LocationAlhambra , CA
The Alhambra City Council met in special session Wednesday and two items on the consent agenda — the zoning code and paying city workers during the current emergency — took up much of the council’s interest and time.
As is becoming standard during the COVID-19 emergency, the meeting was in the form of a teleconference with Mayor Ross Maza and council members Jeff Maloney, Katherine Lee, and Adele Andrade-Stadler participating by telephone. Vice Mayor David Mejia, a sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department, was unable to participate due to his first responder commitments.
Item three on the consent agenda involved the awarding of a contract for professional consulting services for a new comprehensive zoning code. This was the follow up to the Jan. 27, 2020 council action authorizing the distribution of a request for proposal for a consulting firm to prepare the new zoning code.
Three responsive proposals were submitted to the city and staff recommending that the council award the contract to Miller Planning Associates, which has had experience including projects including the El Monte Zoning Code and Design Guidelines update, San Gabriel “Greening the Code” project, and the Santa Barbara New Zoning Ordinance.
The Miller bid was $317,920 and was mid-range in the three bids received with the top being $405,020 and the lowest being $224,910.
Marc Castagnola, Alhambra’s Director of Community Development, provided some context for the council noting that the contract would be for an 18-month period and that the timing of the zoning code revision was an effort to be in compliance with mandates that such revisions be done within two years of the approval of a new general plan. Alhambra’s general plan was revised in August, 2019 so the hope would be to have the zoning update ratified by August, 2021.
He also noted that as part of the process, a number of community meetings and stakeholder meetings are scheduled to take place during the process.
Council member Maloney responded that he hoped that the “public participation component” in this work be done early.
“We need a process that has public comment in the drafting process,” Maloney said.
He also expressed the desire to have the process focus on special plans for the East Main Street corridor and Valley Boulevard.
“We had already anticipated focused area on Main Street from Chapel Ave to the city line as well as Valley Boulevard to stimulate economic development,” Castagnola said. “Early consultation process is also being looked at.”
Deputy Director of Community Development Valerie Reynoso told council that it would take approximately two months for the firm to get up to speed, reviewing current city codes and documents. At that point, a city outreach program may be able to be implemented.
Councilmember Andrade-Stadler wondered when the last zoning code was instituted and Castagnola said 1986, two years after the last general plan was adopted.
For her part, Andrade-Stadler agreed that the East Main corridor needed specific attention but thought that any focus on Valley Boulevard might focus on the west end of the thoroughfare which, she said, has taken a beating over the years by being a drive through point for commuters getting to the freeway. She also said she hoped that Valley Boulevard might be looked at as potential locale for affordable housing.
Mayor Maza agreed that East Main and West Valley are areas that should get some special attention in any zoning review.
Also on the consent agenda was an item to extend pay and benefits for city employees designated as both essential and non-essential workers to remain in compliance with Los Angeles County’s Safer At Home Order.
Council members were in agreement on maintaining the pay and benefits but there was some conversation on possible return to work dates. The council agreed to keep with President Trump’s determination that April 30 may be the desired return date.
Binnquist noted that while city employees are not on site it doesn’t mean that normal work isn’t continuing in a variety of ways. She cited the fact that building permits are still being issued through the department’s web site and that crews in the city are still cleaning up graffiti.
Also under discussion here was the timing when relaxed parking enforcement should end and city street sweeping should resume. There seemed to be no consensus on either point but to take a wait-and-see approach depending on circumstances as the month unfolds. Vice Mayor Mejia, in comments relayed by Mayor Maza, expressed support for the late April return to work date but voiced some concern on the street cleaning issue hoping it could be implemented at an earlier date as a health concern.
The consent agenda passed on a unanimous 4-0 vote. The full agenda may be found here.
The first item on the meeting agenda regarded the Annual Board and Commissions Appointments with City Clerk Lauren Myles reminding council members that the terms of office for all such appointment expired on March 23, 2020. With the exception of the youth commission, each representative may serve a maximum of eight consecutive terms of one-year each. Appointments will be effective April 1, 2020 and run until March 22, 2021. Other then announcing names of new appointees, no action needed to be taken.
Each of the council members present said they are considering options on various commissions and would offer names in due course.
During council comment at the end of the session, the weekly Farmer’s Market was discussed in the context of the L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s decision Tuesday to close all markets in the city.
Binnquist noted the L.A. County Department of Health was allowing Farmer’s Markets to remain open and that the Health Department was deploying numerous inspectors to talk to vendors and city officials about best practices in the COVID-19 emergency. Binnquist cited the Pasadena and Santa Monica Farmer’s Markets as two of several still in operation in the county.
Alhambra city staff noted that there would be some changes to the weekly Alhambra market including increasing spacing between vendors from 20 feet to 40 feet and adding a social distancing coordinator to be on site during the market hours to advise vendors and shoppers of social distancing standards.
While several residents and city observers apparently phoned in to listen to the proceedings there were no requests to comment.
Before the meeting started, City Clerk Myles read some emailed comments. One, from resident Chris Olson, said that while it “was completely understandable” under the health crisis for meeting to have a less than regular schedule, she asked that the city employ “more robust public outreach” tactics so that residents have time and notice to study issues of concern. She also asked that public comment be added to the regular agenda so that residents may feel encouraged to participate even in a teleconference council meeting.
During the meeting, Binnquist noted that it was sometimes difficult in the emergency to get all the council members together and, thus, offer much advance notice.
In terms of meeting notice, it seems that an emergency meeting, as was held by the council last Friday to discuss possible revising in the eviction ordinance, may be called with an hour’s notice. Special meetings, like Wednesday’s, may be called with just 24 hours notice.