New Camellia Court deal brokered in order to avoid lawsuit

Photo by Phoenix Tso.

Location

Alhambra , CA United States

A deal to save more trees in the Camellia Court development trees and turn part of the property into open space has been reached, avoiding a threatened lawsuit against the project.

The developer, St. Clair Partners, met with members of the Marengo Avenue Water Brigade, to hammer out a deal that would save 85 trees, not including city-owned street trees, instead of the 59 trees that they designated on a map presented at a September City Council meeting. St. Clair Partners also agreed to open a historic church up on the property for public use.

The two groups reached the agreement to avoid a lawsuit, emails between the City of Alhambra and Mark Paulson, a consultant on the project, show. The month before, Lowe’s Superstore pulled out of a development on Fremont Avenue, after local residents filed a lawsuit blocking that project.

Melissa Michelson, head of the Marengo Avenue Water Brigade, expressed tempered satisfaction with the new deal. “I’m disappointed that it requires a lawsuit — or the threat of one — to ensure the best interests of the community, with a local group of community activists and neighbors serving as advocates, not our elected leaders,” she said.

Neither Paulson nor Stephen St. Clair, head of St. Clair Partners, returned requests for comment.

The Camellia Court development is part of an overhaul of the Sunny View Care Center, a medical facility for seniors. It was previously run by Episcopal Home & Community Services, and is also the site of a historic church, built in 1926 by prominent local architect Reginald D. Johnson.

The public was first alerted to this project in June, when the City Council approved a first reading of a general plan amendment to allow retail stores on the property, which had been zoned for residential development only

Residents objected to the project when they learned that many of the 268 trees on the property would be cut down. People also expressed concern about the demolition the historic chapel.

After pulling final approval of the project from the next City Council meeting, a group of residents mobilized, calling themselves the Marengo Avenue Water Brigade. They pointed out multiple irregularities with the tree survey that the developer submitted to the City. The residents also claimed that the City Council had not done enough to the convince the developers to preserve more of the trees, many of which are decades old.

The City Council granted final approval over the project in September. The developers then asked to meet with Michelson after she mentioned a possible lawsuit during her public comment in front of City Council.

Both groups did a walk-through together of the property, agreeing on which additional trees they could save in the new development, or transplant to other locations in Alhambra.

They agreed to save seven more trees and to transplant 19 additional. St. Clair Partners also agreed to open the church up to the public and is preparing an application to remove some parking spaces around the church to incorporate public park space into the development.

Michelson said the Marengo Avenue Water Brigade was satisfied with the agreement, among the remaining questions was the survival of the transplanted trees. She also said the terms of the agreement required monitoring.

The controversy over this development has led to the city’s staff to draw plans to protect trees of a certain age that are native to California.

The Camellia Court development is scheduled to go in front of the Planning Commission again on Nov. 20, due to an additional zoning issue over medical offices planned for the property.

2 thoughts on “New Camellia Court deal brokered in order to avoid lawsuit”

  1. The Oct 25, 2017 agreement terms:

    Trees
    • Owner and Developer and Developer agree to uphold the Planning Commission’s pre-condition for approval (“PL53”) to remain committed to preserving in place as many mature trees on site, including but not limited to the Trees listed in Exhibit A, and transplanting the trees listed in Exhibit A.
    • Owner and Developer agree to continued watering and maintaining the trees according to Title XXIII Zoning, Chapter 23.48 Landscaping Standards Title IX Public Peace & Safety, Chapter 9.70 Landscaping of Residential Yards, and related.
    • Owner and Developer agree to regularly inform and involve Marengo Avenue Water Brigade during the transplant and demolition process
    • Owner and Developer agrees to provide advance notice of at least 3 days prior to any trees on the property being demolished, and a tree transplant schedule of the Trees found on Exhibit A, to Marengo Avenue Water Brigade, and allow safe access of a representative(s) to observe the demolition and transplant process of aforementioned trees
    • Owner and Developer agree to hire a licensed arborist to oversee the maintenance and care of all the trees during the transplant and planting process
    • Owner and Developer takes into account future consultation by an independent arborist hired by Marengo Avenue Water Brigade
    • Owner and Developer agree to cover all costs for transporting and transplanting donated trees (ie: trees on Exhibit A that are not to be transplanted back onto Owner and Developer’s property)
    o Transplanted trees are to be planted within Alhambra city limits and offered to property Owner and Developers, Alhambra Unified School District, and the City of Alhambra before offers to outside areas are considered
    • Owner and Developer will make multiple efforts to find locations within the City of Alhambra to transplant the trees.
    • As soon as possible, Owner and Developer will make available to the Marengo Avenue Water Brigade the list of any trees that will not be re-planted on site or have not been assigned for donation (“Donated Trees for Transplant” list)
    • Owner and Developer agree to keep and maintain unclaimed trees on “Donated Trees for Transplant” list for no less than 60 days
    • The Marengo Avenue Water Brigade agrees to do community outreach to assist Owner and Developers find homes for any remaining trees on “Donated Trees for Transplant” list; Owner and Developers agree to cover Brigade’s advertising costs not to exceed $2500.

    Church of St. Jude’s grounds

    • The Owner and Developer agree to give open access to the residents of the skilled nursing facility as well as the neighboring community to the St. Jude grounds only via the Marengo Avenue entrance.
    • Terms and conditions for aforementioned open access shall be incorporated into the bylaws or CCRs of the HOA.
    • Before November 23, 2017, the Owner and Developers agree to file for a petition with the City of Alhambra to eliminate the 11 parking spaces from the skilled nursing parking lot and 5 parking spaces from townhouse guest parking to incorporate a neighborhood social space into the design plan.

    Notwithstanding anything to the contrary set forth in this agreement, in the event there is a challenge to the project approvals, either administratively or legally, then this agreement will terminate and be null and void.

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