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Council approves proposal for Alhambra Place; Placido votes no, citing fears of increased traffic on Garfield

Almost five years since Mervyn’s department store and most of the other stores at Alhambra Place shut their doors, Alhambra City Council approved Monday, May 12 a plan for a new mixed-used development at the plaza on Garfield Avenue and Main Street.

Outdoor lounge area

With a 4-1 vote, Alhambra City Council approved a proposal for a residential and commercial center from real estate developer Shea Properties. The project includes a four-story residential complex with 260 luxury apartment units and 140,000 square feet of retail and restaurants. There will be surface parking for the commercial area and a five-story parking lot dedicated for residents.

Mayor Stephen Sham and councilmembers Gary Yamauchi, Barbara Messina, and Luis Ayala approved the project, while Councilman Steven Placido voted against it, citing a lack of communication between the councilmembers regarding the current proposal.

Placido’s biggest concern is the impact the project could have on traffic on the two northbound lanes of Garfield Avenue. The plan does not include a designated right turn lane for patrons entering Alhambra Place. He explained that the right lane gets clogged up when drivers wait for pedestrians to cross before making a right turn on Main Street.

“Right now, there’s two lanes going north. And right now, there’s seven entrances to the parking and for access. But if this is the main entrance," Placido said, "someone making a right hand turn is going to block up 50 percent of that flow.”

Bob Matson, vice president of Transportation Planning at RBF Consulting, was contracted by Shea Properties to conduct a traffic analysis and simulation of the cars driving around Main and Garfield. His studies show that between 5 pm to 5:30 pm, which is considered the peak hours of traffic on that street, there will only be a slight increase of traffic at the intersection. As a result, he did not see the need for a designated right-turn lane into the plaza.

“We did do the analysis and if that was required to get a good level of service, then that would have been a mitigation measure for the project, but it’s not showing that that’s required,” Matson said.

Residential buildings on Garfield and Bay State

Placido continued to ask questions about traffic at the council meeting, asking the developer if they are willing to add a designated right-turn lane in the event that traffic does get worse.

“I know that when I travel during rush hour to get to Bank of America, I have to wait, and I noticed that none of the cars have to wait two signals, but I have to wait two signals and that’s with an empty, dead shopping center. But they haven’t done that to your computer program,” Placido said. “So if it gets worse than that, I’m wondering how residents are going to feel when they have to wait two cycles, three cycles to get to their intersection.”

Representatives from Shea Properties said that while the lanes will encroach on the sidewalk and affect some structural elements of the buildings, they cannot make the necessary changes unless the data from the traffic analysis indicates a need for one.

Placido also had additional concerns about the lack of a private entrance for the residents, possibly on Monterey or Bay streets, in order to alleviate traffic at the main entrance on Garfield.

“This tonight is the first time we’ve had to look at everything as a group, all of us. And there’s a lot to discuss,” Placido said.

Other councilmembers disagreed about the need for more discussion.

“Enough. Stop it,” Messina told Placido, in the middle of his questioning Matson about the traffic study. “We have already talked about this several times.”

Sham shared Placido’s concerns, but proposed a half lane on Main and Garfield to ease traffic. “I really have a concern because I travel that intersection daily. Northbound, at that corner, I’m looking at Google Maps, we have a half lane there but it’s not enough for a car to make it a right turn lane,” Sham said. He voted “Yes” under the condition that the developers work with the city to address the issue of northbound traffic along Main Street. “I hope that the developers will work with our city and try to mitigate that right turn situation,” Sham said. “It’s very important.”

Ayala, who approved the current plan without the addition of the right turn lanes, explained his decision.

“In terms of the traffic flows and the whole bit, I actually spoke to our city engineer about the traffic impact to this community and this specific project and our own city engineer was in agreement with all the studies that are being presented before us today. So, I think at some point, you kind of have to trust the process and again, it’s not the first time that I’ve seen it,” Ayala said. “And so, I’m comfortable with the project as is.”

