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City Council to hold study session on the future of Alhambra Place

Alhambra City Council announced Monday evening they will be holding a study session on Sept. 30 to review a preliminary development plan for Alhambra Place, the retail plaza on Main Street and Garfield Avenue that has been mostly vacant since Mervyn’s closed in 2009. The study session is part of Alhambra's Strategic Plan, a set of six-month objectives for Alhambra staff and City Council.

While the study session agenda has not been finalized, City Manager Mary Swink says it will be a brainstorming meeting between staff and the City Council. The meeting will also be open to public comment. "Mostly, it's just information we can talk about, kick some ideas around," Swink said.

A tenant is interested in moving in to the space, according to Director of Development Tara Schultz. She could not give further details.

Former Alhambra City Manager Julio Fuentes explained in January that the city has been attempting to facilitate negotiations between with the owner of Alhambra Place and potential buyers. "The issue right now is that the property is for sale, but what the owners want in terms of property value is much different than what the retail development communities are willing to pay," Fuentes said. "It isn’t because the city hasn’t done anything to move the project forward."

Weren't able to attend Monday evening's meeting? You can watch it in its entirety here.

City Council usually meets every second and fourth Monday of the month on the second floor of the City Hall: 111 S. First St., Alhambra, Calif., 91801. The special study session regarding Alhambra Place will be on Monday, Sept. 30 at 5:30 pm at the Alhambra Civic Center Library.

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14 thoughts on “City Council to hold study session on the future of Alhambra Place”

  1. The new mainland Chinese have money. Lots of it. Money = Power.

    All I hear is a bunch of un-powerful or marginally powerful people complaining about projects that cater to rich people.

    This is America! Free market capitalism! Think America is all about naively holding onto mediocre looking “historic” homes? GET REAL.

    The tide has shifted a way that you may not like, but you’re just a fish and there’s nothing you can do about it.

  2. If the city is projected to provide about 1,492 housing units for RHNA state requirements, then the only thing that should be developed on that site is another fire station another police station, another SCHOOL things of that nature that would be needed to accommodate the city’s growth! Also on page 24 of the 2008-2014 Housing Element for the City of Alhambra there is a section about Overcrowding and how overcrowding also tends to result in increased traffic, accelerated deterioration of homes and infrastructure, and crowded on-street parking conditions…which we already have in place.

  3. Another mixed-use project on the narrow main street! Seriously?!?!?! Are you one of those developers who do not actually live in Alhambra? Crowd this city is probably last thing I want to see.

  4. “Replace our older housing stock for new buyers?”

    Alhambra used to have lots of neat older homes and they’ve slowly been getting demolished as the years have gone on for UGLY looking condos and apartments. Preserve what little beautiful architecture Alhambra has left.

    1. @ John Smith

      Oh how we could all wish and preserve eveything forever. That’s not how reality works. Our housing stock is aging and that is the truth. Property owners move, pass away, or just don’t have the financial means to maintain and restore homes that may be functionally obsolete to today’s market. I’ve seen many older beautiful homes in our city well-kept by our residents, but not every owner has the same motives, needs, or means to fit your notion of “preservation”. I understand that there are some homes that reflect the charm and history that we must save to keep our identity, this I will agree. However, a city is not entirely a public museum.

      If you feel our condos and apartments are so UGLY, you would do best joining the Alhambra Design Review Board and venting there…

      1. John,
        Our city should encourage home owners to preserve the older homes that are still standing. I have not seen many replacement homes that come even near to the grace and charm of the original housing stock. They are usually to big for the lots in scale and have a cookie cutter design that one can see in just about any new housing tract. I guess we are in agreement on this.

        I also agree that the new development of Alhlambra Place should incorporate a public courtyard and even setbacks from the sidewalk to encourage outdoor dining. Plenty of green space would be another must. Unfortunately, many of the current and upcoming multi use developments around the city are aimed more at maximum density and less on good design. I really wish this “pack the units in” for maximum profit would end and we could see some real quality development in the future.

        I do disagree with you using the this is good so we don’t have to impact R1 for our RHINA state requirements. This is bogus as this is not mandated. Threatening R1 housing encroachment is a pretty sad tactic used way to often in this city. At any rate we have hundreds of new housing units going up on every available lot now and I am tired of hearing this canard to justify our excessive development.

        Let’s infill the downtown as you say, but do it with style. The city should insist that any future developer set aside areas for public use and look for model urban developments for inspiration. Alhambra can do better!

      2. Eric,

        I encourage everyone (not just depending on the city), to take care of their homes, old or new. I agree with you that many homes have that “cookie-cutter” design but I feel a large part of this also falls within the purview of the Alhambra City Design Review Board. Have you ever sat in on a meeting? I have. And have you ever read their monthly agendas? They are available on the city website. There are design standards and criteria each developer must go through. Anything that may be out of scale or too extravagant within the context of the local community is scrutinized for visual balance and conformity. Eric, it’s easier said than done and the reality is that there are many developers out there eager to get their projects developed and within budget.

