Residents oppose development on possible Native American burial ground

The Spanish two-story house on 212 S. El Molino St. was built in 1926, designed by the same architect who built the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse. The 51,800-square-foot piece of land has surprisingly been left untouched, largely because the former owner believed the land was once a Native American burial ground.

The home on El Molino St.

But developer Arroyo Garden LLC purchased the property in November 2012 and is now building four two-story houses on the land, a development that has upset members of the Alhambra community and the Kizh Nation, a branch of the Gabrielino Native American tribe. Residents argue that building multiple units will add unwanted traffic to their small street. The Kizh Nation fears that the development possibly sits on top of sacred ground.

The Kizh Nation claims that before the federal government developed the lands in the San Gabriel area, the lot on El Molino used to be a burial ground for their ancestors. Several of the 500 members of the group came to the Jan. 13 City Council meeting, including Ernie Salas, the chief of the Kizh Nation, to ask the city to leave the lot undeveloped so as to not disturb any Native American remains that could be buried there.

“If they start any digging there, they will come into human remains or artifacts or whatever they can find. But what do they do? They don’t give them to us, they throw them away or they even get to keep our human remains,” Salas said. “We are caretakers of the cultural people who live there. This is why we’re here today. We want that place left as is.”

Norma Flores, Alhambra resident and member of the Kizh Nation, said that the city needed to stop construction because the land has a direct connection with the San Gabriel Mission, an area many members of the Gabrielino tribe once lived. “We are directly west of the Mission land. That is where the indigenous people lived. That’s one of the reasons why land has not been built upon, is that as recent as 1938 when my home was built, Gabrielenos still lived on the land,” Flores said. “As a Native American, it is my duty to protect the sacred and historic land of my people.”

Other Alhambra residents also opposed the project. John Kraft, a real estate appraiser and resident who lives on El Molino Street, said the large homes would stand out. “This may be an inappropriate use of the land and property,” Kraft said. “It’s a beautiful neighborhood. It’s small. If you build mansions that are 4,000 square feet, two stories, it’s really inappropriate.”

Resident Patricia Reyes said she supported development in the city but not at the expense of other residents, adding that more residential units will add more traffic. “Do you want to add 22 cars on a one-way block?” Reyes asked.

City Council expressed concern for Ernie Salas and the Kizh Nation but decided construction should proceed as long as the developer followed protocol set by the state, which includes hiring a representative from the Kizh Nation or the Native American Heritage Commission to be on the construction site at all times and reporting any remains to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, according to Director of Development Services Tara Schultz.

“I really have sympathy because I know this is a very emotional issue for you, Chief, and for your people,” Councilwoman Barbara Messina said to Salas. “It is a very time-consuming, sensitive process and the developer has assured us that he will take those same steps to assure that if anything is discovered, it will be treated accordingly. I know that’s probably not comforting right now to you.”

If the coroner’s office verifies any found bones belong to members of the Kizh Nation or the Gabrielinos, the remains will be returned to the members of the tribe.

Construction has continued at the property, according to Mark Paulson, a former Alhambra mayor and representative for Arroyo Garden LLC. He declined to comment further on the status of the development.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Kizh Nation was part of the Tongva tribe. We apologize for this error.

9 thoughts on “Residents oppose development on possible Native American burial ground”

  1. You couldn’t pay me to live in one of those structures. The Developer or his/her realtor must disclose what kind of site the homes are built on to potential buyers. There is a lot of baggage going with the title.

  2. “Mark Paulson, a former Alhambra mayor and representative for Arroyo Garden LLC.”

    You forgot to add, “…and long-time political/realtor profiteer.”

  3. As the individual that organized homeowners, appeared before the Design Review Board, Planning Commission, City Council and filed the Appeal, I appreciate the news coverage. In addition to the information reported, several issues need to clarified. It should be noted that city e-mailed a 126 page response to the appeal after 12 noon on the day of the Public Hearing. Unfortunately, I was not called, so discovered the document the day after the hearing. We were at major disadvantage during the Public Hearing, while developers, with links to city Hall, had been able to review documents submitted weeks prior.

