The Alhambra City Council Monday, July 25 meeting at 7 pm is expected to include a presentation on a variety of planned enhancements for the city’s parks. According to the City Council's meeting agenda, these project options would include a parking structure at Almansor Park, which has been controversial since the city announced the proposal in February.
The project has been in discussion since last year, when Martin Ray, the director of community services at the Parks and Recreation Department, told the City Council on May 12, 2015 that a two-story parking structure could provide 400 spaces and reduce traffic congestion around Almansor Park. Councilmember Luis Ayala said during a March 14, 2016 City Council meeting that soccer and baseball sign-ups had been negatively impacted by the lack of parking at Almansor Park.
The July 25 meeting agenda mentions the option of a one-story parking structure where the North and South parking lots and tennis courts are.
Several residents told the Alhambra Source that the only advance notification they had received of this project was from a postcard left on their doorsteps inviting them to a February 11, 2016 meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission. The residents who attended that meeting asked about the cost of the structure, the impact it would have on the neighborhood, and whether any studies had been done to ascertain such an impact.
A few residents dispute the notion of a lack of parking spaces. “I was so shocked that they were saying more parking was needed, because I live right across from a parking lot, and it’s empty 99.9 percent of the time,” said Alex Rivest. Rivest has also looked into the health and crime hazards risks associated with parking structures, and has raised the question of how the city plans on mitigating such potential risks.
The Alhambra Bowls Club has also raised significant opposition to the parking structure. During the May 2015 meeting, the City Council had discussed tearing down the tennis courts at Almansor Park to build this structure, and then rebuilding those courts on the club’s lawn bowling greens. But it wasn’t until months later that most of the Bowls Club found out about the project, “through rumors and backchannels,” as the club's vice president Sean McMorris characterized it. McMorris wrote an opinion article for the Alhambra Source on June 28, 2016, advocating for the club and its lawn bowling greens.
According to the City Council agenda, the Almansor Park presentation will include discussion of redesigning the area around the gymansium to include a lawn bowling green, as well as other facilities and amenities. "It should be noted that none of these options call for the complete removal of lawn bowling from Almansor Park," the agenda reads.
Some members of the Emmaus Lutheran Church also oppose the parking structure. "If they go ahead and build it, it will be 50 feet from our 7th and 8th grade classrooms," said Cecilia Dodd, a longtime member of the church, who currently serves on the church's school board. "We are concerned about safety, the type of people that it will draw, the noise, the gas-like fumes."
Brian Otis, the church's council president, told the Alhambra Source of negotiations that Emmaus Lutheran Church has engaged in with the City of Alhambra to lease one or both of the church's parking lots. Otis said that the church was willing lease the spaces at no cost, but that the city would have to take on resurfacing the asphalt, and that some members were hoping that this compromise would be in lieu of building the parking structure.
Some church members support both the structure and leasing the church lots to the city. "If you go to the park around 7:00 in the evening, it's challenging, if there's a couple of baseball games going on, a couple of soccer games going on, and you just want to go walk on the park course," said Sandra Needs-Ramirez, another member of the Emmaus Lutheran Church. She and her husband, Ralph Ramirez, support working with the City so that their parking needs are met, along with the church's needs and that of the residents.
Leasing the Emmaus Lutheran Church parking lots is also an option mentioned on the City Council agenda.
At the February Parks and Recreation meeting, Ray said a contract would be awarded in May, with an environmental impact study to be conducted first and construction to begin after July 8. Chris Paulson, the city’s public information officer, said this week that after additional consideration and input from the City Council and from the public, the city staff has worked on other options. Residents can learn more about the parking structure and other improvements under discussion by reading item three on the City Council agenda.