        I will also respectfully disagree with you about your statement regarding RHNA state requirements “This is bogus as this is not mandated.” First of all, are you aware of Alhambra’s regional housing responsibilities under state law? If you are, I hope you do understand that the state “MANDATES that local governments adequately plan to meet the existing and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community”. It’s not bogus; it’s straight out of the California Department of Housing and Community Development website. The Housing Element and its incorporated RHNA assessment play a large part in this. Now, it is true that the RHNA is not a mandate for the city to construct housing; however market developers will do that part under the city’s general plan and allowed zoning entitlements for each specific project. At the last city council meeting they discussed the latest Housing Element update and RHNA requirements. As I recall, our city is projected to provide about 1,492 housing units for its RHNA allocation (it is on page 63 of the Alhambra City 2013-2021 Housing Element). This is Alhambra’s share of regional responsibility for projected housing needs. If you don’t like these numbers, you can bring your complaint straight to the California Department of Housing and Community Development. You can also blame the California Department of Finance that calculates population projections and regional population forecasts implemented in RHNA’s. So please, stop blaming the city of Alhambra for everything because it’s so easy to point fingers when you may not know all the processes and regulations involved. No, I don’t work for the city nor do I have family or relatives working for the city; however I do work for the federal government and keep my mind open to these things.

        Agree with you about putting style in our downtown infills. Thanks for your feedback.

      3. John,
        San Marino has a RHNA requirement of 17 units as compared to 1,492 for Alhambra. Can you explain more on why the disparity between our two cities? I think their General Plan and zoning regulations limit their requirement. Alhambra has rezoned most of the city for multifamily housing like the big projects going up throughout our city. Why did the city take that path rather than have a balance between single family units and high density? Of course it is good for developers, but we end up with the second highest density in the SGV and pay the price with quality of living issues. Please clarify why Alhambra is providing the bulk of the housing units in our region. I would think that logically when a city has traffic issues, lack of green space per resident and pressures on the infrastructure that RHNA requirements must be modified to mitigate the impact of over development. What am I missing here?

      4. Eric,

        First of all, San Marino is roughly half the size of Alhambra, has a different demographic base, and FAILED to meet its RHNA goals. The smaller land-size available for development in San Marino tells us alot already. You can read San Marino’s latest Housing Element for why it has an RHNA requirement of 17 units. True, the city has very restrictive zoning while we have ours. But please, no need to compare apples and oranges as each city has their own needs, demographics, demand of city services, and budgets. Once you start comparing different cities I see us taking on philosophical perspectives on why this is so and so, which only convolutes our discussions (like why is San Marino’s median income higher than Alhambra’s). Our city has appropriate zoning to meet our RHNA goals, San Marino does not. So are you suggesting that because an adjoining city has lower RHNA requirements, we must lower ours and break our requirements?

        As far as I understand, the word REGIONAL in the acronym RHNA really reflects the intent of this policy. The California Dept. of Finance calculates population estimates for various cities.


        For Alhambra, the calculated population percentage growth was .6% from 1/1/2012 to 1/1/2013 (from 83,703 to 84,240).

        For San Marino, the calculated population percentage growth was .3% for the same period (1/1/2012 to 1/1/2013 and from 13,202 to 13,246).

        So Alhambra shows a population increase of approximately 537 residents in one year compared to a measly 44 residents in San Marino within the same period. Now, I’m not well-versed in the actual methodologies used to draft-up RHNA numbers, but from a regional perspective (in our case we are comparing two adjoining cities) you can see how cities carry a disproportionate amount of RHNA responsibilities among each other. SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments), as a REGIONAL entity, also participates in allocating RHNA requirements among cities under its jurisdiction. All of this falls under the umbrella of state law. The state takes a regional assessment of the population; it does not dictate were people should live. It’s the PEOPLE that decide that!

        So if you feel that Alhambra is growing so fast, you need to ask why people are moving into Alhambra. If you feel there is too much development in Alhambra, don’t blame the city, you need to take your cause directly to the California Dept. of Housing and Community Development and have them remove these state laws (very unlikely). Our city must provide the responsibility and stewardship to accomodate the diverse needs of our organic community. Blaming city officials will never truly address the root cause of the problem. The way I see, it is a well-defined system in place (although not perfect) designed to responsibly meet the population growth housing demands of California.

        These are just my thoughts, hope this helps…

  5. First of all I live right across from this place and this place is not the ghetto, so no need for exaggerations. Second, City Ventures is not developing this place as we would already have known about it considering they are already a major stakeholder in the area.

    A mixed-use project would be most suitable for this area considering the density of the CBD. More housing here would also help meet future RHNA state requirements, replace our older housing stock for new buyers, allow new housing without direct encroachment of R1 tracts, and promote sustainability and walkability within our city. I would oppose any surface-level parking lot as this would underutilize any land space already limited in our city and reduces sidewalk store frontage (which hurts walkability). I would agree most with Joseph S., where a mixed-use project with condos, retail, and restaurants incorporated within a courtyard-type design (open space)would provide the highest and best use of this location. Integrating this project with the Farmer’s Market across the street to the east would be great, but the market sits on a parking lot on a different land parcel (most likely a different owner). However, if an area in this new project was built to accomodate a Farmer’s Market, then that would be a different story. For those wishing a chain and/or independent retail stores, you can still have them incorporated in a mixed-use type development.

  6. I’m sure it will be more condos, townhouses and apartments by City Ventures! (…just watch and see)

  7. I hope they look to places the The Grove as a template for this, which includes the Farmers Market as a part of the project.

    The Grove has retail, restaurants, condos and a nice open space and is right next to Farmers Market.

    This Alhambra project should be built to attract people from outside the local community.

  8. Whatever they decide, I hope they move fast because that corner looks so bad like a ghetto; the sooner something is done to it, the better for all of us

  9. Hope they make into a Walmart or another noodle restraunt. Alhambra is the greatest.