With the housing crisis worsening, Los Angeles County is considering a move to convert some struggling commercial properties into affordable housing.
The board of supervisors voted in late February to explore options for commercial conversions, with an eye on distressed properties, Commercial Observer reported.
The motion directed county staff to gather a list of underutilized commercial properties that could be transformed into permanent housing. Around 191,000 acres in L.A. County are zoned for commercial uses. The motion also recommends establishing public-private partnerships to repurpose properties, according to the report.
Around $430 billion worth of commercial and multifamily real estate debt is set to mature this year and that debt could motivate some landlords to sell at distressed prices, according to news reports and a U.C. Berkeley study the county cited.
“Allowing new homes and mixed-use projects to be built on these sites can serve as a catalyst for new economic growth while at the same time addressing California’s ongoing housing shortage,” according to the U.C. Berkeley findings.
Both the city of Los Angeles and the county have struggled to address the affordable housing shortage. The pandemic has situation even more dire—a UCLA report released in May warned of hundreds of thousands of evictions when local and state eviction moratoriums are lifted.
The city owns thousands of underutilized or vacant properties and in recent years has pushed to find new uses for them. City Controller Ron Galperin in 2019 proposed a municipal development corporation to lead that effort.
The Baldwin Park City Council will end its contract with CEO Shannon Yauchzee, the city’s top administrator since 2014, in the next three months. The council voted unanimously to give Yauchzee a 90-day notice during a special closed session meeting March 9. Yauchzee formally retired in December and has been serving on an interim basis while a search for his replacement is underway.
Yauchzee decided to retire before the new council—which includes Baldwin Park’s first new mayor in two decades—took office in January. The 90-day notice was based on the search for the next CEO reaching its halfway point, Estrada said.
In February, Baldwin Park hired Robert Lopez, a retired LAPD commander, as its police chief, after churning through nine police chiefs in seven years.
Baldwin Park took applications for the CEO position through Feb. 26. At the March 9 meeting, the council agreed to accept late applicants and established the hiring procedure. More than 10 candidates are in the running, Estrada said. An interview with council members will be followed by an interview with a panel of city managers from neighboring cities. The council will then compare the rankings from both rounds and either choose its CEO, or narrow the list for new interviews.
The city of Chino Hills has whittled down the number of potential sites for high-density housing units from 30 to 13. because the sites do not meet the criteria in the site inventory process as required by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). They lack infrastructure availability, are of insufficient size (should be a minimum of 5 acres), too narrow, too steep, or without proper access.
The city has been mandated by the state to build 3,720 units, plus nine, over the next 10 years, of which 59% must be high-density housing, which qualify as lower income housing. The “plus nine” was the not-so-good-news from community development director Joann Lombardo when she announced that the city must build an additional nine units because Pico Rivera won an appeal of its allocated numbers. The Southern California Association of Governments granted the appeal because the bulk of Pico Rivera is in a flood inundation area. The Association then spread out that city’s units to the rest of the region, and Chino Hills received nine units from Pico Rivera.
Of the 13 sites that are remaining on the list for Chino Hills, six are on vacant land and seven are on developed land consisting of two commercial centers, two golf courses, and three single-family properties:
• The Shoppes at Chino Hills, Grand Avenue and Boys Republic Drive • Shoppes 2, an 8-acre unused parking lot site on City Center Drive, adjacent to the Chino Valley Fire District administrative office. • Overflow parking lot, 2-acre site on Eucalyptus Avenue/Peyton Drive, across the street from Community Park. • Los Serranos Golf Course between Los Serranos Country Club Drive and Pipeline Avenue, 90 acres • Greening property, 5 acres of vacant land on Los Serranos Country Club Drive, across the street from Los Serranos Golf Course • Galstian property, 6 acres of vacant land on Butterfield Ranch Road, behind the Jade Tree townhomes, southwest of Chino Hills High School • Caballero Ranch, 10-acre site on the west side of Peyton Drive, south of Eucalyptus Avenue. • Wang property, 177 acres of vacant land on Woodview Road. • BAPS Hindu Temple, 8.7 acres of vacant land on Fairfield Ranch Road, south of the Temple. • Leonard Grenier property, horses, and stables on 16.5 acres at Carbon Canyon and Canyon Hills roads. • Western Hills Golf Course, 10 acres on Carbon Canyon Road between Fairway Drive and Canon Lane • The Commons at Chino Hills, 46 acres at the southeast corner of Chino Hills Parkway and Ramona Avenue, where Toys R Us closed, with nine acres for housing of up to 300 units. • Crossroads Marketplace, 60 acres at Peyton Drive and the 71 Freeway, with 22.5 potential acres for housing of up to 500 units.
