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City to consider sending letters to "unbeautiful" houses *CORRECTION

Staff members presented Monday evening to Alhambra City Council the city’s six-month objectives as part of the Strategic Plan. Construction will begin on two mixed-use developments on Main Street on June 1: Casita de Zen on Main and 3rd streets and the Alhambra Pacific Plaza, the former location of Super A.  

City staff will also consider a proposal to send a letter — called the Alhambra Unbeautiful Letter — to residents whose home is “in need of beautification” but does not violate city code, said Assistant City Manager Chris Paulson. Resident Lola Armendariz asked during the meeting who will decide whether a house is beautiful or not, but Councilwoman Barbara Messina, whose idea it is to send the letter, replied that it's "just a reminder that, 'Gee, your lawn needs watering.'"

The Council moved to close the public hearing on the Community Development Block Grant and Housing and Urban Development programs, part of the city's 2013-14 Annual Action Plan. No comments were received in the 30 days after the action plan was published in La Opinion, Pasadena Star-News, and World News. Staff will now submit the plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for approval.

Not able to attend the meeting? You can watch it in its entirety here.

City Council usually meets the second and fourth Monday of the month on the second floor of the City Hall: 111 S. First St., Alhambra, Calif., 91801. The next meeting will be on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 at 5:30 pm in the Alhambra Civic Center Library. 

*Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that city staff will begin sending the Unbeautiful Letter. It is still a proposal under consideration. We apologize for the error.

The Alhambra Source encourages comment on our stories. However, we do not vet comments for accuracy or endorse links to posts in the comment section. The thoughts and opinions expressed belong solely to the author of the comment.

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20 thoughts on “City to consider sending letters to "unbeautiful" houses *CORRECTION”

  1. I believe the Bicycle master plan is more of an issue. Chris Paulson please move this forward. I promise to keep my yard manicured. I was hit by a truck on 1/22/13. No bike lanes or community education means dead Alhambra citizens.

    I will volunteer to help other citizens with their yard issues. Lets make Alhambra a community again. Start a program so we can help each other. Your letter is just another city threat. No more threats please.

  2. I agree with Toni. This is an excellent opportunity to create a long-term sustainable program that promotes neighbors helping neighbors. I’ll also add that it is an opportunity for the City to promote positive ways to care for structures and landscaping plants through education and sharing the community’s collective knowledge.
    To qualify my earlier comments, it would violate due process rights guaranteed under the US Constitution for the City to send warning letters to property owners where a code is vague or non-existent. Having an ugly property wouldn’t qualify without objective guidelines that give the ordinary/reasonable resident a clear idea what is expected of them in maintaining their property. The City already has some codes related to maintaining properties and keeping landscaping alive, and it sends letters enforcing those ordinances. I know of at least two instances of such letters prompting property owners to install drought tolerant landscaping — i.e. they ripped out the lawn.
    To Messina’s point, many of the brown lawns in my neighborhood aren’t necessarily from a lack of watering or neglect. I see those neighbors out nightly in the summer with a hose dousing their lawns with water. What is the reason for the brownness? I’m not sure. thatch? disease? uneven watering? age? over fertilizing?
    Regardless, the program’s name – unbeautiful – is needlessly antagonistic. Messina’s response to water the lawn doesn’t help, since that may be too simplistic and is already addressed by the code to some extent.

    1. Dan, what if the dead grass IS due to owner neglect? Then what? You always seem to paint everything in it’s best light and hold the city always to the highest moral ground while avoiding the more sensitive issues where there are residents here who aren’t very, well…responsible. Is that too politically incorrect for you?

  3. I just read some of these post.
    I was taught that just because someone’s poor, doesn’t mean they have to be dirty. I am on a limited budget as a single working mom having raised 4 children. I struggle with the exterior of my rental looking decent. It is a matter of pride for me and my family that we keep it nice (not over the top).
    We should see this as an opportunity to help each other. For those that don’t have the physical or financial ability to make their property look nice, maybe the city can enlist help from volunteers. Maybe the junior high and high school students can get extra credit for volunteering in the community. There is always an option to be clean. I don’t think the city is asking for high-end landscaping.

    1. Thank you Toni for providing some of the more thoughtful responses here. I’m sure if that opportunity was there, we would have some volunteers. I wouldn’t mind trying when I could squeeze in a time.

      And your right, the city doesn’t seem to be asking for high-end landscaping. Just enough care to maintain the property in a reasonable manner without killing the grass. If this is a financial or time resource issue, the owner should address it responsibly.

