at 1225 S. Lone Hill Ave. on the property owned by Kohl’s department store.
The city Planning Commission voted Feb. 5 to recommend several approvals to the City Council, which will ultimately decide whether or not to expand the number of drive-thrus allowed in the Marketplace, thus granting one for Raising Cane’s. The city code currently limits the number of drive-thru venues to four, all of which have been claimed—by Wendy’s, In-N-Out Burger, Chick-Fil-A and a still-under-construction Starbucks.
On the financial side of things, with preliminary results in Tuesday night, Glendorans appear to have increased the city sales tax to the state maximum level of 10.25 percent. The only item on the ballot was Measure E, which would raise the sales tax in the city three-quarters of a percent if approved by voters.
The approximately $5 million the tax would raise annually is not earmarked for anything specific and would go toward buoying the city’s budget, which included a $338,832 deficit in the current fiscal year and projects even larger deficits through 2022-23, according to a staff report prepared for the City Council meeting.
City Treasurer June Overhold said in November that the city’s growing unfunded pension liability was the primary reason for the city’s deficit, with additional pressures coming from the city’s need to maintain its facilities and streets, state-mandated infrastructure changes and upgrades to city vehicles and technology, among other costs.
Dim lighting, occasional graffiti, homeless people, trash and crime is what La Puente residents say describes La Puente Park. City leaders want to change that perception with a plan to overhaul the park within the next two years or so at a cost of $20.6 million.
City officials are working on finalizing the city’s “master plan” for parks in the next few months and council members discussed the urgency of it at a recent meeting. La Puente Park, or as many residents refer to it as LP park, is home to the recreation center, the annual 4th of July celebration, a popular egg hunt and summer concert nights in the park.
The park hasn’t been remodeled since 2003, according to public records. Although residents may have noticed some minor changes here and there over the years, they have also noticed the park is deteriorating.
A skate park, a fitness pavilion, an amphitheater, refurbishments to existing structures and a splash pad, among other things, are part of the plan, according to a rough blueprint on the city of La Puente’s website. City leaders say the draft is based on what residents said they wanted in city surveys, workshops and other forums for soliciting feedback. For instance, some residents complained about the disruption caused by skateboarders around city hall and believe a skate park will help.
If the city can finalize its parks plan in the next few weeks—it may make deadlines for applying for grant funding to help pay for the improvements.
La Verne is moving toward a $5.5 million settlement with its firefighters union, likely bringing an end to a 14-month legal battle.
The city and the La Verne Firefighters’ Association, Local 3624 began talks the day jury selection was set to start in federal court in downtown Los Angeles. Thomas Brown, the attorney representing the association, confirmed the news by phone but said the terms are still being finalized.
The La Verne City Manager said any settlement would have to be approved by the City Council before it is finalized. A comment from the attorney representing La Verne is expected to be released along with more details.
The strife between the two parties began, the association alleged, when Fire Chief Peter Jankowski retaliated against union members for supporting the mayor’s political opponent during the 2017 campaign.
The initial 44-page suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Dec. 4, 2017. It claimed the firefighters were subject to “frivolous disciplinary investigations” and “unwarranted and excessive discipline,” among other complaints.
The suit was amended Feb. 22, 2018 with 55 more pages, asking the case go to a jury trial. The union was seeking in excess of $1 million for mental and emotional injuries, distress, anxiety and humiliation.
The second claim came Dec. 21, which alleged members’ Firefighters Bill of Rights were violated when Battalion Chief Michael Thompson secretly took more than 250 videos, 1,500 photographs and kept a 235-page file of notes, some of which included conversations union members had with their wives.
The union was being represented by the Los Angeles firm Brown White & Osborn, which also represented Downey firefighters in its $3.7 million settlement against that city.
Pre-sales are now underway at two neighborhoods in Emerald Park, the newest enclave at New Haven in Ontario Ranch. The townhomes are located at Brookfield Residential’s Holiday at Emerald Park or Solstice at Emerald Park.
Two-story townhomes at Holiday at Emerald Park are priced from the low $300,000s with six designs, spanning from approximately 976 to 1,811 square feet.
Solstice at Emerald Park offers three spacious townhome designs with light-filled interiors spanning from approximately 1,138 to 1,534 square feet. Prices start from the mid $300,000s. The commuter-friendly location is less than 5 miles from the Metrolink station and near major freeways with direct access to I-15 at the Cantu-Galleano Ranch Road exit. School-aged residents are included in the Mountain View and Chaffey Joint Union school districts.
Proposed plans include retail and business space, along with nearly 1,000 acres dedicated to public open space, parks and schools. The location offers direct access to the I-15 via the new connection at Cantu-Galleano Ranch Road.
Pomona has received a new federal grant that will help the city provide 25 to 30 more rental assistance vouchers to individuals or families.
The city was awarded a $589,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Feb. 1, said Benita DeFrank, Pomona’s director of Neighborhood Services. The grant is meant to provide permanent rental assistance for a family who has someone with a disability or an individual with a disability.
The 2019 funding comes from HUD’s Continuum of Care homeless programs. In addition to the new grant, Pomona received a $1.1 million renewal grant in permanent supportive housing funds and a $865,000 renewal grant for its outreach and rapid rehousing program, DeFrank said.
While the funds are not connected to the city’s new $10 million homeless services center, Hope for Home, those in the shelter might be able to tap into the money as they move into stable housing, she said. The HUD grants are just the latest in what’s becoming quite a stockpile to help the homeless.
The Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative and United Way of Greater Los Angeles recently awarded grants in Measure H money—the quarter-cent sales tax county voters approved in March 2017—the county Board of Supervisors allocated last year. To apply, the cities needed to have approved and adopted a homeless plan.
Pomona was awarded nearly $300,000 from Los Angeles County Measure H funds to hire a consultant who would evaluate and report back to the city council a status on all its properties, DeFrank said. For example, the study will help the city determine if it should put these properties in a land trust or consider a master lease agreement. Many of the properties the city owns were purchased through various funding sources, each with their own low-income housing covenants.
With rental rates climbing, she added, “housing is out of reach,” even for some who get assistance. Pomona was given 18 months to use the grant, but DeFrank expects a report back to the council before then. The council will then decide what action, if any, it will take. Also, in collaboration with the cities of Claremont and La Verne, Pomona applied and received a $590,000 Measure H grant with to start a pilot program that would help homeless people navigate through the various resources available.
West Covina will continue to explore whether or not to lift a decades-old ban prohibiting convenience stores connected to gas station from selling beer and wine.
The city Planning Commission held the first of what could be several study sessions examining the proposed change. In June,
Mohsen Karimi, owner of Eastland Chevron Extra Mile at the southeast corner of Citrus and Workman avenues, asked that the city change local laws; the request cost him $2,500.
Nothing was decided at the study session, but commissioners listened to feedback from residents, then requested that planning staff:
Seek opinions from the city’s police and fire departments on the matter
Research how surrounding cities handle the issue
Find out how many licenses to sell beer and wine for off-site consumption have already been issued in each of the city’s Census tracts
Karimi’s proposal includes 12 stipulations should beer and wine sales be allowed at gas stations, including provisions that single-container sales be prohibited and that clear signage be posted in and around the store indicating that alcohol cannot be consumed on the premises.
This is the fourth time in a decade that city leaders have considered lifting the ban. In 2008, the Planning Commission held a study session to consider changing that section of the municipal code, and the decision moved to the City Council, which killed the proposal. In 2010, the Planning Commission initiated—then rescinded—a move to change the code, and in 2016, the commission declined a proposal to change the code. A large group of residents, who have fought against the prior efforts to change the city code, spoke against the current effort.