The city has established a “housing element” pageon its website where residents may find information and links to resources. For information, call the community development department at (909) 364-2740.
The Claremont City Council appointed Adam Pirrie as the permanent City Manager in February. Over the past four months, Pirrie has been serving as both the Acting City Manager and city’s Finance Director, resulting in a savings of $95,886. Prior to accepting the Acting City Manager position, Pirrie was the city’s Finance Director for 10 years, and has worked for the city since 2003.
Pirrie has successfully navigated financial challenges including the economic downturn in 2008, the recent structural deficit, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. He will be working with staff on projects such as the preparation of the Housing Element Update, Village South Specific Plan approval process, and the preparation of the 2021-22 Budget.
Since March 13 the Covina Transit Center has been serving as a COVID-19 vaccination site for residents in the San Gabriel Valley. Appointments are tentatively available at the center every other Saturday through the end of March, depending on vaccine availability. The city partnered with Foothill Transit and Albertsons, who is administering the shots, to open the new site located at 1126 N. Citrus Ave.
Residents in Glendora, Covina, West Covina and the City of Industry can access the vaccination site via Foothill Transit Line 281.
Rising Realty Partners, has acquired 9320 Telstar in El Monte, a nearly 245,000-square-foot property with office and industrial space. Terms of the purchase were not disclosed. The property, which was built in 1975, added 163,000 square feet of office space in 2001. The office portion of the site is fully occupied by the County of Los Angeles, which renewed its long-term lease once Rising acquired the property.
The property also holds roughly 68,000 square feet of vacant industrial space with five dock-height bays and high ceilings. The El Monte site marks Rising’s initial foray into industrial and is the first asset acquired by the Rising Investor Platform.
Rising has also announced plans to expand into multifamily. The family-owned company had previously focused on office assets, particularly in areas such as downtown LA. It has more than 5 million square feet of assets under management.
Dog Haus, a gourmet hot dog chain based in Pasadena, has opened a new location in Glendora, at 905 E. Arrow Hwy., inside the Glendora Public Market. The restaurant marks the 12th Dog Haus in the Los Angeles area and its 21st in California, according to a press release.
The restaurant is giving 20 customers a free Haus Dog every week throughout the remainder of 2021. To enter, customers need to text “Glendora” to 31996 through April 4. Winners of the sweepstakes will be notified on April 5.
In addition to serving its signature menu, the Glendora location will offer one-of-a-kind menu items from three of The Absolute Brands’ delivery-only brands: Bad Mutha Clucka, Plant B and Bad-Ass Breakfast Burritos.
Created by Dog Haus’ founders Hagop Giragossian, Quasim Riaz and Andre Vener, The Absolute Brands is a restaurant group comprised of Dog Haus and eight other concepts. Each offers items that are off-shoots of Dog Haus’ signature menu.
The Glendora restaurant will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Dog Haus has 35 locations with plans to open an additional 14.
An off-ramp from the northbound 605 Freeway in Irwindale will be shut down for three months for construction work. The ramp, connecting to westbound Live Oak Avenue, closed on March 8 according to Caltrans.
The work is part of a $3.3 million project “to widen the ramp, install a concrete barrier, upgrade pedestrian curb ramps, widen pedestrian sidewalks near the off-ramp, and modify the traffic signal,” Caltrans said.
Drivers are advised to exit at the Los Angeles Street off-ramp and travel on Rivergrade Road, then turn onto Live Oak Avenue.
Though La Verne leaders are exploring a contract with Los Angeles County to take over the city’s Fire Department and emergency medical services, voters will have the final say on any such deal, the City Council has decided.
After a lengthy and at times contentious debate at the Feb. 16 meeting, the City Council voted unanimously that it wouldn’t finalize a contract outsourcing the city’s 110-year-old Fire Department without residents’ say. The city is expected to receive conversion costs and a possible contract with L.A. County in the coming months.
If the city and county come to terms on an agreement that officials feel benefits La Verne, the council would put a ballot measure before voters to ratify the deal. The next election would take place in June 2022. To place a measure on the 2022 ballot, residents would need signatures of at least 10% of the number of registered voters in the most recent election, currently equaling 2,200, City Manager Bob Russi said.
The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) will contract with the Boring Company, an Elon Musk-affiliated company, to construct a four-mile tunnel to serve a commuter rail station and Ontario International Airport with zero-emission—and possibly autonomous—vehicles to ferry passengers from one station to the other. The project would connect the airport with a Metrolink station in Rancho Cucamonga.
