After much argument with residents and among themselves, the Alhambra City Council decided to officially take a 400-car parking structure out of consideration for Almansor Park improvements on Monday night.
Instead, the city council voted unanimously to negotiate with the nearby Emmaus Lutheran Church to lease 140 parking spaces from them, at a cost of $220,000. In addition, the council voted 3-2 to explore adding 61 spaces to the park's existing surface parking spots, by demolishing the tennis courts and combining the north and south surface lots.
This decision also proved controversial, with Councilmember Stephen Sham and Mayor Barbara Messina arguing that this project would be too expensive, which is estimated to cost $1.7 million, plus the cost of reconfiguring the rest of Almansor Park to accommodate a new tennis court location.
There were several developments in the discussion over the use of Community Development Block Grant funds on Monday night as well. City Manager Mark Yokoyama said that by combining the CDBG program income generated from selling both Fremont Plaza and the West Main Street properties, that Alhambra now had almost $8 million to spend on these projects.
Instead of spending the bulk of the money on a parking structure, which was estimated to cost $7.5 million, the city council also voted unanimously to explore building a $2 million police sub-station using the CDBG funds, and then asked city staff to research how the rest should be used on improvements like repairing streets, alleys and sidewalks, improving playground equipment and installing better lighting in the city's parks, to be presented in one month.
The parking structure, which seemed to lose steam at a city council meeting on July 25, gained a small resurgence in support among residents, when several people associated with the Alhambra Youth Soccer Organization and Little League attended this meeting to speak in favor of the parking structure. They claimed that not only was there not enough parking for parents dropping their children off for practice or games, but that the amount of cars jostling for a limited number of spots were resulting in fights, and jeopardizing the kids' safety.
Councilmember Luis Ayala, who coaches with AYSO, was sympathetic to these residents' claims, but that the parking structure would come at too high a cost. "Taking that much green space would definitely sacrifice our park," he said. Councilmember Steven Placido was the only one in favor of the parking structure, but changed course to push for the parking lot expansion after he realized that nobody else supported this proposal.
This leaves city staff open to drawing up new plans to show where the tennis courts would go at Almansor Park should they be demolished in order to make way for the new parking spaces. It's unclear where the lawn bowling greens would go in the event of a surface lot expansion, though Director of Community Services Martin Ray suggested rebuilding one bowling green at Story Park.
City staff also clarified that CDBG funds were not eligible for leasing spaces from the Emmaus Lutheran Church. If a lawn bowling green went to Story Park, it would also not be eligible for CDBG funding.