Planning Commission sends Midwick development project to City Council for approval; residents voice opposition

The Alhambra Planning Commission voted 7-to-2 Tuesday night to pave the way for a new development for 70 residences and a gated community in the Midwick Tract. Many residents voiced opposition, expressing concern about traffic, new homes, and a proposed amendment to the city's General Plan for development.

The move would amend the city’s General Plan in the Midwick Tract, and adopt the Specific Plan that has been put forth by City Ventures LLC, a home development company. In the Midwick Tract the General Plan stipulates that certain areas are R-1 zones (single-family residences), while other spaces are R-3 (multiple-family residences). The Specific Plan would change these guidelines to allow for the development of 70 residences on 8.8 acres of land at 2400 South Fremont. The City Council now has the final vote on the project.

The Planning Commission’s vote was preceded by a contentious hearing in which residents—many of them from the Midwick area—voiced their opposition to the project. Much of the discussion centered around the proposed amendment to the General Plan. Some residents said it will set a bad precedent, giving developers license to change the city's existing guidelines.“R-1 zones are a fabric of the city,” said Alhambra resident Gisela Adams.  “If you allow this to happen to one R-1 zone, then all the others will be in danger in the future."

Traffic, especially on Fremont Avenue, was also hotly debated. City Ventures—in addressing concerns that had been raised in past meetings—presented changes to the roadways leading into the gated community. They have closed off an entrance at Carlos Street—which residents said was too small to accommodate more cars—making Fremont Avenue the only point of entry for the community. The Carlos Street entrance is now reserved for emergency vehicles only.

City Council chamber during hearing | Photo by Tim Loc

Some residents found these changes inadequate. 

“Twice a day, five times a week, my street becomes a slow-moving, high volume corridor,” said Jose Aguayo, who lives on Fremont Avenue in the Midwick area. “The development at 2400 South Fremont would only make this worse.”

Planning Commission member Mary Louise Bunker addressed the traffic issue by saying, “some of your greatest concerns may not materialize.”

She noted that in the past 2400 South Fremont was home to The Alhambra, a retirement home. She claimed that population density would not be new to the area.

“They had 130 employees over there. And they had people coming in and out, running the kitchen," Bunker said. "And you have residents driving out to visit doctors and relatives.” Bunker said that the volume of cars isn’t the problemthe flow of traffic is. She proposed that the city look into synchronizing the traffic lights to expedite traffic.

Another point of contention was the historical legacy of the Midwick Tract.

According to Christine Olson, President of the Alhambra Preservation Group, Alhambra has not documented the historical relevance of homes in the Midwick area. As such, developers may unwittingly demolish homes that have a legacy in the neighborhood.

Olson added that the proposed designs of the residences—which City Venture has designated as “Bungalow,” “Cottage,” “Spanish,” and “Mediterranean”—were incongruent with the Midwick area.

“It fails to integrate with the rest of the Midwick neighborhood,” Olson said of the styles. “It’s bungalows on steroids, with its features indistinct and its proportions bloated.”

Ron Sahu, an environmental engineer living in Alhambra, said that a gated community would be an affront to the sense of community in Midwick. Sahu also pointed to an entrance that would give residents exclusive entry into Granada Park.

”It is incongruous to have a private gateway into a public park,” he said, adding that this sense of exclusiveness was “insulting.”

Susan Prado, a resident of Arcadia, came to the hearing to represent relatives—including her mother—who had lived at the former retirement home on 2400 South Fremont. She said that they had been promised lifetime care but were instead relocated after the home was shut down. “They invested their life savings under the promise," said Prado. "The promises were not honored.” Prado said she would like to see the 2400 South Fremont area provide affordable housing to uphold “the spirit of what was supposed to be there.”

The Planning Commission, in responding to the speakers, focused on traffic and unit density. The commission reiterated Bunker’s suggestion that street lights be synchronized to regulate traffic flow, and commission member Jeff Maloney noted that the proposed site is largely designated for multiple-family residences. "For that specific area, most of that site is currently zone R-3. The Specific Plan would result in a density that is lower than what is currently allowed," said Maloney.

Thomas Maloney and Ross Maza voted against the proposal. A date has not yet been set for the City Council's decision on the project.