The Boring Company responded to a request for qualifications (RFQ) by the SBCTA for an infrastructure developer to deliver a tunnel. The board voted to move forward with the company for the four-year, $85 million project. The Boring Company will design, build and operate the tunnel, using zero-emission, rubber-tire vehicles with the potential for autonomous technology.
The Boring Company has built a test tunnel in Hawthorne, near Los Angeles International Airport, which is used for research and development for public transportation systems. The company is also involved in a tunnel project in Las Vegas, and has proposed others in the Washington, D.C. area and Los Angeles.
Constructing a subterranean tube to accommodate vehicles will cost a fraction of the cost of a surface-level rail link connecting the airport to the train station, say officials.
The Pomona City Council passed an ordinance on March 1 that establishes premium pay for retail food workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. As an incorporated city, Pomona is not subject to LA’s hero pay ordinance. The new Pomona ordinance requires large retail establishments to provide their workers with premium pay of $4.00 for each hour worked. The ordinance took effect immediately and will remain in effect at least until June 29, 2021.
A new COVID-19 super vaccination site opened in late February at the Inland Empire Health Plan building in Rancho Cucamonga. The site opened in partnership with San Bernardino County, and officials hope to vaccinate 500 people a day at the location, with aspirations of being able to inoculate up to 1,000 daily.
The site, located at at 10801 Sixth Street, and will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays. San Bernardino County is currently vaccinating residents who are 65 and older. First responders and teachers at schools holding on-campus learning are also authorized to receive a vaccine, but it must be arranged through their employer.
A midyear budget review in the midst of a pandemic produced a surprisingly upbeat outlook in Upland, with sales tax revenues increasing nearly $700,000, while federal coronavirus relief packages saved the city more than a half-million dollars in employee salary and benefit payouts, officials reported.
With the fiscal year 2020-21 budget only three-and-a-half months from close-out, the city is on pace to add $291,540 to a $43.6 million general fund, Assistant City Manager Stephen Parker reported on March 8. In addition, the city will deposit $81,540 into its rainy-day reserves expected to reach $16.5 million.
Both increases in revenues and decreases in expenses are adjusted from what the city budgeted July 1. Here are some examples:
• Sales tax revenues are exceeding budget projections by $681,500. “It is encouraging to see a number of businesses continue to perform well amidst the adversity of the current pandemic,” read the midyear 2020-21 budget review document.
• Due to reimbursements from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for sick time, family leave and others kinds of salary-type payouts, the city saved $525,000 in employee expenses—and that is after the positive budget adjustments the city made in December.
• The city reaped some unusual budget windfalls. It received about $208,000 in reimbursements from San Antonio Regional Community Hospital for legal fees associated with a city-sponsored ballot item, Measure Q. The measure, which asked voters to decide whether to abandon a 4.63-acre portion of Memorial Park for a pending sale to the hospital, was defeated Nov. 3. It was drafted and placed on the ballot by the city on behalf of the hospital and defended in court at city expense when its language was ruled biased by a judge.
There were some unexpected increases in spending that Parker noted in his review:
• Two large court settlements reached recently left the city’s self-insured account nearly dry. Hence, the council voted to transfer $700,000 into its Self-Funded Liability Insurance Fund for future “claims expense.” In a related item, legal services will cost the city $150,000 more than budgeted, Parker said.
• A sub-fund for capital projects also ran low, causing the council to transfer $400,000 into capital projects from the general fund in order to “complete the projects that are currently budgeted,” read the report. This includes renovations to the North Hall at Magnolia Recreation Center at a cost of $30,000.
Alleging the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has failed its residents and harmed its businesses during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the West Covina City Council in a split decision this week voted to begin the process of forming its own health department.
The move would eventually free the 16-square-mile city of about 110,000 residents from health mandates handed down by the county’s health department — such as bar and restaurant closures related to COVID-19—but not until it creates a department of its own that meets state health requirements. It would not free the city from state health mandates.
The move comes at a time when various small cities in the area have expressed interest in going it alone on health matters, as differences of opinion over pandemic-related shutdowns have caused tensions and disagreements at the municipal level. West Covina could be a test case for them to watch.
During the at times contentious hearing, Mayor Letty Lopez-Viado said that there was consensus in the city that the county department had not provided “services of the caliber that everybody would like,” and that her goal was to ensure better healthcare for residents moving forward.
–Compiled by Bill Ruh, CVAR Director of Government Affairs