Alhambra City HallAlhambra , CA United States
Mon. Sep. 11, the Alhambra City Council is to vote whether the developer’s MND (Mitigated Negative Declaration) is adequate and whether to grant them a zone change for 1428 S. Marengo Avenue “Camelia Court” development of 126 townhouses, medical center and retail while razing 268 mature trees. They will hear from the public, then the developers, then vote. The meeting is open to the public and follows Brown Act public meeting laws.
6-6:45pm: formal protest / rally + press conference (outside)
6:45pm, go to the 2nd floor to fill out a public comment card on the 1428 S. Marengo agenda item (check agenda here: http://www.cityofalhambra.org/city_calendar/) and grab a seat; turn in public comment card any time before the item comes up or before speakers on that item have finished speaking.
7pm-9pm approx: meeting – please stay until the end, when members of the public will stand up to city council in the name of freedom of speech and expression related to another serious issue with Alhambra’s politicians: https://goo.gl/PXLur5
Over 10 months, and more consistently over the last 3 ½ months since the Marengo Avenue Water Brigade community group was formed, the City has heard from numerous respectful, informative and concerned members of the community about the health benefits of trees, how the mature trees on the property are indeed healthy, how it’s the council’s duty to make decisions for all Alhambrans, not just a single owner or out-of-town developer to complete a project, and how mature trees raise property values by 20%.
• An independent licensed arborist was hired for an oral arborist report, in lieu of an unavailable, unlicensed city arborist report: https://www.facebook.com/melissa.michelson/videos/10154806104633087/
• City Council constituents have sent in numerous emails and letters : (https://concernedalhambrans.wordpress.com/meetings-at-city-hall/letters-from-the-community/)
• The press (local press and KNX radio) have covered this: (https://concernedalhambrans.wordpress.com/resolution-petition-to-save-the-trees/), the latest being an editorial from the Pasadena Star News urging the council to be ‘as green as its own citizenry’:http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/opinion/20170831/alhambra-city-council-needs-to-grow-as-green-as-its-citizenry
• The Alhambra Democratic Club passed a resolution to support the trees and community
• Within one month, 400 people have signed a community petition, of which over 280 Alhambrans have signed, demanding comprehensive study before allowing the developer to raze the existing trees to make room for the 126 townhouse units. Petition: https://concernedalhambrans.wordpress.com/resolution-petition-to-save-the-trees/
• Concerned parents and residents have sent letters of concern to the Alhambra Unified School Board and spoke at their Aug. 29 school board meeting. With the exception of one school board member, they don’t want to get involved.
• Concerned constituents of Judy Chu, Ed Chau and Ed Hernandez have met with their staff and sent letters to their offices. So far there has been no response.
• The Marengo Avenue Water Brigade has spent much time outreaching in the community through protests and social media, meetings and even watering expeditions as the owners are not watering the trees anymore: https://concernedalhambrans.wordpress.com/protests/
Negligence in City Hall
The City is already currently in a lawsuit for not providing an informed study before making a decision on another project (Lowes project), for approving the Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) without following CEQA guidelines, and not ordering an Environmental Impact Report. (http://www.grassrootsalhambra.org/press_release_alhambra_court_lawsuit)
Regarding Camelia Court project, on April 17, the Planning Commission approved the project on the condition that an arborist report be submitted by a licensed arborist, that as many mature trees be saved as possible, and that the report be approved by the director of Development Services. It turns out, the arborists have no valid licenses and the director never signed off it. Also, the report does not justify the tearing down of the trees, as 220 of them are in excellent-good condition.
Nevertheless, the city council voted on an MND on June 12. At that meeting, the city planner should have informed them of the Planning Commission’s pre-condition or it should have been in their staff report, but it wasn’t. Since then, the community has informed them, but the Commission’s stipulations have still not been addressed. The Brigade wrote a letter to the Commission in July and has attempted to attend the last 3 Planning Commission meetings, but all of them were cancelled.
No documentation so far has justified why the developer needs to chop them down and what mitigation measures are available. There is also no mention of trees in the MND, the document which states that no significant environmental impact is present.
Owners and developers:
The owners are a conglomeration of doctors and the developers are out of Orange County. (https://concernedalhambrans.wordpress.com/resolution-petition-to-save-the-trees/) At the June 12 council meeting, owner Kenneth Sim assured the city council there will be 400 new replacement trees, and the developers have told concerned community members they will ‘save as many trees as they can’, but there is no record of what kind of trees will be planted, how long it will take to reach the shade-bearing capacity of the current mature trees, how much carbon will be released into the air when the 268 mature trees are chopped down, why they can’t develop around trees.
The Marengo Avenue Water Brigade has reached out to the owners to have a meeting and their liason Mark Paulson has informed us that they “prefer not to meet.” We have since requested that the City Council postpone the agenda item to allow time to meet, and Councilmember Maloney has told several residents that he doesn’t see a need to do that.
What have the councilmembers said:
Councilmember Maloney, who has done some environmental legal work for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, says he supports a tree ordinance, yet it’s been 3 months since we have shared with him the sample tree ordinances of all the surrounding cities that have tree ordinances and the item has not come up on the agenda. Maloney seems to divert attention from private trees to focusing on the city’s public trees, which are already protected. Councilmember Maloney also says he wants to avoid ‘ad-hoc rule-making’ (Pasadena Star, Aug. 14, 2017) and not interrupt the developer in the process, yet the developer is asking for an ad-hoc change in the zone designation, and the City has approved hundreds of spot zone changes over the years, working around the existing General Plan to facilitate developers’ requests.
Councilmember Mejia, who represents the district of Alhambra where the property is located, showed up for a photo op for the Pasadena Star News in front of the trees a few months ago and also says he supports a tree ordinance.
The other three council members are being termed out in November 2018: Councilwoman Messina says they can’t tell owners of properties what to do and has gushed about what upstanding community members the doctors are; Councilmember Ayala sympathizes with the owners who have been ‘waiting so patiently’ for this project and has told the community to go work it out with the developers/owners. Councilmember Sham doesn’t say much but typically votes for business and development.
For more information:
Facebook: Marengo Avenue Water Brigade
Press clips: https://concernedalhambrans.wordpress.com/press/