LocationAlhambra , CA
In what was supposed to be the big meeting to decide the fate of the proposed housing development project The Villages at The Alhambra, the city Planning Commission instead sat through four hours of mostly negative comments read aloud by a computer. Although there were probably more comments from supporters of the project than in past meetings, most of the lengthy comments were against the proposed development.
The city finds itself in the uncomfortable position of accidently creating its own filibuster, due to the high interest in the project and weeks of continuing the open hearing. Public comment has not been closed, and therefore each week the hearing is extended the list of speakers grows.
The agenda notice for each city meeting says, “As an alternative to speaking during the meeting, you can email your comments […] Comments will then be read into the record […].” Time per meeting is limited, and the speakers list rolls over again.
The attorney for the applicant, The Ratkovich Company, Alex DeGood suggested that it is eagerly awaiting a commission decision on the project and argued that state laws, including the Brown Act governing public meetings, do not require that emailed comments be read aloud into the record. Under normal circumstances they would be filed for the record, DeGood contended.
Assistant city attorney Greg Murphy responded that because the city’s own agenda states that emailing was an “acceptable way” to have comments audibly heard at the Zoom meeting, the city will continue reading the comments orally.
The commission made it through 183 of 277 comments. Two residents, Karla Zombro and Eric Sunada called in, and spoke against the project.
So, the only action on The Villages taken by the commission was to continue the hearing to its next meeting, at which more comments will be read, on Sept. 8.
The commission chose a new chairman, Antonio Gardea. Former chairman Allan Sanchez resigned last week. Experienced commission members talked a surprised Gardea into accepting the nomination, citing his extensive planning resume with Pasadena despite his junior status as a member of the Alhambra commission.