LocationAlhambra , CA
The City of Alhambra special council meeting on Wednesday discussed the Arroyo Village residential project, a proposed San Gabriel housing complex on the border of Alhambra, needing three Alhambra parcels of land to complete its project.
The council plans to write the City of San Gabriel a letter, asking the San Gabriel planning commission to address concerns before its Aug. 10 meeting.
In recent weeks, Alhambra residents have vocalized their discontent for the project at several city council and planning commission meetings.
The Arroyo Village residential project is a proposed condominium building with 41 units, in three above-ground levels and one garage level that is partially underground, due to a change in landscape.
The project is only accessible from a bridge entry across the Alhambra Wash; therefore, the complex needs space for both a driveway and an emergency access gate on the landlocked side, which is the Alhambra side.
The bridge over the wash, which has been approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is very close to the corner of the complex and requires an extension of land to complete the right-turned driveway into the complex. This proposed Alhambra parcel is landlocked by houses on Vega Street.
The complex’s proposed fire access is a parcel at the end of Hampton Court in Alhambra. The city’s analysis says the gate is to remain locked at all times and would only be accessible by firetruck, not to ambulances, resident cars nor pedestrians.
The third and final Alhambra parcel is planned to be an open-space area, also flanked by Vega Street houses. Alhambra Director of Community Development Marc Castagnola said this parcel that might require review. It is not clear what kind of use will be allowed but said on July 20 the developer committed to prohibiting large public gatherings, though he did not see documentation of that yet.
City attorney Joe Montes said the city did not originally consider the three land parcels to need a residential planned development (RPD) permit because the level of building was not significant enough to meet the requirements.
Now that the city has more information and some uses of the open space could possibly disturb Alhambra residents, the city might want to revisit the RPD process, Montes said.
During public comment, one Hampton Court resident, Francis Bernabe, said she was calling on behalf of many who live on the street. They support this development and have had positive experiences with the developer, who she said built two other homes on Hampton Court. Bernabe said they were always notified of incoming construction trucks and had direct access to ask questions or address concerns.
All commenters who said they lived adjacently to the proposed site and were against the project said they lived on Vega Street. One of the arguments is that San Gabriel zoned the area for high-density multi-family residential but wants to use the Alhambra parcels – zoned for single family residential – as part of the high-density project. They say this difference in density in Alhambra will disrupt their way of living and takes away their privacy.
After hearing public comment, the council members all voted in favor of writing a letter to the City of San Gabriel, asking them to consider Alhambra resident and council members’ concerns, including closeness to Alhambra homes, height and privacy.
Council member Jeff Maloney and Mejia asked staff to see what legal rights the city and residents have in this instance. Maza suggested an additional friendly call between each city’s staff, in an effort to maintain good neighborly rapport.
The project plans for 235 S. Arroyo Drive can be seen here.
In council comments at the close of the meeting, council member Katherine Lee brought up the strategic plan and said the city had not taken action on many of their goals, specifically mentioning design guidelines and zoning code updates.
Montes put the brakes on the conversation, citing the Brown Act, saying the council cannot discuss in length nor take action on any item not on the agenda.
City Manager Jessica Binnquist advised the council to reconsider the general plan at a later meeting if they have new priorities – like the specifics of the design guidelines Lee brought up that are not in the current plan – and staff would stop working on the current priorities like affordable housing, if that is the will of the council.
Lee wanted to review the process under which the council can add items to the agenda and look at rapid rehousing funds.
Though she didn’t go into the details of the project, Lee was referring to housing assistance for those families specifically being asked to relocate if the Marguerita Avenue/Curtis Avenue 11-unit housing project is accepted by the Planning Commission.
The next council meeting is on Aug. 10. The next planning commission is Aug. 3, where the Marguerita/Curtis project and affordable housing will be considered.