by CVAR Government Affairs Director Bill Ruh
Longtime Mayor Joe Rocha, challenged for the first time in his 10-year tenure, handily won re-election on March 7. Incumbents Robert Gonzales and Eddie Alvarez also reclaimed their seats by a wide margin. Results show that Rocha led with 57.77 percent of the votes, easily outpacing challenger and fellow councilman Uriel Macias, who had 28.79 percent, and Russ Rentschler, 56, a commercial pest control technician, who ended with 13.44 percent. In the race for city council, three candidates were running for two seats. Challenging Alvarez and Gonzales was Andrew Mendez, 30. Final results show that Gonzalez led with nearly 40.65 percent of the vote, followed by Alvarez with 37.36 percent, and Mendez with 21.98 percent.
The Baldwin Park City Council approved an employment agreement with new Police Chief David Salcedo despite two council members’ concerns that the salary awarded to the police captain from Inglewood was too high. The council voted 3-2 to enter into the agreement with Salcedo. Councilwoman Cruz Baca and Mayor Pro Tem Susan Rubio cast the no votes. Salcedo, who comes to Baldwin Park with more than 27 years of experience in law enforcement, will earn a base salary of $192,766 and about $23,700 in benefits and other incentives—about $216,000 total—according to the agreement. His predecessor Michael Taylor, who was fired in September after more than three decades with the department and nearly three years as chief, was making a base salary of $165,000 and about $70,000 in benefits and incentives—about $235,000 total—according to city document.
The new chief’s salary and benefits package is less than the average compensation for police chiefs working in the San Gabriel Valley, according to a city survey of police chief compensations in 13 San Gabriel Valley cities. Salcedo, 50, said one of his top priorities was to engage with the community and ensure that they feel safe and comfortable talking to law enforcement. A graduate of Montebello High School, Salcedo has a bachelor’s degree in vocational studies and leadership from Cal State Long Beach, and a master’s degree in public administration and leadership from Cal State Northridge.
It was the incumbents’ night to celebrate in Claremont, as both Larry Schroeder and Corey Calaycay were re-elected to the city council. Schroeder, who is entering his third term on the council, and Calaycay, who is entering his fourth term, handily beat the crowded competition. Schroeder received 32.34% of the vote, and Calaycay received 27.85%. The closest competitor, Zach Courser, garnered 18.17% of the vote.
Schroeder said he wants to focus on two things during his next term—development and getting people involved in the commission system. He said he wants to take a closer look at projects under development in Claremont to make sure they fit with the city’s character. In 2015, Schroeder and Calaycay were tasked with creating the verbiage that imposed an eight-year term limit for commissioners and committee members. The current council unanimously approved the limits, however, Schroeder would now like to revisit the decision. Calaycay noted the ongoing effort to take over the water system, the possibility of a new police station and MS-4 storm water management as priorities in his upcoming term.
Incumbents Jorge Marquez and John King, and local business owner Victor Linares won in the election for the Covina City Council in the March election. With all precincts reporting, Marquez received the most votes with 31.37%. He was followed closely by King with 29.56% and Linares with 26.93%. First-time candidate Neil Polzin, an online fleet manager for an El Monte car dealership, received 12.14%. The two incumbents and two newcomers were vying for three open seats on the council. At least one newcomer was guaranteed to win a seat on the five-member governing body after longtime Councilman Kevin Stapleton announced in November that he would not be seeking re-election. That newcomer was Linares, co-owner of Bread and Barley, 130 N. Citrus Ave., and Arrow Lodge Brewing, 720 E. Arrow Highway. King, 55, a project manager for Southern California Edison, and Marquez, 33, a field deputy for state Sen. Ed Hernandez, raised more than $18,700 and $27,800, respectively, in this year’s election, according to campaign finance records. Linares received more than $17,600 in contributions, according to the records. King, who was first elected in 2005, won his fourth term on the council, while Marquez won his second term.
Walmart is appealing a Los Angeles Superior Court ruling preventing the multinational retail corporation from building a supercenter in the city. The project, approved in a split vote by the City Council in 2015, was slated to be built at the northeast corner of Valley Boulevard and Arden Drive. After the approval, a group of residents filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging El Monte violated state laws in preparing an environmental impact report. In November, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the city’s report indeed failed to adequately address the project’s impact on traffic and air quality, and as a result, residents would “suffer irreparable harm.” The city had requested that the trial be heard again, but its motion was denied. The appeal filed by Walmart on March 13 seeks to have the case heard by an appeals court. The company released a statement about the appeal saying “Walmart believes the city’s greenhouse gas analysis was thorough, multi-layered, and prepared in full compliance with all applicable standards and regulations.” Given the appeal’s filing, the City Council opted to postpone a vote that would have committed the city to conducting another environmental analysis for the sections found deficient in order to move the project forward in accordance with the superior court ruling. Before the council postponed its vote, an attorney representing the residents in the lawsuit urged the council to approve the policies. City Economic Development Director Minh Thai said it would cost $80,000 to $100,000 and take six months to prepare a new environmental report addressing the areas the court deemed inadequate. The new environmental report would then have to be approved by the city Planning Commission and then by the City Council.
