In a sudden reversal, the Alhambra City Council decided on Monday to drop a parking expansion plan entirely, after voting to expand parking at Almansor Park by 61 spots during a previous city council meeting.
The City of Alhambra signaled its change in plans on Monday's meeting agenda, citing how expensive the surface lot expansion project as the main reason to abandon it. "In reviewing this further, the expense of this option couple with the fact that these are the three best tennis courts in the City had led staff to recommend that this additional parking not be pursued further," the agenda read.
This latest development comes after a months-long fight over building additional parking at Almansor Park. This past year, the city council discussed and then dropped plans to construct a 400-car parking structure. A month ago, the council voted 3-2 to expand the surface parking options by 61 spots, and to move the tennis courts to do so. At the time, Director of Community Services Martin Ray estimated that doing this would cost $1.7 million plus the cost of moving the tennis courts, or around $34,000 per new parking spot.
There was also a city staff recommendation to abandon plans to build a police sub-station. The agenda read that using federal Community Development Block Grant funds would lead to restrictions that were too "cumbersome" and "not in the best interest of the [Alhambra] Police Department."
This time, Alhambra City Manager Mark Yokoyama presented the staff's recommendations on how to use the $7.9 million in CDBG program income that Alhambra has received from selling its former redevelopment properties at Fremont Plaza and on West Main Street.
This includes spending $600,000 on park improvements, including refurbishing Almansor Park's lower lot bathrooms, installing a rubberized surface at the park's playground and installing lighting to athletic fields at the southern part of Almansor Park. This money would also be used to replace equipment and resurface the playground at Emery Park.
Yokoyama then recommended spending $2.5 million to redesign the area around Almansor Park's gym. The redesign would include building new basketball courts, bathrooms and lawn bowling green. The redesign would also add green space, park benches and shade structures.
City staff proposed that $3.5 million go to repaving 1.5 miles out of Alhambra's 16 miles of alleyway, as well as to repair streets and sidewalks. Yokoyama suggested $800,000 go to building four High Intensity Activated Crosswalks for pedestrian safety and $300,000 to build 85 ramps that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Citing a growing problem with homelessness in Alhambra, Yokoyama proposed that the last $200,000 of the CDBG program income go to contracting with a non-profit to provide case management services to the homeless population.
Fourth District Councilmember Steven Placido asked a number of questions about the Alhambra Bowls Club–which was instrumental in getting the city to scrap its plans for a parking structure–in his comment. He specifically questioned whether the club could collect membership fees and keep the lawn bowling green locked for exclusive use if it were built using federal funds.
Deputy City Manager Jessica Binnquist said that the green would indeed be open to the public, and that the city was discussing whether the club can charge membership fees with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees CDBG funding.
"So the club can't expect to use it every Saturday, because of the other people who might want open play, just like swimming pools, right?" Placido asked.
Alhambra Bowls Club member Cheri Cabot clarified that the club collected fees and kept the lawn bowling area locked in order to protect their equipment and court. She affirmed her club's desire to work with the city on these points, and was moved to tears while thanking the city council for saving lawn bowling.
Yokoyama said that the city would likely have to spend these funds by Spring 2018, and that planning would start with a Housing & Community Development Citizen Advisory Committee meeting and also include a city council public hearing.