Watch the full meeting here: http://spectrumstream.com/streaming/alhambra/meeting_2014_05_12.cfm 

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30 thoughts on “Council approves proposal for Alhambra Place; Placido votes no, citing fears of increased traffic on Garfield”

  1. For those who are ignorant and whine about this “one culture” nonsense, may I add Belly Buster, Twohey’s, Alondra, Mahan, Aloha Food Factory, Rick’s, Souplantation, IHOP, Chipotle, Lupita’s, Vittoria, Shakey’s, La Parilla Mexicana, etc to the list, just to name a few. Perhaps that “one culture” is just “non-aaron culture” or “non-Rebecca culture.” In addition, like many large entertainment and resturant companies, Cheesecake Factory is a listed company — on NASDAQ. In all likelihood it has investors from overseas. So, “oversea money” indeed. Is it okay for a large company to open up a new location with the help of foreign capital, but not okay for a Mr Wong, an area resident, to start a business here with his lifetime saving, Rebecca?

  2. i agree alhambra has been fluttered with restaraunts , entertainment that just appeals to one race . forget the race we need something that appeals to all humans . We should get a nike outlet , a cheese cake factory ect .. something that will bring the attention to all citizens

    1. Alhambra Source reader

      aaron, are you talking about Denny’s, Arby’s, Applebees, Wendy’s, Charlie’s Trio, Wahib’s, Boiling Crab, Dog Haus, The Hat, etc? And Edwards Theater which offers only English movies?

  3. “Mayor Stephen Sham and councilmembers Gary Yamauchi, Barbara Messina, and Luis Ayala approved the project, while Councilman Steven Placido voted against it, citing a lack of communication between the councilmembers regarding the current proposal.”

    Wait a minute…according to Messina’s Mantra that they all conspire…I mean, “work well together” (and why she’s been going around telling her old friends throughout the city to take down Sham’s opponent’s lawn signs), so it really isn’t harmonious at city hall.

    Don’t let them fool you. It’s the old Good Cop/Bad Cop scenario. They are ALL in developer’s pockets and Placido probably drew the short straw to be The People’s Voice.

    1. @Bill S: No, I think Placido is reasonable and cares. Also, he lives here after all and has to deal with the traffic, too.

  4. I just hope this new development isnt flooded with chinese restaurants and tea houses. I was dissapointed to see the picture featuring Kings house as part of the new plan. What about a Cheesecake factory? Or anything else that appeals to ALL of the cultures in our neighborhood. I so tired of theses unknown retail stores that no one has ever heard of . They stay around for a few months and dissapear. I guess oversea money is what matters to city most.

    1. Alhambra Source reader

      Rebecca, it is impossible to appeal to ALL people. And if it does not appeal to some people, it does not mean that it does not appeal to all cultures. You are not the only representative of your culture. I see people of different skin colors go to Chinese restaurants. If you don’t like Chinese food, that certainly doesn’t mean Chinese restaurant s do not appeal to all cultures. Many Chinese do not like American food restaurants, but it does not mean that Cheesecake Factory should not come to Alhambra because it fails to appeal to certain Chinese. And the link to overseas money is just your (perhaps ignorant) guess. Many those Chinese restaurants and tea houses are operated by people living here just like you and me. They work hard and save some money and invest in this country, this state, this city they call home.

    2. Alhambra Source reader

      Rebecca, read the history of Panda Express, founded by the Cherng family. It is an American success story. Nothing to do with “oversea money.” I am sure Panda Express was something “no one has ever heard of ” and you would have been been “tired of” and accused of not appealing to all cultures when it started in the 1970s.

  5. Removing Messina from office it the step in the right direction.
    I Would like to know if she is recieving or has recieved any contributions from these developers/contractors…


    That’s all you need to know. Everyone has a different agenda. And nobody’s agenda is “EVIL” because that’s a subjective moral judgement. Everything is good and bad – for someone.

    You just try and come up with the “LEAST BAD” or “BEST” choice – not the PERFECT one – cuz it doesn’t exist.

  7. Councilman Placido hits right at the bulls eye. WTF the traffic going to be like on the narrow main and Garfield after adding four-story residential complex (add shops underneath)? The Alhambra place is for a commercial only property but you are adding all those ppl living on top of that? Don’t quote me what San Gabriel, does, what Monterey Park does, or what Pasadena does. The density of popular of this city is already too much by the main traffic route. We have 2 lanes (or 1 lane) throughout the entire city!!!