9 thoughts on “Planning Commission sends Midwick development project to City Council for approval; residents voice opposition”

  1. This development disappoints me. I’m a new resident (2 years in Alhambra) but grew up in the area. One only has to look at neighboring cities such as Monterey Park that have little or no regulation to see the damage that can be done with over-development.
    The city council appoints the planning commission and I urge everyone to PAY ATTENTION during election time to see who we’re putting in power.
    To contact the City Council, see information below:
    http://www.cityofalhambra.org/page/14/city_council/

    We have to start at the top to prevent this situation from happening over and over again.

  2. Mr. Sunada and the Grassroots Alhambra people spoke against this project, the midwick neighbors and preservation group as well. Not one person from the city residents liked it,but commissioner Bunker and other commissioners tried to gloss over the glaring problems we all saw so clearly. What motivates these people to ignore us and recommend a yes vote? There are powers and money behind the curtain. This project must go back to the drawing board! I am so upset with the city and these horrible developments. When is it going to stop?

  3. Do any of the “commissioners” live in the Midway Tract? Are these “commissioners” residents of Alhambra that are impacted by heavy traffic, or do they live in North Alhambra which has beautiful homes, far away from traffic concerns? Are “commissioners” acting “in the best interests of Alhambra”or do they have ties to developers and/or business concerns that will benefit from more dense development? Seems that time and time again, city council/planning commission change the status of certain neighborhoods from R1 to R3, simply to appease developers; why not change those from R3 to R1. Mary Louis Bunker does not know what she’s talking about regarding traffic in that area; probably doesn’t live there, doesn’t care. I SAY IT’S TIME TO STAR A RECALL AGAINST ALL CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS AND THEIR LACKEYS BEFORE MORE HIGH DENSITY TAKES OVER THIS ONCE, PEACEFUL CITY.

    1. Many of the commissioners are related to the council members with no apparent experience in problems resulting from over building in this city. This is an obvious sign of the nepotism which occurs in this city.

  4. What do you expect when the Planning Commission is packed with business interest people? For example, should a real estate agent really be voting on building additional homes? Talk about conflict of interests!

  5. The city of Alhambra has a very long history of ignoring the concerns of it’s citizens below Alhambra Road. Alhambra was once a quiet,charming town as it’s neighbors of South Pasadena and San Marino. NOW it is the LOUD, OVERSTUFFED, SELFISH NEIGHBOR to the south. Alhambra grew without regard to it’s own history, overpopulation, esthetics of the city. Alhambra is the UGLY,OVERSTUFFED,RUDE neighbor to the south.

  6. Mary Louise Bunker does not know what she is talking about. The parking lot was not been full for over 30 years that I have lived in the neighborhood. I just wonder how much City Ventures has paid the city council and planning commissioners to get this past. I will be looking to buy out of Alhambra. As it is you can’t go north on Fremont or Atlantic with all the traffic.

  7. I was very impressed with the speakers and learned a lot about how about the general plan and how they are changing the look of Midwick with this poor design. Too bad the commissioners just let the key issues go by and approved the Specific Plan for recommendation. Changing the general plan for this development is wrong. The tone of the commissioners was that 70 units were better than 200 units so the residents had a choice between a dull knife or a sharp one. Poor way to evaluate the project in my book. Kudos to Thomas Maloney and Ross Masa for voting no.

    The poor treatment of the speakers by President John Lodge was way out of line. Threatening to remove a speaker by force for going over the 5 minute limit was ridiculous.
    The people attending the meeting deserve better.

  8. Marijune Wissmann

    I have lived in the Midwick Tract for forty years and find it sad that our lovely neighborhood will be ruined by the development on Fremont. Mrs. Bunker made a remark about the traffic at the former Lutheran Home being significant. I volunteered at the home years ago and found only six or seven cars in the parking lot during the day. You cannot compare this to the proposed parking planned for 235 cars for the new development. Where are the ambulances and fire engines going to enter the tract in an emergency? If Carlos Avenue is closed and Fremont Avenue is filled with traffic how can we
    protect our homes against fire and receive emergency medical care.”What fools these mortals be?” I am referring to the nepotistic planning commission and our city council members. Marijune WissmannELUEZ

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