The city of Azusa will lease 145 parking spaces at the Azusa Intermodal Transit Center to Metro for at least one year to alleviate an overflow of parking demand at the Downtown Azusa Gold Line station stop. In return, Metro is expected to reimburse the city for 100 percent of its operation and maintenance of the 145 spots, an estimated yearly fee of $31,000. Both parties have the option to extend the agreement a second year, with an additional $32,000 in operations and maintenance fees paid by Metro to the city of Azusa. Metro also plans to include the leased spaces in the existing parking permit program, with twenty percent of the permits allocated to city of Azusa residents. Originally city staff negotiated for city residents to receive free Metro permits, but that agreement was later rejected due to legal concerns. The parking lease agreement arrives after the City of Azusa enacted parking restrictions in surrounding neighborhoods and downtown streets because of an overflow of Gold Line riders. City officials hope the new three-hour parking limits will confine Metro parking to the Azusa station garage and incentivize riders arriving by car to instead use the nearby Irwindale and Duarte lots. In a phone interview, Azusa Director of Public Works Daniel Bobadilla noted that though no official analysis on the recent parking measures has been conducted, staff have noticed fewer vehicles on streets and residential neighborhoods in downtown Azusa. The Downtown Azusa Station parking structure, formally known as the Azusa Intermodal Transit Center, was built by three agencies: the city of Azusa, Foothill Transit, and Los Angeles Metro. The parking space allocation reflects the shared costs of construction. Of 545 total parking spaces, Metro and Foothill each own 200 spots and Azusa 145.
Continental Funding Group recently announced that the Courtyard by Marriott in Baldwin Park is the latest asset to receive financing from the company. The $19 million fixed-rate refinancing is indicative of the continued growth recorded by Southern California’s hospitality market. Located at 14635 Baldwin Park Towne Center, the hotel was originally meant to be a Hilton-operated property, and was then affiliated with hospitality operator Radisson. The property was taken over by Marriott in 2004. According to Continental’s announcement, the sponsor requested a fixed-rate, non-recourse loan that would refinance an existing maturing loan. The provider eventually secured the ten-year loan from an investment bank at 4.98 percent, with a loan-to-value leverage ratio of 68 percent with a 25-year amortization. The loan was a debt yield below 10.5 percent, and also provides a substantial cash-out component.
One of the city’s last large-scale developments featuring single-family homes is under construction. With a regional housing shortage in full swing, city officials are looking forward to the completion of the long-planned Vila Borba community in the southern part of the city. The 334-acre planned community west and east of Butterfield Ranch Road, just south of Pine Avenue near the 71 Freeway, will feature about 500 homes at buildout. A 5-acre public park and dog park are already completed. In San Bernardino County this year alone, said Gordon Nichols, government affairs director for the Building Industry Association Southern California Baldy View Chapter, the region is facing a housing shortage of 7,000 units. By 2019, he said officials expect the shortage to balloon to 65,000 homes, if not much changes. The community is being developed by the Irvine-based firm CalAtlantic Homes. The Vila Borba project contains four planning areas, the first of which will include 183 single-family homes. The first planned area contains the communities of Monterra and Serano and the Vila Borba Park. The second planning area will contain 19 single-family homes, according to the city website. Planning Area 3 will contain 149 single-family homes. Officials expect construction to take a few years. Planning Area 4 was originally planned for about 280 high-density homes and 5 acres of commercial real estate, though CalAtlantic is asking the city to switch to medium-density homes.
Attorneys representing Claremont and Golden State Water Company (GSW) have been locked in a war of words and accusations since the trial began on June 14. The trial is a culmination of years of legal wrangling that could end in Claremont earning the right to claim eminent domain over the water system. GSW rested its case in early July, after testimony from GSW executives and experts. Claremont is preparing to rest its case sometime in mid-July. A decision might not be reached for two months or longer. The city’s basis for taking over the water system centers on municipal control, with Claremont able to set rates and bill customers if the judge rules in the city’s favor. GSW has countered that the city has virtually no experience running the water system and only GSW, which has been in control of Claremont’s water since 1929, has the expertise to successfully run the system. Experts and witnesses have been brought up on both sides throughout the trial. Throughout the trial, testimony was presented regarding transparency on the part of GSW, additional rate charges and the involvement of La Verne in helping Claremont operate the system. If Claremont wins the right-to-take case, a separate trial will be convened to determine how much the water system is worth.
Empire Lakes Golf Course has officially changed hands, according to PMRG, a commercial real estate firm based in Irvine. The property is now owned by the Lewis Group of Companies, which will develop the site into a high density, mixed-used community. The development will feature 2,600-3,400 homes and apartments as well as mixed-use business. The Lewis Group of Companies hopes the community will appeal to younger millennials and downsizing empty-nesters and retirees interested in moving from a larger home to an apartment or more urban environment. Empire Lakes sits on 160 acres north of Fourth Street, west of Milliken Avenue, east of Cleveland Avenue and south of Eighth Street. It’s a 15-minute walk from the Metrolink station. The project also calls for 220,000 square feet of non-residential uses, such as light retail, commercial services, recreation amenities and a community center. Lewis plans to have a product for sale and to rent within two years.
