City Council members have approved spending up to $500,000 more in their continued fight against high-voltage power lines in the city.The announcement made by City Manager Mike Fleager came out after the City Council’s closed session in March. If the full amount is used, the cost of the city’s battle with Edison will total $3.5 million from its general fund reserves. The $2.1 billion 173-mile Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project aims to carry wind-generated electricity from Kern County to the Los Angeles Basin using expanded power lines through Chino Hills. The project was originally approved by the PUC in 2009 and is part of a state mandate to generate more sustainable energy by 2015. City officials and the grassroots group Hope for the Hills have pushed for the portion of the line that runs through the city be placed underground – which is called Segment 8. The city has insisted Edison’s right-of-way is too narrow for the 198-foot-high, 500-kilovolt towers, and that it causes safety hazards. Edison started installing the towers about five miles into the right-of-way through Chino Hills. But in October 2011 the project was put on temporary hold by order of the Federal Aviation Administration because of a lack of aviation warning lights place on the first towers. The following month PUC ordered Edison to stop construction and present a “feasibility, cost and timing” for five alternative routes. In July 2012 the PUC then ordered Edison to prepare preliminary engineering studies of Chino Hills undergrounding high-voltage power lines and since then they have been reviewing the alternative routes, including undergrounding. In late-February the commission gave Edison the approval to begin preparations for undergrounding high-voltage power lines through the city in the event it is forced to go ahead with the work. Underground of the lines in Chino Hills could cost as much as $1 billion, according to Edison. City officials, however, said undergrounding would cost significantly less than Edison’s estimate. The strip of land being considered for undergrounding is about 3.8 miles long and begins west at the end of Eucalyptus Avenue and goes between Pipeline sand the 71 Freeway.
Council members voted to develop an enhanced watershed management plan with the cities of La Verne, San Dimas and Pomona but continued an item on supporting an ordinance on an assault weapons ban. The decisions came at the regular Claremont City Council meeting of March 12th. City officials said the plan was needed because the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Board adopted a new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit to ensure compliance with Federal Clean Water Act regulations. Additional regulations are required of cities and counties to make sure water quality standards are maintained with respect to stormwater discharges. Officials added complete compliance for Claremont could range from $3.5 to $4 million annually but if the rules are not met the city could be subject of fines up to $10,000 per day and third party lawsuits. Meanwhile, councilmembers listened to more than an hour of testimony from approximately 30 speakers on both sides of the assault weapons ban. The item, if passed, would also include the mayor signing on to the mayors against illegal guns coalition.
The management company at the Brookside Mobile Country Club in El Monte has responded to allegations of price-gouging by renters, saying it has tried unsuccessfully to work with the disgruntled residents. Some residents of the 421-space mobile home park and city officials have raised concerns that rents have been climbing at startling rates at Brookside, which already rents the spaces where residents place their mobile homes at rates sometimes double that of other El Monte mobile home parks. Residents have reported rent increases in double-digit percentages over recent years. Mobile Management Co. said in a written statement that many Brookside residents have been offered, and have rejected, a rent stabilization program to reduce their rents, apparently in order to maximize their damages in a pending lawsuit filed in November of 2009 alleging failure to maintain the mobile home park. Thirty-eight percent of then-residents joined in the lawsuit. The program was offered over the years to virtually all residents on long term leases and provided for reduced annual rent increases to as low as 1 percent – 2 percent, compared to the agreed upon contracted annual increases, which ran up to 10 percent per year, according to MCM’s statement. About 32 percent of park residents have taken part in the rent stabilization program, MCM officials said. Though rental rates are not adjusted based on whether residents are involved in the lawsuit. Though the lawsuit filed by residents is over issues unrelated to rent, MCM denied the allegations and stated so in the fact sheet provided by the company. City Councilwoman Norma Macias championed a measure getting rid of a 1990 law that barred the city from creating rent control legislation. Measure F passed by a narrow margin in the November election, however no rent control ordinance has been drafted. MCM has filed a claim against the city over Measure F, claiming that the city violated the original 1990 ordinance by campaigning for the measure and passing a resolution to place it on the ballot. The claim has been rejected by the city, but has not yet resulted in a lawsuit, according to David Gondeck, and attorney representing El Monte. Roughly 90 percent of Brookside residents have long term leases, according to MCM. MCM officials said the city did not reach out to park ownership or management prior to proposing a ballot initiative.
Glendora took a big step toward anticipating the city’s future needs on Tuesday when the city council approved a mixed-use development near the future site of the Metro Gold Line. Proposed by AvalonBay Communities Inc., the project will consist of 256 apartment homes and 4,000 square-feet of commercial real estate on nearly 5 acres at the northeast corner of Route 66 and Glendora Avenue. The city planning department worked with the developer to address several concerns that were voiced in a planning commission workshop in December. The project features indoor and outdoor entertainment amenities such as a children’s play area, dog park, basketball courts, pools, patios and a fitness area and club room. Opponents of the development cited traffic and parking concerns, which AvalonBay representatives addressed in their report. The City hired KOA Corporation to prepare a traffic study for the proposed project, which concluded that the project would not have significant impacts on traffic except at the intersection of Route 66 and Glendora Avenue. The study proposed modifications to the intersection, including extending right- and left-turn lanes.