  4. …Alhambra is not even CAPABLE of telling it’s residents to do ANYTHING because they are working with b-grade level folks like “A friend” who is CLEARLY complacent and happy where they are at – not striving for better.

  5. I noticed, M Payne, that you did not answer my question, only attempted to insult me. You have now failed on two levels. Going to try for a third?

  6. You sound unsuccessful. Go to San Marino and ask anyone there if they agree with me. There’s a reason they live in San Marino and not Alhambra.

    1. San Marino spells out in more detail what they want you to do in an R-1 zone, which makes up all of their residential zoning.

      Some of that rubs off to Alhambra–homes adjacent to San Marino tend to be (but not always) better kept both in terms of landscaping and the homes themselves.

      I think in San Marino, there’s a fair amount of peer pressure to keep your lawn and home properly maintained. When my wife and I were looking several years ago, we went to a fair number of open houses in San Marino–we knew we weren’t going to buy there, but we did talk to some of the sellers, and anecdotally, we gathered that the neighbors will talk to you nicely about keeping your visible landscape and house clean and properly maintained if they suspect you haven’t been keeping up.

      Having said this, San Marino spells out in some detail what they want you to do, and it’s reinforced by your own neighbors. Alhambra does not. And while the intent behind this may be simply to keep our homes nice and all, the way it comes off is patronizing (not surprising considering who it is). I would not be surprised if someone sent the letter back to the city council with a big “FU” written on it.

      1. So if Alhambra does not, what does that say about ourselves? That we don’t care? Maybe some of us don’t and that’s the issue here…

        Also, San Marino is a whole different demographic base with much higher incomes. This does make a difference, regardless of what “A Friend” thinks…

    2. Mr. Payne,

      I live in Alhambra and I agree with you. Seems like too many people here have a beef with the city but they do not represent everybody of 83,000+ people here…

  7. Messina has to understand the cards she’s working with here. I think she does but she’s just trying her best.

    Let’s not mince words, Alhambra has more than a few lower-middle class folks who are basically pretty mediocre citizens. Not BAD people, just LAZY.

  8. Obviously it never occurred to Ms Messina or anyone else on that council that some people have to put concerns about food, health care and interior safety care FIRST ahead of how a house looks on the outside. I have been unemployed for 2-1/2 years and my elderly mother is completely bedridden. For such a proposal to come up at a time like this is shameful, and will make Alhambra look VERY BAD.

    1. Since when does low-middle income equate with either mediocre citizen or lazy?!? Someone needs to reexamine their values, logic, and humanity.

  9. Stay classy, Messina.

  10. What? Now we are being “asked” to spy on our neighbors & report them is their houses are “not up to standard!” Although suppossibly this is suppossed to be a “gently remindor to beautify your house” soon it will be followed by code violations, soon some homeowners/renters will be facing problems in maintaining their homes, soon there will be more & more foreclosures for those who cannot afford to keep their homes “beautiful” – oh well at least this is anoither method Alhambra can get rid of “unwanted” residents, buy their homes under Eminent Domain so they can build more expensive condos. Nit piking while the city has more serious problems.

  11. I emailed with Chris Paulson. He says that there hasn’t been any movement on this proposal.

    I recommended to him that the city not waste its precious resources on this program if code violations are not involved because you can put lipstick on a pig, but it will still be a pig. These “unbeautiful” letters would be code enforcement warning notices no matter what label the city uses.
    And let’s be honest, there are plenty of more pressing needs than calling out residents’ properties as ugly and risking lawsuits over a pseudo-code enforcement program to enforce non existent codes.

  12. There are a lot of code violations in our city. Although I have brought several to the attention of city staff, to date nothing has been done. Let’s enforce the codes. Are we now supposed to nominate our neighbors to staff or the City Council for the unbeautiful letters?

  13. Maybe they’d like to spend some of their salaries to pay for people’s water bills/gardening fees. Not everyone can afford landscapers, sprinklers or large water bills. And many of the senior citizens may be unable to do their own gardening.

    The city should be encouraging people with financial hardships to plant cactus and other succulents that require little water to save money and still keep properties looking more presentable.

    All this green grass is a massive waste of resources, and wasting resources driving around and mailing letters to people because their grass isn’t green enough is a ridiculous waste of the city’s time.

  14. Messina never has been one to shy away for insulting people. Why am I not surprised that such a hair-brained idea is hers? Maybe she should just give them a flower pot.