SOUTH EL MONTE
An audit of South El Monte’s dealings with two consultants revealed issues with how the city doles out contracts to private companies, as well as the way the city bills those companies and checks up on their work. In their report, auditors with Los Angeles-based SingerLewak LLP said the city left itself open to fraud — one contract showed a company billed more hours of work than there are in a day. The audit was finalized June 21, and was obtained by the newspaper this week. The document shows City Manager Tony Ybarra executed four contracts with the two consulting companies — three with Arroyo Strategy Group, for a total payout of $110,000, and the other with ECM Group Inc. for $29,376. All the contracts were adopted without the City Council’s approval, and none of the contracts was subject to a competitive bidding process, the audit said. Aside from issues with the contract process, the audit also found issues with the way the contractors conducted business. Arroyo principal Omar Hernandez told auditors he maintains no physical office location; the only address listed for the company is a post office box in South El Monte. Hernandez also said he keeps no copies or records of Arroyo’s work, according to the report. ECM principal Hector Castillo admitted to submitting fictitious labor claims for four days of work, the report said. On the four days in question, ECM claimed 25 hours, 26 hours, 27 hours and 25 hours of work respectively, with one staff member averaging 17.5 hours of work per day, the report said. The audit report’s findings are “concerning,” said City Councilman Joseph Gonzales.
After auditor Van Lant and Fankhanel LLP first raised concerns about Arroyo and ECM in September, Gonzales requested that the city investigate further. He said he had read the draft of SingerLewak’s audit in February and has been asking for its final, public release since then. In response to the audit sent to SingerLewak on June 2, Assistant City Manager Jennifer Vasquez detailed steps the city has taken to increase city contractor oversight. In March, the City Council voted unanimously to adopt a “purchasing manual” that provides guidelines for city staff to follow when members purchase supplies, equipment and professional services like consultants. The manual includes specific directions for staff to oversee billable work done by its consultants.
Months ago, the City Council was given two options for establishing voting districts. The city had been threatened with a lawsuit for allegedly violating the California Voting Rights Act and could have adopted an ordinance signaling the change, or leave it up to the voters to decide in November.
In April, elected officials opted against making a decision, saying the voters should have a say.
Now with the deadline looming for placing a measure on the November ballot, the City Council is reconsidering its decision. The council has directed its city attorney to amend a current deal with a firm that threatened to sue, one that would allow the council to create the districts by adopting an ordinance. More importantly, the move would save Upland $20,000 by skipping the election.
In December, the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project put Upland on notice that Upland’s current practice of at-large voting violated the California Voting Rights Act. To avoid ending up in court, Upland reached an agreement with the project in March. Although 38 percent of the city’s population is Latino, a Latino has never served on the council. The project claims that is a result of polarized voting. Upland hired Compass Demographics to seek public participation and develop one or more district boundary maps. The map selected by the council, and popular among residents, was the third out of four drafts. It uses San Antonio Avenue as the division between east and west in the northern portion of the city, and the remaining two districts are south of Foothill Boulevard. The southern districts have the largest populations of Latinos. If the council doesn’t move forward with an ordinance, it has to approve and adopt a final district map by Aug. 1, then send it to the San Bernardino County Elections Office of the Registrar of Voters to be placed on the November ballot.
Since Upland’s population is under 100,000, it wasn’t required to take the decision to the voters — it could have simply begun the process in April to adopt an ordinance. Cities with a population over 100,000 must present the issue to the voters. At the July 11 meeting, the council heard from a number of residents, some who voiced their displeasure for the whole process and vowed to vote it down.
As part of the settlement agreement, Upland must pay the organization $45,000 in legal fees. Rather than risk being sued, which was possible even if it cured the alleged violation, Upland settled. The settlement figure accounts for the expense the firm incurred in preparing its findings to Upland, including consultants costs and attorney fees. Under the terms of the agreement, both sides agreed Upland would take a map to the voters, one devised by a mutually agreed upon consultant. Upland’s approach is different from Chino, which received a similar letter and proceeded to form voting district by ordinance. But that city never entered into a settlement agreement.
The West Covina Firefighters’ Association may soon vote on a contract, after working for two years without one. The 72-member association has attempted to quietly negotiate a contract with the city through formal negotiations, informal discussions with the city manager, and mediation with a state-appointed mediator without success, association President Matt Jackson said. Jackson blamed the turnover of the city manager position during the time period for the delay. Since negotiations started, West Covina has had three city managers. Talks are still going on between the city and the unions representing the police department, police management and non-sworn police employees.