    Do all other council members and the Asian major ever shop and live around Alhambra place? Is Alhambra that craving for the property tax on those apartments or there is something going on between the voters and the developers? I call for an independent investigation.

    1. Traffic congestion, lack of green space, rundown parks, ignoring the input of residents and the list goes on is the byproduct of catering to the developers and not focusing on the needs of residents. The long term residents are so sick of watching our city being destroyed by sketchy real estate deals. Overdevelopment trumps good planning in this city every time. I love Alhambra but cannot take it anymore. After 20 years here, I plan on moving to Monrovia next year where they have tighter control on the development. Good bye Alhambra.

      1. I agree with much of what you say, but I’m not sure that Alhambra is any or much different from other cities with r4espect to traffic congestion (try driving on the West Side some time, especially on a Friday afternoon), lack of green space (we ARE in a drought situation all over the state), and over-development. I live in an older, established, mostly single-family-residence neighborhood just north of the San Bernardino freeway, so I’m somewhat removed from most of these ills. I hope you will enjoy living in Monrovia. The Craftsman and Victorian homes are lovely, but Huntington Drive is not that much different from Alhambra’s Main St. I don’t know you, but am sorry that you are giving up on Alhambra.

  8. Hello,
    Will any retail spaces be for sale? If so,
    Can you please provide me with the info i need?
    Thank you,

    1. i agree good luck alhambra, its going to be all bevery hills ..drowing in rent for 5 years now with no relief .. discrimination wins with no rent control and the main reason is were all influenced to move… that the term im using.. 100% of income is not supposed to be concidered affordable housing … thats not the normal minimum wage , average persons being forced out for the only able to afford rent increases every year or leave ..is pretty much unregulated discrimination and the number one tactic of management who want to take advantage of the people who rent in alhambra they are the victoms in our future ,, alhambra clearly doesnt care if you were 20yr resident . you cant keep up with the tourism traffic and who wants to get across town its take 30 minuets and if taking the traffic on the freeway wasnt enough wow all the way there .. now ..and shops by the exists of freeways.. what is this about .. complete foreign influence .. beverly hills is going to be set income limits and then now .. a dominate force focusing on getting rid of the 20yr residents .. clearly you are right and im forced out by being influenced to move by crazy new property owners with dreams of recieving rental income from this new source of unregulated city goverment favorism.. .its not like this getting anywhere I FELT BETTER TAKING THE COMPLAINT TO THE ALHAMBRA WEBSITE AND THE SURVEY THEY GIVE WAS EXACTLY WHAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO REPORT ON VERY DISATISFIED ON CITY DEVELOMENT AND NO APARTMENTS OR ACURATE DOCUMENT ON THIS HOUSING SITUATION AND DEVELOPMENT .. OH YOU CAN EXPLAIN .. I FELT BETTER..

  9. To Tiffany…Empty Condos? Do you even live here?! This new project aren’t even condos but for-rent apartments.

  10. The empty condos provide a service for overseas investors and developers by providing them a place to park their money. Too bad it messes up our community, but that is the reality. As long as real estate interests and the Chamber of Commerce control our government, we will see many more monstrosities in the future. Residents must suck it up or vote in new people.

  11. great another monstrosity on main st. like we needed more empty condos…

  12. So Councilwoman decides ENOUGH!What? Doesn’t a councilperson have a right and an obligation to dissent, probe for more answers without being SHUT UP by another councilperson? What an embarrassment to the city!Now we know why people are reluctant to get involved in civic activities if councilpeople decide ENOUGH; no more discussion!

    1. The queen did not want to hear it! I’m surprised she didn’t say “Off with his head!”

  13. Joseph, the Alhambra Source recently had an article on what businesses will be located at the street-level retail. You can read about it and watch the city council meeting on this issue here at this link…


    This Shea Project will be a nice addition to the Main St. downtown area of Alhambra. These residential units will be luxury apartments, highly amenitized and catered for the empty-nesters and the “millennials” demographic. This development will be the first of its kind in terms of a new large apartment complex in Alhambra, with previous large projects last built since the 1990s. The housing stock in Alhambra is getting old and these new units will provide a diverse demographic base for our downtown community. This is exactly what Alhambra needs as we continue to promote economic vitality, walkability and, to add another buzzword, “sustainability” for our growing community. By placing the larger projects in the CBD, we increase the aggregate density in our primary economic hubs (like downtown) while ensuring that residents have more choices to live, where they can walk to shops and restaurants.