Challenger Michael Allawos and 12-year incumbent Karen Davis won the two open City Council seats in the municipal election of March 7. Results show that Allawos led with 31.97% of the votes, followed by Davis with 25.21%. Challenger Erica Landmann, 42, a teacher, landed in third place with 21.94%. Incumbent and current Mayor Gene Murabito, 65, who was running for a third term, ended in fourth place with 16.28%, and Kamal Stephan, 68, a retired accountant, trailed with 4.60%. Development quickly became the No. 1 issue in the city during the campaign. Many in Glendora, with a population of about 51,000, had spoken out against condominium and mixed-use projects that were recently built on Route 66 and Grand Avenue, saying they were too tall and come right up to the sidewalks. A project singled out by challengers was the Avalon Glendora complex on Route 66—apartments grouped in five-story structures renting from $1,815 to $2,690 per month. Murabito, a businessman, and Davis, pastor of the First Christian Church of Glendora, said they listened to residents’ concerns. They said the city was very close to releasing a new development plan for Route 66, the main east-west thoroughfare through the city and part of the original, 91-year-old road connecting Chicago and Los Angeles. After announcing he would run for re-election, Murabito in late January said he was withdrawing from the race, even after he had already paid for a campaign statement. Then in mid-February, he got back in after he said he was persuaded by supporters.
Mayor Don Kendrick held onto his seat by a slim seven-vote margin. The mayor’s position has a two-year term. After the vote-by-mail ballots were tallied election night, Kendrick held an early and close lead but lost it when the first wave of precinct counts came in. With three of seven precincts reporting, Hepburn was ahead with 50.2% of the vote. By early the next morning, the lead dissipated, with Kendrick taking 50.8% of the vote to Hepburn’s 49.2. With each subsequent release of results—updating provisional and vote-by-mail ballots that were turned in at the polls or came in after Election Day but were postmarked in time—Kendrick held onto the lead. Despite falling short, Hepburn said he was pleased with the results. Plans called for a ceremony in which Kendrick, Councilwoman Robin Carder and Councilman-elect Muir Davis would take the oath of office at the April 3 City Council meeting, at 6:30 p.m. at La Verne City Hall, 3660 D St. Kendrick said there is a great deal to do for the city. While he lauds how the city weathered recession without cutting staff, “Now we get to rebuild.” The city’s Foothill Corridor has a few unoccupied business spaces, he said. Steps are being taken to attract businesses to fill those vacancies. The city needs to pursue partnerships and create opportunities that will benefit the city and those involved, Kendrick said.
The commercial area of north Ontario, just west of Ontario Mills, might not have nightlife, but developers are proposing to change all that. Plans for a brewery-filled restaurant row north of Citizens Business Bank Arena are in addition to plans for new apartments and a hotel. Two Southern California-based developers are collaborating to bring a grocery-anchored shopping center, new restaurants, brew pubs and hundreds of apartments to land north of Citizens Business Bank Arena and south of Fourth Street. Upland-based Lewis Group of Companies and Irvine-based Pendulum Property Partners recently asked the city to amend the existing plan for the area which, if approved, would change from placing residential units above shops and restaurants to adjacent to commercial activity. The request is expected to come before the Ontario City Council in a series of public hearings. With approval, developers are hoping to open the hotel and see the first apartment move-ins by 2019, with the restaurants and breweries opening around 2020, the developers said by phone. A key piece of the development is a 12-acre lifestyle center, which would feature new restaurants and brew pubs along Via Piemonte, a road that cuts north and south through the proposed development, from Fourth Street toward the arena. The center would feature about 12 restaurants and brew pubs. The proposed Pendulum-developed lifestyle center property, immediately west of the existing Target-anchored Piemonte at Ontario Center shopping complex, on the south side of Fourth Street and directly north of the arena, could also hold farmers markets and community festivals. Lewis Group is on tap to build a 570-unit apartment community of one- and two-bedroom rental homes, to surround the Pendulum lifestyle center. Two pools, two Jacuzzis, outdoor barbecue areas, a clubhouse and an upscale gym are planned. The target market for the homes will be young professionals, millennials and move-down renters. Separately, a 13-acre grocery-anchored shopping center, by Lewis, is planned for the southeast corner of Haven Avenue and Fourth Street, with 95,000 square feet of total retail space, Lewis said in an email. The center will likely have from 15 to 20 tenants. In addition, an Arizona-based hotel developer is working with the city to bring a four-story hotel to a 4.5-acre parcel immediately northeast of the arena. Arizona based Glacier House Hotels development said the company hopes for city approval of the 131-room Element by Westin hotel by the end of fall, with an opening by the first quarter of 2019. The hotel should employ about 25 to 30 people and serve both business and leisure clientele.