The City Council recently unanimously voted to approve the Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan, a five-year plan required by the Federal Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000. The act requires local agencies to have a plan in place to be eligible for disaster funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.Having an approved plan is important because the federal government no longer pays for repetitive disaster damage or damage that can easily be averted by pre-event actions. The council also voted 5-0 to approve a resolution appropriating $2 million from the Special Mining Funds for the federally funded improvements on Live Oak Avenue and Arrow Highway at the 605 Freeway. In addition, the resolution calls for using $224,000 from the Special Mining Funds for the federally funded Los Angeles Street bridge widening. The two projects were affected by the loss of the Irwindale Redevelopment Agency after the state dissolved all redevelopment agencies in February 2012. At the time of accepting the grants, Irwindale was the administering agency under the grant and appropriated redevelopment funds and local matching funds required for the two projects. However, the state Department of Finance determined in May 2012 that the redevelopment funds could not be used for the projects. The city staff decided against challenging the Department of Finance finding and that there was sufficient funding in the Special Mining Fund to balance the two capital improvement projects.
The Planning Commission recently approved a banquet hall with entertainment at 136 S. First St., a 5,500-square-foot building that is currently operating as a restaurant. The commission also approved a two-story banquet center at a vacant 10,800-square-foot masonry building at 15843 Old Valley Blvd., known as the Big Blue Building. Officials said they hoped the facilities would provide a stage for revitalizing downtown and fostering economic growth. Of both projects, the Big Blue Building will need the most amount of improvements before it can open as a banquet facility. The structure is an unreinforced masonry building and is not up to state and county seismic codes. Like the other 20 unretrofitted buildings built along Main Street in the early 1900s, the Big Blue Building is at risk of collapsing should an earthquake occur. Property owner Frank Sanchez was forced to move out of the building, which he converted to a residential use, in 2011 because of safety issues. City officials this time around reiterated similar concerns of safety for occupants and any liability the city may face. Some of the conditions of approval include reducing the number of occupants from a maximum of 600 to 215, implementing video monitoring, hiring security guards, and covering any public safety costs.
A new solar energy demonstration center was officially opened this week at the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center and Biane Library. A kiosk in the cultural center is attached to a new installation of solar-voltaic cells above the library. Visitors will be able to learn and see data on energy collection from the solar panels on a flat-panel touch-screen television monitor in the cultural center’s rotunda, at the entrance to the library. The panels are expected to generate about 20 percent of the library’s energy usage for the year. The solar education project was a collaboration between the Children learn about sustainable energy at a new solar-powered Play and Learn Island in the Rancho Cucamonga Biane Library. city library and the Rancho Cucamonga Municipal Utility, which provides electricity for Victoria Gardens and City Hall. In addition, the library has added a new “play and learn island” interactive exhibit for children, powered by solar energy. The wheeled play table includes a solar panel and a city-scape on its flat surface. The learning island features toy cars and trucks, and clear plastic pegs that fit into lighted groves, that shine colored light into them. The theme of the play is about renewable and sustainable energy. A solar panel is affixed to a pole on the corner of the play island. Library employees wheel the box outside to collect energy that powers the play island’s internal battery. The contract for the installation of the solar panels at the library was in the amount of $77,361. Funding comes from a grant from the American Public Power Association.
The Upland City Council is still unable to decide how to implement changes to their ordinance limiting campaign contributions. The council on March 11th agreed to table recommendations from the city attorney on changes to the ordinance and instructed the City Council Advisory Committee to remind them at a later council meeting how they drafted the ordinance in the first place. In 2011, the City Council asked the City Council Advisory Committee to draft a campaign contribution limits ordinance. After consecutive meetings and input from the city attorney at the time, the committee drafted an ordinance that prohibits candidates from receiving a contribution more than $2,000 in a two year period from an individual, group, organization, corporation or related entity. The City Council in February asked City Attorney Kimberly Barlow to review the ordinance and make recommendations to the council for possible amendments as part of the annual review required for the ordinance. Barlow on Monday suggested two changes to the ordinance. One is to draft an amendment that would allow for a cure of any violations within 30 days they are discovered. The second is to change the $2,000 limit per two year to per election. City Council Advisory Committee Chairman Tom Mitchell said the committee came up with the $2,000 limit per two years based on policies in surrounding cities and the amount spent on an average campaign, which is about $15,000 in Upland, he said.
A bankruptcy court in March granted the city’s motion to convert the Ziad Alhassen-controlled company – which operated Chevrolet, Hummer, Ford and Chrysler auto dealership franchises in the West Covina Auto Plaza – to a liquidation case. As a result, a handful of employees who still worked at the mostly empty lots were let go the next day. And more layoffs could be coming soon. West Covina Motors, which had been the dealerships’ parent company for more than a decade, filed for bankruptcy in December after its franchise with General Motors was terminated. The lots for the past few years have had no new fleet of cars, but Alhassen continued to employ about 15 car maintenance employees at the dealerships. There is now a trustee, Howard Ehrenberg, in place to market and sell all of the real estate properties owned by the partnership, clearing the way for new developments at each site. A second trustee will be appointed to the case involving West Covina Motors and that person will decide what to do with the remaining assets.