LocationAlhambra , CA United States
The Camellia Court developer has opted to save double the amount of trees than initially planned, a change that the Alhambra’s City Council unanimously approved at a packed meeting on Monday night.
Instead of keeping 41 of the 268 trees on-site, the developer decided to save 81 trees, out of an inventory of 294 trees, according to a map that they provided at the meeting. This new inventory includes street tress on city property. They plan replanting some of them, while giving the rest to two nearby schools, Marguerita Elementary School and Ramona Convent Secondary School.
The planning process was spoken of approvingly by the City Council, school officials and some residents. George Murray, the Alhambra Unified School District’s assistant superintendent of facilities and transportation, said that Marguerita Elementary School was looking into how trees they could plant on their campus, and praised the developer, St. Clair Partners, for addressing construction and traffic issues that would affect students and faculty.
Dozens of residents spoke out against the project, asking the City Council to table a vote to approve a zone change for the development, until more environmental study was conducted and until the developer and the property owner would meet with them.
The site of the proposed development currently operates as a nursing facility for seniors. It had been previously owned by the Episcopal Home Communities, and included a church that was built in 1926. The current owners, TAG-2 Medical Investment Group, had planned on demolishing the church along with other unused buildings to make way for condo units, retail and a new skilled nursing facility.
The developer had also planned on cutting down 229 trees. Public outcry motivated them to save the church and 81 of the trees.
Before the vote, more than 30 residents of Alhambra and the San Gabriel Valley protested the development.
Inside, it was about more than the trees. Dozens of residents spoke to a full house about how the development would impact traffic and the health of students attending Marguerita Elementary and Ramona Convent Secondary School.
“Even with the proposed mitigation, I feel that these continued emissions are still going to affect our children and our community,” said Lulu Wang, who lives near the development.
A couple of residents came to the developer’s defense, saying that change in Alhambra was inevitable. “We have to learn to compromise, which I believe the developers are more than doing, and learn to work with each other, but in a realistic manner, not in a manner of which I feel personally is ‘I don’t want any change period,'” said Brian Chan.
Various City Council members said that the developer and property owners had done a lot of community outreach, and had spent three years making sure that the project plan was up to code. They also reiterated that since the development was on private property, they were limited in how many trees they could get the developer to save.
Councilmember Jeff Maloney said, however, that the City could learn from this experience when it came to development that took into account infrastructure issues. “My lessons from this experience is that it’s very clear, in my opinion, is a common-sense tree ordinance,” he said.
The ordinance allowing the zone change is expected to return for a second reading at the next City Council meeting, according to Monday night’s agenda.
Clarification September 20, 2017: This article was updated to include a map uploaded by the Concerned Alhambrans group that the developer handed out at the City Council meeting showing that they planned on saving 81 trees out of 294 trees total. The increased number reflects street trees as well as the trees on the Sunny View Care Facility site.