City Council delays Midwick decision in hopes of reaching compromise between residents, developer

City Council voted 3-2 Monday in favor of delaying a decision on an ordinance that would allow for a 70-unit residential development to be built on South Fremont Avenue. More than 100 residents filled the Council’s chambers, with several more standing in the lobby outside. Of the residents who took to the podium, 28 spoke in opposition to the development, while one resident expressed support for the project.

City Ventures, a residential development company, aims to build 30 townhomes, 30 single family residential houses, and 10 single family hillside units at 2400 South Fremont, where the former Alhambra Retirement Community and Lutheran Health Center was located. City Ventures CEO Phil Kerr noted that 81 percent of the proposed development site is zoned as R-3, allowing for multi-residential homes to be built there. He said that current zoning policies would allow for 216 units to be built. Kerr believes that 70 homes is an acceptable compromise. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there that the site is a low density site. It’s not,” said Kerr.

City Ventures’ plans have gone through several versions, beginning with over 200 units in a 2011 proposal, and ending with the current 70.  “We’ve been working closely over the past two years with the city and the community to try and come up with a plan for the site,” said Kerr. “In doing that, we’ve looked at down zoning the property.” Kerr says that they have been taking public input since 2011 and hosted community meetings with Alhambra to get feedback. 

Dozens of Alhambra residents spoke in opposition to City Ventures' plan, citing increased traffic and a clash with the neighborhood's aesthetics.

Adam Bray-Ali noted the city's pledge to fight traffic on Fremont Avenue, as seen in the "Close the Gap" banners that hang above the street. Bray-Ali said that it would be hypocritical for the city to green-light a development that could bring in more cars. “If it is truly a concern that we have too much congestion on Fremont and that your board believes that, then how can you vote to allow for more traffic?” Bray-Ali asked.

Alhambra resident Ron Sahu citied a City Ventures report that stated, with the additional traffic, a driver may have to wait 527 seconds to pass through the intersection at Fremont and San Clemente Avenue. “Traffic there is at a tipping point right now,” said Sahu. 

Residents outside a packed chamber room

Sahu also took issue with City Ventures' attempt to rezone the property, saying that it was more than an issue of unit density. He said that rezoning would set a precedent that allows for future developers to get around zoning policies in other Alhambra neighborhoods. 

Sahu also noted the gates in the proposed designthere are two at separate car entrancessaying gated access separates the community and “has no place in Alhambra.” Kerr noted that City Ventures is not committed to building the gates.

Ayala motioned to delay a decision until March 23, which he voted in favor of along with Council members Stephen Sham and Barbara Messina. Council member Steven Placido and Mayor Gary Yamauchi voted against the motion.

"Putting an additional 150, 160 cars on Fremont is not going to help,” said Ayala. But he also said that something needs to be built there and that the property belongs to City Ventures. “Here’s what I propose to the community. We hear a lot of ‘don’t do this' or 'don’t do that because’ but I would like to challenge you to form a group of four or five that brings those ideas forward as a working group to the developer or to the Council.”

Carlos Barron, who spoke at the meeting, said that Ayala approached him and others afterwards to discuss the possibility of a citizen coalition that would work with the Council.

“Something is going to be built there and right now this is looking pretty good to me,” said Councilwoman Messina during the meeting. She added that her top priority is preserving the adjacent neighborhood.  Sham echoed some residents' suggestions that all homes in the Midwick development should be single-family homes. “I think this would better match the community,” said Sham.

Kerr responded saying that City Ventures tries to work with the cities they develop. “We’re not the type of developer that says ‘Hey it's this way or the highway.' We certainly want to work with the city.” But Kerr added that the company has to keep its investors in mind as they wait for a decision. “I don’t know how long we can do that and be responsible to our investors as well.”

Ayala concluded saying, “If the developer decides they want to go forward with some concessions, then so be it. If not, then that’s the risk we got to take. Today, I think we need to listen to the community and make that decision.”

City Council usually meets every second and fourth Monday of the month on the second floor of City Hall: 111 S. First St., Alhambra, Calif., 91801. The next meeting will be on March 9  at 5:30 p.m.

