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Planning commission raises concerns about Alhambra general plan

Rendering of a pedestrian and bike-friendly Main Street from Alhambra's draft general plan. Courtesy of Alhambra Department of Community Development.

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Alhambra , CA United States

Alhambra’s planning commission raised serious concerns about the city’s draft general plan, a document that lays out policy proposals for Alhambra’s long-term growth, at a public hearing on Tuesday evening at City Council chambers.

Commissioners were mainly concerned with the lack of participation from the public in shaping the general plan, voicing their misgivings in front of an audience of around 50 people. They specifically asked why only 360 people out of a city population of almost 86,000, participated in a general plan survey and whether the city had done outreach in communities with a lower level of English proficiency.

“I’m really concerned about community input, the numbers just do not seem enough,” Commissioner Scott Chan said. “If we’re talking about the most linguistically isolated — the folks who are hardest to reach in this community — things need to be done in Chinese, Spanish and Vietnamese.”

Commissioners were unusually engaged during the public hearing, asking multiple questions about various facets of the draft general plan during a hearing that lasted more than two hours. Among the concerns were also raised was the completeness of the document’s draft bike plan, with Chan pronouncing the addition of “sharrows” directing bicycles and vehicles to share the road as dangerous. Commissioner Eric Garcia asked whether continuity with bike lanes in neighboring cities was considered in drafting a bike lane map for Alhambra.

These concerns echoed criticism from several community members who testified in front of the planning commission. Residents like Oscar Amaro, the founder of the Alhambra Preservation Group, asked why certain implementation actions to preserve historic buildings in Alhambra were left out of the final plan. He specifically named a city survey of historic buildings and a historic preservation commission as some of these concrete measures that were excluded.

Commissioners and residents also questioned why Alhambra’s housing element wasn’t being updated at the same time. Each city is required by California law to adopt such a plan outlining how they would meet their population’s housing needs. The concerned parties said that it was otherwise difficult to judge Alhambra’s housing needs and how historic preservation and economic development fits with that.

“Either the housing element update be advanced or the general plan update be postponed, until the two can be aligned together,” Alhambra resident Cliff Bender said.

Joe Power, principal of Rincon Consultants, who drafted the general plan, explained that the housing element is revised on a different eight-year cycle than the general plan and isn’t due for an update until 2021. He also outlined changes from earlier drafts of the general plan, which was available for public comment last year. These changes include the removal of a linear park plan for the railroad trench on Mission Road. He also clarified that an idea to add hotels to Valley Boulevard would only mean changing the commercial zoning code to include such developments and that the plan would emphasize boutique hotels over large chains.

City staff will respond to commissioner concerns at another planning commission meeting, taking place on Feb. 4. The planning commission is expected to vote on the plan Feb. 19. If approved, the plan will be sent to the City Council.

Read all final general plan documents here.

Updated on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2019 at 3 p.m.

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1 thought on “Planning commission raises concerns about Alhambra general plan”

  1. I find it telling and typical of this General Plan when the consultant would show a Class 2 bike lane going down Main street as a selling point . The irony is that there are none in the plan. The bicycle plan does nothing to make people safe in Alhambra. Hope this gets fixed and the planning commission recommends a proper survey be done.