LocationAlhambra , CA
Alhambra’s Planning Commission approved the hotly contested development project proposed between Marguerita Avenue and Curtis Avenue at Monday’s meeting. In a twist ending, city staff found the project would need to comply with the latest California tenant protections – the major obstacle in the project’s approval.
The agenda laid out staff’s recommendation that the commission approve the project. The point of concern for most of the commission and the majority of public comment was the likely displacement of the current tenants on the property.
Alhambra’s planning staff had initially concluded that the property owners were not required by law to observe California’s Senate Bill 330, the Housing Crisis Act, because the application was completed before Jan. 1, when more stringent tenant protections came into force.
The planning staff had determined that the application was complete Sept. 22 last year because the city had failed to respond within 30 days of the Aug. 23 submission. Confusion arose from a July 16 staff report, saying the application was “deemed complete” on April 30. But Paul Lam, the city’s principal planner, said this was a poor word choice and meant the project was ready for the planning commission’s consideration.
Responding later to public comment, architect Vincent Tsoi said a possible reason for confusion was that the developers found that a payment due in November had been overlooked and paid only in February, even though materials had been submitted in November to the city.
A couple commissioners then asked the staff and city attorney if this new information – the incomplete payment – affected the timeline for completion. After a discussion between Lam and city lawyer Greg Murphy, Murphy determined the new knowledge of payment in February indeed meant the application process was not complete until February 2020.
Before SB 330 with its stronger tenant protections applied to the project, the developers said the landowners were willing to give current tenants three times their current rent payment, their deposit and moving costs.
Now Speedee USA, the name of the group on the application, must provide options to low- or very low-income tenants within a five-year period preceding the application. These include replacement of affordable units and right to refuse the unit, or relocation assistance.
The final vote approving the Marguerita/Curtis development was 6-1-1, with Ron Sahu voting no and Noya Wang, a new commission member, abstaining. President Allan Sanchez and commissioner Scott Chan recused themselves because their residences are close to the location.
At the July 16 commission meeting, city staff bundled public comment. Monday, each of those comments was read aloud as well as newly received comments. Of the 57 emailed comments and four speakers, only one public comment was in favor of the project. The bulk of comments in opposition were almost identical in the same language.
The next planning commission is scheduled for Aug. 17, when the affordable housing ordinance and The Villages development are back on the agenda.
This article has been updated on Aug. 5 to reflect the commissioners’ recusals.