10 thoughts on “City Council delays Midwick decision in hopes of reaching compromise between residents, developer”

  1. Kerr stating he could have built 216 units is so wrong. How could over 400 cars (216 x 2) even leave and return to the gated development during work rush hours? There was a dubious traffic study by the developer that said the current (70 units) estimated 140 cars exiting onto Fremont would not significantly affect traffic. Give me a break. Building any more units would certainly not pass an Environmental Impact Report for many reasons. City Ventures picked a property that just does not support this kind of scale due to the grid locked condition on Fremont which is the only exit out of the property. The developer could have built 60 homes as Mr. Sham suggested in his comments and would have had a much easier time getting the residents to accept the project. The plan needs to go back and be redone to make it work for both the developer and the residents. Council members who support the current plan will be selling out yet another piece of Alhambra to the developer and real estate interests. This has got to stop! I am a 42 year resident of Midwick track and know very well the traffic conditions in the area.

    1. Um, no one has ever seen all cars from a complex leave and arrive at the same time. Cars come and go at different times, that’s a fact and shown in traffic studies from thousands of projects all over LA.

  2. So concerned citizens are now “the mob”?!?

  3. Kudos to the one person who spoke out against the mob!

  4. Shame on City Ventures! Developer Mr. Kerr’s threat to add more high density if he has to give up the rezoning of the single family homes on Carlos street was very disturbing. Asking that City Ventures consider making Carlos Street look like the rest of Midwick instead of a row of townhouses does not seem to be too much to ask. Thank you Mr. Ayala for pushing for a committee to meet with the staff and developer to try and work this out. Mr. Kerr says that this would anger his investors. Why this is unacceptable and he is reluctant to work with the residents on this must be only about money and profit. No developer has the right to rezone our residential neighborhoods and the council should not be held hostage by this sort of behavior. This type of “my way or the highway” attitude is offensive to all of us who attended the meeting and to all of the residents of our city.

  5. Roughly 97% (28 out of 29) of the PEOPLE spoke against this development and the people’s representitives (the council persons) couldn’t make a definitive decision. What is wrong with these people ?!?

    DO YOUR JOB OR QIUT!

    1. I completely agree! Seems to me the city council is way more concerned with the developers, than with the community. With such a STRONG OPPOSITION to that high densely development, I can’t understand why the city council keeps waffling on making a final decision- TO SIDE WITH THE COMMUNITY FOR ONCE!

  6. There is no reason for our city legislators to be afraid of the developer’s investors. They can go elsewhere. There is also no reason to be afraid of what could be. If this project is flawed, then that doesn’t mean we need to keep this one because of who-knows-what could happen later.

  7. Thank you for writing this article.

    The point I was trying to make at the meeting last night was a bit deeper than just traffic on the 710 Freeway and the nearby streets.

    Our City has taken a very public and visible stance that the 710 freeway must be completed. We’ve had city sponsored festivals that were attended by all these councilmen and councilwomen standing on a stage in the middle of Freemont Avenue on a weekday (having shut the street down to spite our residents and neighbors) and loudly proclaimed that traffic and congestion are destroying our city and neighborhoods.

    We’ve put huge banners across Freemont Avenue with slogans like “Doing Nothing isn’t going to help” and “2/3 Voters want a freeway”.

    While I personally disagree with the idea of building a highway through or under our residential neighborhood in Emory Park, the reality is that our elected leaders feel very strongly that traffic is a paramount concern for them to address.

    If that is the case, then they must also be able to articulate to us why they would vote to allow ANY new development that would increase traffic along the EXACT street we’ve told the world is so bad that we want the state to spend billions of dollars to construct a tunnel underneath. Otherwise, they are obviously not that concerned about the traffic impact on Freemont and we should stop complaining that ‘outsiders’ are impacting Freemont and look at our own actions.

    For example, we GAVE $1,000,000 to Kohls to set up a shop at Mission and Alhambra in an industrial zone.
    http://www.alhambrasource.org/stories/development-alhambra-post-redevelo

    None of them appeared to say anything that addressed this and I find it quite disappointing.

    1. Agree!Another example of the city council trying to “play both ends of high density building/traffic/710 freeway. While spending city money on promoting the completion of the 710, using the dense traffic argument, at the same time they are contributing to Alhambra”s traffic situation.If one city (South Pasadena) can block the completion of the 710, I don’t realize why our city council members don’t have the courage and backbone to stand with the community against developers who do not live here.

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