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East Main Property in Alhambra That Was Denied Permit Now Up For Sale

Satellite image of 801 E. Main St lot via Google Maps. The lot is being listed for an asking price of $8,980,000 after plans to build a four-story office building were denied by Alhambra's Planning Commission.


Alhambra , CA United States

The East Main Street property in Alhambra that was the subject of a recent development battle between the property owner and nearby residents has been listed for sale for almost $9 million.

Multiple real estate websites list the 801 E. Main Street property for an asking price of $8,980,000. The listing was confirmed by Nina Hsu, a real estate agent with Keller Williams.

News that property owner James Chou intended to sell reached Alhambra residents in mid-August, after the Planning Commission voted to deny a permit to develop a four-story office building on the property on July 1. Lewis McCammon, who helped lead the opposition to the project, received a call from John Bwarie on Aug. 9, a community engagement specialist working with the developer, Pacific Plaza Premier, saying that the project site would be put up for sale. McCammon said the phone call came after a discussion with Bwarie and the developer over a possible redesign in late July.

Ken Lee, vice president of development at Pacific Plaza Premier, confirmed to the Alhambra Source that the property owner, James Chou, would not be redesigning the four-story office project, deciding instead to list the 89,818 square foot lot for sale.

Bwarie did not respond to a request for comment from the Alhambra Source.

The site was the home of the Bewley Allen Cadillac dealership for 74 years before it closed in 2012. The Planning Commission approved plans for a Nissan dealership in 2014, but the project was dropped in 2016. James Chou bought the land in 2018.

Chou and Pacific Plaza Premier applied to build a four-story 61,672 square foot office building on the project site, and a three-level parking structure behind it. Residents living in the nearby residential neighborhood of Lindaraxa Park objected to the development, saying that both the building and parking structure were too tall and close to the single-family homes immediately behind the project site.

Residents also raised objections to the traffic they thought the project would bring, and that the glass-and-steel architectural style of the building did not fit the character of the historic neighborhood. Several Planning Commissioners echoed these concerns during project hearings.

Lee and Planning Commissioners who supported the project countered that the office building fit in with the other businesses on the East Main commercial corridor, and that the parking structure was set back from the residential neighborhood as much as possible. Lee said that since most of the parking structure would be below ground level, neighbors would only able to see a little bit of it over a wall that separates the lot from the neighborhood.

The first hearing on this project on April 15 was continued after a microphone malfunction. The matter was continued again after an April 29 hearing so the developer could meet with concerned residents to see if a compromise could be reached.

During this hearing, the Planning Commission declined to reopen public comment on the project, leading residents to say that the city was ignoring their concerns. Public comment was reopened on June 3 for two more hearings.

At the end of May, Lee met with two other residents. He agreed to add a landscaping treatment to the parking structure wall to make improvements to its appearance from the neighborhood, but didn’t budge on lowering the height of the building from 62 feet.

At the last Planning Commission hearing for this project on July 1, Lee and some commissioners discussed ways to lower the height of the project, without reducing the number of stories. However, the Planning Commission voted 6 to 3 to deny the project.

The project developers had 10 days to file an appeal against the vote, but decided not to do so. Lee told the Alhambra Source at the time that they were weighing their options.

The controversy over the 801 E. Main Street project has fueled discussions about the type of development that’s appropriate for the city of Alhambra. On Aug. 12, Alhambra’s City Council voted to lower the maximum height of developments in the nearby Central Business District from 10 stories to 5 stories in the city’s new general plan. The Council also added language for the development of an East Main Street specific plan to govern the development of that area, in consultation with residents in that area.

The city’s notification procedures have also come under scrutiny because of this project. Lindaraxa Park residents claimed that the city of Alhambra didn’t properly inform them of the project, sending out notices before the April 15 Planning Commission hearing to only 61 households.

The city is now discussing extending the notification radius for future developments.

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