Midwick Tract residents pack City Council chambers

Midwick Tract residents packed City Council chambers Monday evening to voice their concerns about a multi-residential development in their Alhambra neighborhood. Developer City Ventures presented a proposal for the controversal project at 2400 Fremont Ave., which was put on hold last year after a movement by residents to stop the project. While the new proposal has been adapted due to residents' concerns, many were still worried about repercussions of the development, such as traffic, air quality, and safety.

City Ventures presents their new proposal.

In its latest proposal, City Ventures reduced the number of single-family units from 93 to 70 and the square-units-per-acre from 10.5 to 8, changes that resulted from negotiations with Midwick residents in 2011 and 2012. The developer also closed off pedestrian and vehicle entry to the new project on Date Street, created direct access to Granada Park from these homes, and designed a driver entrance from a private road instead of Carlos Street.

Elizabeth Salinas, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council and was the driving force in the movement to stop the development last year, said she was pleasantly surprised by the new proposal. “I think City Ventures took our suggestions to heart,” Salinas said. “The design sounds promising.”

However, many residents were still weary of the project. Edward Ruiz raised concerns about the health of students at St. Thomas More Elementary School, located across the street from the construction site, and whether the school will receive some monetary assistance during the construction. “This takes three years to build, one year to demolish," Ruiz said. "What about the kids who are going to be affected by the noise and the smoke? Are they going to be compensated?”

Vice President of Development at City Ventures Bill McReynolds tried to assuage Ruiz's concerns, explaining that the developer will pay $2.97 to the Alhambra Unified School District for every square feet of land they build on. But a mother of a student at St. Thomas More clarified that the school is not part of AUSD and wonders how they will benefit from this. 

A resident takes the podium.

Another key point of contention is the safety of residents, drivers, and pedestrians on Carlos Street, which is south of the project and will probably be most impacted by traffic because of its narrowness. A 29-year-old Midwick Tract resident and developer said he understands where the company is coming from but expressed concerns about the safety of the street. “Carlos Street is an accident waiting to happen with parking on both sides,” he said.

One suggestion City Ventures received from residents is to red curb Carlos to prevent people from parking and alleviate traffic. But some residents raised the issue of overflow church parking for St. Thomas More Catholic Church, located on Fremont and Carlos.

Alhambra Mayor Steven Placido said Council will continue to review the project and encouraged residents to contact him if they have more questions and concerns. Councilwoman Barbara Messina added that while she understands the importance of preserving the Alhambra neighborhood, the area is zoned in favor of multi-residential homes and not in single-family residences, or R1.

“I am sensing fear among the residents of Midwick that this may be the beginning of doomsday for the R1 neighborhoods. And I have to assure you that protecting the integrity of our R1 neighborhood is the priority of this whole council," she said. "Unfortunately, this city is zoned 60 percent multi-residential and only 40 percent R1.”

Not able to attend the 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 next meeting will be on Monday, May 6, at 5:30 pm in the Alhambra Civic Center Library. 

7 thoughts on “Midwick Tract residents pack City Council chambers”

  1. Once again Councilwoman Messina talking about “protecting R1 neighborhood,” while leading the pack in backroom deals with developers. CANNOT TRUST CITY COUNCIL TO PROTECT OUR INTERESTS as they have sold out to moneybags just as other politicians have done.

    1. Alhambra Resident

      This project is not on an R-1 tract to begin with. You are so paranoid.

      1. Elizabeth Salinas

        Paranoid? Do you even live in the Midwick area of Alhambra? The homes along Carlos are zoned as R1s and were purchased to be made part of this proposed development. I agree with Michael Lawrence that this project will set a bad precedent for the future of R1s in Alhambra. Messina gives lip service to “protecting the R1s” but in this particular case, we will see what sort of “protection” the R1s on Carlos are afforded…none… they will be demolished to be turned into townhomes. I say there is no paranoia here.

      2. Did you read my previous comment or are you just trying to obscure the issue?  We are talking about the part of the project that encompasses Carlos Street. I checked with the city planning department and there are homes designated R1 on the Carlos Street track. And you are so wrong.

      3. Alhambra Resident

        Wasn’t refering to just the Carlos Street track… You checked with the city planning department, did you see the Plat Map? What zoning is designated for THIS project? Please tell us…

        It’s easy to label someone so wrong when one already is against this project.

  2. Mr. Lawrence —
    And excellent and accurate description of the “behind closed-doors” process and symbiotic relationship between our civic [so-called] “leaders”—and the financial backers who contribute handsomely to their political careers.

    And then they wonder why citizens have such a disdainful and cynical attitude toward government. While many public servants do have a sincere wish to improve their city and take great pride in the services they provide, others continue to milk and game the system for their own personal gain—like our city leadership has done for decades.

  3.  

     

    The residents have every reason to fear the end of R1 housing despite assurances from Councilwoman Messina. If the Carlos street proposal in this development is approved, it is the beginning of the end of our R1 zoning protections. Zoning regulations are written and enforced  to preserve the single-family character and integrity of neighborhoods, thus reducing the number of units that can be built on any given parcel to create more open space.  City Ventures proposal to destroy the existing character homes on Carlos Street and replace them with eight “townhouse” homes surrounded by a fence and no front yards is not permitted under the current zoning in this area. 

     

    City Ventures purchased all the homes on Carlos street prior to submitting this project for consideration. These homes are zoned R1 and are an integral part of the Midwick neighborhood. How  can they do this in an R1 zoned area that should be protected from this kind of corporate behavior?  In order to legally replace the R1 homes they  must petition the City through the Planning Commission and City Council for a Specific Plan or a rezoning in order to subdivide the original lots. Did City Ventures purchase these homes with foreknowledge that this was not going to be a problem? 

     

    If as Councilwoman Messina asserts, that the City Council is pledged to protect the R1 neighborhoods from infringement by developers, then they must not approve this request for a Specific Plan. To do so will only set a precedent for future projects to do the same. The remaining R1 neighborhoods are surrounded by R3 zoned areas and if developers are allowed to buy up residential R1 properties in order to increase their profit and expand the R3 zoned areas, then the residents have zero protection and our quiet and historical R1 residential areas will disappear. 

     

    It is the duty of our council members and city planning commissioners to first protect the interests of the residents. Allowing corporations to circumvent our existing zoning regulations that protect R1 neighborhoods by approving a Specific Plan is putting development first and the residents second. This has been and continues to be a critical issue in Alhambra and I look forward to the debate and issues that will come forth as the Midwick project moves forward.

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