    Although the Kizh Gabrieleno followed all City deadlines and have been against any and all development on the Rancheria Village, we have been ignored by the City of Alhambra.

    Any development on this land would be very bad Feng Suei, as developers have already started dumping construction waste in the lot and plan on filling in the land, covering the Kizh Indigenous Village, and probable human remains, forever.

    This land must be recognized and preserved under AB 52, as the home to Indigenous Kizh Gabrieleno , forced to build the Mission San Gabriel and El Molino Viejo as well as surrounding infrastructure by Junipero Serra. Most of our ancestors were victims of genocide and gentrification. Don’t let it happen again, thank you for taking the time to share part of our struggle!

  4. I see in the article that any human remains are to be returned to the tribe that claims their ancestors lived and were buried in this location.

    Is there a protocol where if a large number of remains are found that this will change or is it pretty cut and dried that any gravesites will simply be removed?

    As a realtor in the area, I know that many of the prospective buyers in town will be hesitant to purchase land that was a graveyard. Will be interesting to see how this works out for the developers who have done such a beautiful job restoring the original house on this property.

  5. please Mr. ALFRED DICIOCO …..YOUR ARE IN ERROR OF YOUR ARTICLE DATED 04/17/2014 ….PLEASE MAKE A EDITOR CORRECTION TO A VERY VERY SENSITIVE FACT ….THE NATIVE AMERICAN INDIAN TRIBE THAT IS CONCERNED ABOUT THIS SACRED GROUNDS CONCERN IN ALHAMBRA ARE “NOT” A BRANCH OF THE TONGVA ….
    THE GABRIELENO BAND OF MISSION INDIANS/KIZH NATION HAVE NO AFFILATION WITH THE “WORD” TONGVA AT ALL ..PLEASE DO NOT ASSOCIATE THE 2 TO EACH OTHER …. PLEASE …THIS DISTORTION OF HISTORY WE ARE TRYING TO CLEANUP …AND THIS IS VERY UPSETTING THAT YOU WOULD USE THE TONGVA WORD IN YOUR ARTICLE …I AM VICE CHAIR NADINE SALAS OF THE KIZH NATION GABRIELNO BAND OF MISSION INDIANS DBA AS “LOS INDIOS DE SAN GABRIELNO…. respectfully sir please know this … we are requesting you follow up with a editors correction ….THANK YOU …FOR MORE FACTUAL INFORMATION OUR WEBSITE ADDRSS IS http://www.gabrielenoindians.org

    1. I have made the correction, and I sincerely apologize for our error. Thank you very much for bringing it to our attention. -Nasrin Aboulhosn, Managing Editor

    2. This is for dear ole Nadine
      Hello, and Meyiha Nadine! AKA your Tongva name “Pig Woman”!!!! This is your ole pal “SkyEagle” again. Just a keeping an eye out for you fake a%* Kizh idiots! And as usual, your out there in Internet land! Spreading your lies and deceit to the public, once again!!! Don’t you morons ever get tired of hearing, or reading about yourselves? I mean, seriously? Hopefully, this will reach you, the public. I am SkyEagle of the Gabrieleno Tongva of San Gabriel. The real true Tongva of San Gabriel! This is to notify everyone, the Kizh are the real frauds!!!! In fact, the name ‘kizh’, is actually a Luiseno word! These idiots have been propagating lies to the people of Los Angeles for years! Claiming there the legit tribe, when there only members are cousins, aunts & uncles,etc! We of the Gabrieleno Tongva of San Gabriel, are officially registered with the California Indian Heritage Comission. They are not, we are the legit tribe. They’re the frauds!! If there is any legitamacy to this story, I hope measures are taken. But to be trueful, I’ve never heard of any real Tongva village being within the vicinity of Alhambra. Possibly, but….. I doubt it. And as far as that poor fool “Norma Flores”? Home girl, all you have is my pity, in more ways than one!

  6. Interesting! The developer is represented by an realtor…and former Alhambra mayor and councilperson, not an attorney.

    Gee,I wonder why?

    Can someone say “quid pro quo”?

    1. “Can someone say “quid pro quo”?”

      No, but you can say “business as usual in Alhambra.”

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