The City of Alhambra presented options to expand parking and make other improvements at Almansor Park during Monday's city council meeting. At this meeting, residents and some city council members spoke out against a parking structure.
The improvement options included keeping the current number of parking spaces at Almansor Park at 161, expanding the surface lots to increase the amount of parking to 237 spots and contracting with the neighboring Emmaus Lutheran Church to use their parking lots. Martin Ray, Director of Community Services at Alhambra's Parks and Recreation Department, also presented an option to build a one-level parking structure that would expand the amount of parking to 400 spots, a project that has proven controversial among Alhambra residents.
The one-level parking structure would include the surface level plus another level, clarified Ray. He also presented a plan to redesign the area in the park around the gymnasium to fit a new lawn bowling court, as well as tennis and basketball courts, and better amenities, including lighting.
Residents turned out to speak out against the parking structure, predicting that it would attract crime and increase congestion around the park. Some questioned how good a job the presentation did in actually demonstrating a need for more parking at Almansor Park.
People who lived in Alhambra also questioned the intention to use federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for this project, which is traditionally earmarked to benefit low and moderate income residents. The City had dedicated a little over $7 million from the recent sale of Fremont Plaza to the CDBG program. On Monday night, Mayor Barbara Messina explained that the money in question had to be spent on a capital project.
Councilmember Stephen Sham said that based on the presentation and community comments, the best course of action seemed to be to negotiate with the Emmaus Lutheran Church over leasing their parking lots, one of which has 60 spaces, and the other of which has 80. He also called on the city to find potential better uses for the CDBG money before making a final decision on whether to expand parking at Almansor Park.
Mayor Messina and Councilmember Luis Ayala said that they were not in favor of the parking structure. Councilmembers Steven Placido and Gary Yamauchi said that they did not want to make a decision until they saw a more complete presentation of the options. At the end, the city council directed Martin Ray to put together such a presentation, which he would give at a city council meeting scheduled for Aug. 22.