The 2.61-acre property that was once occupied by a taxicab dispatch yard has become city property. Barring any unexpected circumstances, by the end of the year the land at 1400 E. Mission Blvd. will be home to a year-round emergency shelter and service center for the homeless, the first in the city. The aim is to have it ready in time to for the coming winter. Currently, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority offers a winter shelter program at the Pomona Armory. The city plans to erect a large tent to serve as the shelter, but officials are also checking out how to incorporate the buildings on the property. Once the facility is up and running, it will offer residents without shelter a place to stay and begin making their way back to permanent housing. In November, the Pomona City Council authorized staffers to buy the East Mission Boulevard property from the Gene Stalians 1989 Trust for $1.7 million. In late January, the council members gave the green light for the combination emergency shelter and service center on the property. The facility will consist of a giant semi-permanent tent-like structure resembling those used for entertainment events or for military purposes. The structure, which will accommodate 175 people, will be insulated, equipped with windows, heating and air conditioning systems. It will have a system of dividers to create areas for men, women and LGBT residents. Portable restrooms, showers, laundry facilities and a dog kennel will be among the features. A key component of the facility will be a centralized kitchen for nonprofits and faith-based groups that prepare meals for the homeless residents. Through the service center, homeless individuals will be able to access basic health and behavioral health services, in addition to other services. The city expects to pay for the facility using some housing bond proceeds. A consultant will also assist in determining how much it will cost to operate the program. The city is also researching how it can access funds generated by Measure H, the Los Angeles County ballot measure that voters approved by a slim margin March 7. Measure H calls for increasing the sales tax in L.A. County by 1/4 percent to generate about $355 million a year for 10 years, to be used to prevent and address homelessness. A group has been established that will provide oversight of the funding.
A $500,000 makeover of the city’s animal shelter is more than halfway complete.
For years, the city had contemplated making renovations to the Animal Care and Adoption Center, which was built in the 1990s. When the council approved its fiscal budget, it set aside $547,311 for the “Animal Care and Adoption Center Makeover Project.” Before the makeover began, Animal Care and Services Director Veronica Fincher and her staff faced one of the bigger challenges of the process: What would happen to the hundreds of shelter animals that would be displaced during this project?
Dogs at the shelter are being housed in kennels under a big white tent, cats are in a modular building and the center’s operations are run out of the city’s mobile recreational vehicle. Fincher and Public Works Services Director Bill Witkopf updated the City Council at its March 15 meeting on the construction, which began the first week of February. City officials believe it will be completed in late April.
The project includes:
- Replacing chain link kennels with metal kennels
- New epoxy coating in the kennel area
- New service counter compliant with federal disability access laws
- New acoustical panels throughout center
- New flooring and paint throughout the lobby and kennels
- LED lighting in lobby
In San Dimas, longtime Mayor Curt Morris was re-elected without opposition and longtime Councilman Denis Bertone, first elected in 1988, was the top vote-getter in the council race. Sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Vienna was voted into the seat left open by the retirement of Jeff Templeman, a retired deputy chief of police who was first elected to the council in 1996.
Despite heavy opposition from San Antonio Heights residents, the agency that oversees annexations in San Bernardino County unanimously voted to include the unincorporated community in a proposal to disband the Upland Fire Department. The proposal would annex the Upland Fire Department and transfer fire station properties, employees, assets, obligations, as well as liabilities into San Bernardino County Fire and its Valley Service Zone. At the recommendation of Local Agency Formation Commission staff, the unincorporated community of San Antonio Heights will now be included in the Service Zone FP-5. That would mean property owners in San Antonio Heights—along with Upland landowners — would have to pay an annual $150 parcel tax, which may increase 3 percent annually. The move to impose a $150 property tax on landowners in San Antonio Heights is expected to generate just under $300,000 annually. LAFCO will begin to send out notices to start a 30-day protest period. Anything above 50 percent protest from the number of registered voters or parcel owners can terminate the process, while anything between 25 and 49 percent would trigger an election. If registered protests come in from fewer than 25 percent, the proposal would be approved.
After more than 30 years in law enforcement and three years leading the West Covina Police Department, Chief Dave Faulkner announced this week he will retire later this year. Faulkner, 57, said he wanted to spend more time with his family. He ultimately decided to retire after his second grandchild’s birth Feb. 18. His last day on the job will be June 30. Faulkner, a former Marine, got his start in law enforcement in Chino in 1983. Three years later, he moved to the Fontana Police Department where he worked in a variety of roles, serving most recently as field services commander. He also worked as a reserve police helicopter pilot for the El Monte Police Department. Faulkner was hired to lead the West Covina agency in 2014 during a tough time for the department. When he came on board, the department had 92 sworn officers, down from a high of more than 120. Three years later, the city has a force of 102 officers and is currently looking at adding another two through a bike patrol grant from the state. In addition to hiring more officers, Faulkner worked to update the department’s fleet of vehicles, establish the East San Gabriel Mental Health Evaluation Team and added two K-9 units to the department. He also implemented technology upgrades that, for instance, have given officers the ability to file reports from the field rather than at the station.