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City Council approves Camellia Court development, with 81 trees saved

  • Residents protest Camellia Court development outside of City Hall on Monday, September 11, 2017. Photo by Phoenix Tso.

  • Residents on opposing side debate the Camellia Court development. Photo by Phoenix Tso.


Alhambra , 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.

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3 thoughts on “City Council approves Camellia Court development, with 81 trees saved”

  1. Michael Lawrence

    The trees are all gone!
    Drove by Marengo and Valley and saw only 5 trees left. Something went very wrong here. It appears the developer cut down 260 trees and left only 5.
    Pictures here:

  2. This letter to the editor in the Pasadena Star News by Earline Cooper summarizes much that needs our attention about a changing Alhambra.

    To Alhambra, with love
    Thanks to your paper for serving as a communication link for the people who love Alhambra. We need a way to express and share our views on the state of this wonderful little city. I lived the first 40 years of my life there. I still own property there. It is with great sadness that I am forced to observe the destruction of the city in the form of high-rise, vertical living and general overcrowding.
    For 30 years and more, lovely classic houses in Alhambra have been and are still being bulldozed in order to turn a pretty single-home lot to a 6- to 8-unit residential complex with subterranean parking. No open space at all. We know the developers profit, but who else has an interest in this destruction? Developers cannot do all this alone.
    We all realize that certain things do change but not always for the better. But some change can Be for the better with proper care and thought and planning.
    Who is profiting from the overdevelopment and resultant overcrowding of Alhambra? Is it the City Council? The Planning Commission? Both? If so, how do they profit? Why would they allow this? Why allow the destruction of hundreds and hundreds of trees and lovely, classic houses? Does every scrap of open land have to be filled? Of course not. These questions deserve an answer from those who are responsible.
    The residents certainly do not benefit from this. Remember when we used to be able to catch a glimpse of our lovely San Gabriel Mountains? This high-density living and push for “urbanization” is just another sign of the appalling lack of caring and stewardship of our elected officials.
    If you like urban, overcrowded conditions and concrete, I say just move to New York City or Chicago or Hong Kong or Mumbai. Many people like gardens and trees and peaceful settings. Maybe it is still not too late for our beloved Alhambra. Please speak up if you agree.
    — Earlene Cooper, San Gabriel

  3. “Instead of keeping 41 of the 268 trees on-site, the developer decided to save 81 trees, replanting some of them, while giving the rest to two nearby schools” – absolutely none of this is in writing.

    After the meeting, when I asked the Assistant Superintendent of Alhambra Unified which trees they’re getting, how many, he had no idea. Also, the developer’s Aug. 2017 arborist report states that “most of the sites trees are of poor quality and most of this project’s proposed removal trees are not worth transplanting”. It says of 268 trees, 36 to be transplanted into the project (all Crape Mrytles), 5 to be saved in place and 227 to be removed. So if they are supposedly not worth transplanting, they won’t survive. When councilman Ayala asked at this meeting will they survive, the new guy on the arborist report Dillon Reynolds said ‘highly likely’ but that’s it.

    The city really doesn’t care to have verifiable facts, and anything that’s not in writing really doesn’t have to happen at all. Oops, we accidentally chopped that tree down. oh well.