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The Villages Deliberations Extended by Planning Commission, Protested by Public

  • Protestors wear signs shaped like cars to protest traffic generated by the proposed Villages at The Alhambra, at City Hall on Monday July 20, 2020. Photo by Helen Arase

  • Sasha Renée Pérez protests the Villages on July 20, 2020 at City Hall. Photo by Helen Arase

  • Sean McMorris reminds the protestors to vote for campaign finance reform measure on the November ballot. Photo by Helen Arase

Location

Alhambra , CA

Objections are swelling against the proposed Villages at The Alhambra, against the housing project’s size, its environmental impact and the limited number of units set aside for low-income housing. This week, the protests grew to include the process under which the city is considering the development and the lack of affordable housing.

Members from Emery Park Community Group, Grassroots Alhambra and other groups supporting affordable housing demonstrated outside City Hall July 20 prior to a Planning Commission meeting to discuss the project.

Melissa Michelson, the rally organizer, strongly objected to what she said was an undemocratic process and a violation of California’s Brown Act’s requirements for open meetings.

At a previous Planning Commission meeting, city staff had grouped similarly worded or themed emailed comments together so that they effectively became a single statement.

She said the commission’s use of Zoom meeting technology violated the Brown Act because there are connectivity issues and some residents do not have or know how to use the software.

“They’ve been waiting 14 years for this, they can wait another year,” Michelson said. “If they would only open the doors and we could go inside,” she said, but acknowledged the COVID-19 pandemic complicates the democratic process.

At its meet, the Planning Commission met for three and a half hours to hear the developers’ presentation of the Villages project and public comment, but took no action, voting to continue the discussion at its Aug. 17 meeting. As a result, the time for public comment is still open. The 118 emailed comments were not able to be read into the record due to time constraints.

Other speakers at the rally included Board of Education candidate Ken Tang and City Council candidate Sasha Renée Pérez.

Pérez, a renter in Alhambra, said she is offended that the Villages complex would not address the city’s housing crisis. She said the pandemic is only going to exacerbate the need for affordable housing. Tang called for transparency and accountability.

In public comment, the Villages has support from the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce, members of the business and real estate community and residents who wanted to see growth in Alhambra.

The protest group of about 30 had planned to listen to the commission meeting together, but in an ironic demonstration of the complaints about the commission’s use of Zoom meetings, had connectivity issues, and organizers asked everyone to participate in the meeting from home.

At the close of the meeting, commission member Debra Moreno Garcia the theme she heard throughout the comments was a lack of public trust in the process. She suggested the commission “value the peoples’ voice,” time and effort.

Commission member Eric Garcia agreed, saying, “We’re asking the public to work with us in the Zoom effort. It’s very difficult. They’ve already accommodated us in many ways.”

The proposed area for the housing project is the block on the northeast corner of South Fremont Avenue and Mission Road, bordered by Fremont, Mission, Date Avenue and Orange Street. The architectural plans for the Villages can be found here.

The Ratkovich Company bought the C.F Braun engineering complex in 1999 from Halliburton, preserved the 1920-1950s era buildings and renamed it to The Alhambra.

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3 thoughts on “The Villages Deliberations Extended by Planning Commission, Protested by Public”

  1. The proposed project by the Ratkovich Corp. (real-estate developer) and Elite Int’l (wealth management firm) is the ultimate insult to the majority of people who live in the city and wider region:

    1. It’s the largest in-fill development in the history of the city in one of the most toxic and transportation-challenged areas. It’s own EIR finds “significant and unavoidable” impacts. By the way, it’s on a Superfund site with unresolved groundwater contamination issues and toxic vapor intrusion.

    2. It tries to justify this with an “over-riding consideration” that it’s addressing the housing crisis. It insults by setting aside 5% of the units at the “moderate” income level. Either completely out of touch or they think shelter is nothing more than a bargaining chip.

    3. It was made possible by a real-estate controlled local gov’t that spot zoned this 30+ acre parcel, increasing the Ratkovich’s land value astronomically without any provisions for a return to the community. While the more affluent areas of the city have their “quality of life” protected.

    Comments anyone? Planning commissioners, city council members, real-estate, YIMBYs, NIMBYs–let’s have a real discussion instead of this co-opted private advocacy performance.

  2. Melissa Michelson

    There is much needed reportage still. This is the first article about The Villages that has appeared, if I’m not mistaken. I look forward and hope that this outlet looks into the following to inform its readership and donors.

    the special spot zoning thanks to Mark Paulson who gets paid for consulting for the developers
    – who Elite International is and who their clients will be and what their role is
    – the contaminated land and whether what they’re proposing to do is adequate enough to put housing on; what was the site used for in the past nd was it thoroughly cleaned up and can it be for inhabitants in the future? Wasn’t this an issue with the Lowe’s lot across the street?
    – where is the data that show it is a ’walkable’ community (an industrial land is hardly a walkable community); and where the data is that shows the students and employees that are on the Alhambra property daily would even want to or can afford to live in a unit
    – how affordable the units will be, with HOA fees, and what the comps are, like Woodhaven 9 blocks away, or the the Midwick construction 2 miles down on Fremont. Doesn’t a 2-bedroom single-family house, like in the adjacent neighborhood of Emery Park sell for $650-700k these days – why would people prefer to live in a condo, and what people?
    – why the 710 freeway stub is not included on the related projects for calculating traffic and whether it should be, nor the gigantic empty lot across the street (former Lowes) – see ‘related projects’ chart attached
    – why in Dec. 2019 the Alhabmra School Board took a position on this development. Do they do that regularly? Why exactly is this one so ‘desierable’ as their resolution states? How many families and children are projected to live here?
    – what do the community that lives along Fremont have to say about the plan to dump 7500+ more cars PER DAY right there from the 1,061 units?

    This development has been in the works for months – no years, with it’s special zoning permit starting in 2006.

    Please find out more and report more often on this development.

  3. Melissa Michelson

    To be clear, the block that is mentioned in the article is a GIANT block: 38 acres of land for 1,061 condos and apartments, 4, 347 parking spaces, 7,752 more cars a DAY to Fremont. It’s all in the .pdf agenda packet of the Planning Commission available on the city’s website. What’s not available that’s very relevant is this must-see video about The Villages: https://youtu.be/wyGFu4eD8LM

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