    Alhambra isn’t alone with all these developments. The city of San Gabriel has hotels and mixed-use projects lined-up and waiting to be built…


    Pasadena already has the green fencing and sign posted-up on a parcel for a new Marriott Hotel off the 210 fwy Fair Oaks exit. In addition, the city will also be building luxury apartments in their new Union Village Project…


    Monterey Park recently placed on their Planning Commission agenda…”The applicant, M&A Gabee, LP, is requesting a Precise Plan to construct a new 7 stories mixed-use project with 148 hotel rooms and 98 apartment units at 808 West Garvey Avenue.”


    The list goes on. The most important thing is to assess and plan where growth can be best utilized while maintaining and preserving the lower-density housing tracts in our city. It’s not going to be easy because not everyone will be happy and requires strong collaboration between the community, city, and developers. The goal however, is to plan for our future and understand that change is a part of everyone’s lives.

  14. Most residents in Alhambra will care less about the continual build going on in the city or the traffic it brings. Where most of the residents come from it is much worse.

    Myself, I don’t care what they do either because I will be exiting this crazy city in just over 1 year. Good bye, and enjoy.

    1. Good for your, I’m thinking of moving away from this traffic MESS; now being increased with this additional development…gotta get out of this crazy over-building city; now more than ever I’m convinced NO TO THE 710 EXTENSION SINCE THE CITY COUNCIL CONTINUES OVER_DEVELOPING, CAUSING MORE TRAFFIC>

  15. Da’ Lurker, I commented several months ago that the city should look to those places, like The Grove etc for ideas. I didn’t have much hope that we would get something like that.

    The other side of this is that there are certain realities that must be dealt with and what is going to be built there is probably the most feasible. We live in Alhambra, not Beverly Hills, so, I for one am happy with what is taking place on Main St.

    There is a huge move underway from the suburbs back to the city, driven by empty nest boomers and younger people. I think Main street is going to be an amazing place. The buzzword going forward in real estate is going to be living in “walkable” communities. Main ST will certainly have that appeal.

    OT: Anyone know if Trader Joes will be the store on the bottom floor of the old Super A food building?

    1. I am 100% with you! “Walkable” is the key!

  16. Wonderful. More empty units owned by foreign investors. I wouldn’t even mind a commercial development with a park-like ambiance similar to Caruso’s Grove or Americana.

    Fat chance. This is ghetto Alhambra—-run by low-rent council-people whose mantra is more condos, grey-space, and traffic.

    1. Linda Trevillian

      Read the article again. These housing units are NOT condominiums; they are APARTMENTS.

  17. I find the picture of the development very misleading. It shows the commercial space and open area. Looks very spacious. What they don’t show is the four story condo building and it’s parking structure which will dominate the space.

  18. I don’t care about the traffic issue, I care about what the place is going to look like, how will it function, and what type of retail stores etc it will have. The artist rendering looks pretty sweet so I have hope.

    Also, what is the effect if any on the farmers market, which has been getting bigger and busier with every weekend it seems. It’s current location is perfect. I sure hope we dont lose the farmers market.

  19. Congrats to Councilman Placido for standing firm on the traffic issue. I take it from the article that the consultant was paid by the developer for the traffic analysis. An independent traffic analysis should have been done for such a key intersection in our city. His concerns were well founded and it seemed the rest of the council rushed this through without due consideration.

    The city staff has made similar statements regarding traffic and large developments in the past. We all know that traffic congestion has increased exponentially in the last 10 years as a result of a never ending condo and apartment complexes going up in the downtown area. One can only imagine how much worse it will be after the current crop of high rises are filled with additional cars.

    Quality of life is not as important in our city as ill designed and over developed high density housing. I hope we get some new and more enlightened council members at the next election.