Deliberations on The Villages will continue in Alhambra’s Planning Commission on Monday, October 19 at 7:00 pm.
By Melissa Michelson
What had been expected to be one or two meetings that would include the public’s comments the developer’s presentation and questions from the commissioners, turned into five meetings to hear the public’s comments alone (on July 20, August 17, August 31, September 8, and September 21). The public portion of the hearing is now closed. The Monday, October 19, meeting will be the second opportunity for developers to address the Commission.
387 individual members of the public had either sent in a comment to be read into the public record or called in to speak at the meetings. Because there were so many comments, the City implemented a robo-reader to read the comments at the September 8 and September 21 meetings instead of city staff, who had been previously been reading them aloud. The public’s comments were limited to 3 minutes each.
That so much time had been given to the public hearing sparked the developers’ attorney to send in a letter. In the August 6, 2020, letter the lawyer urged the Commissioners to bundle public comments rather than hear them separately, consider not reading them aloud at all and to extend their meetings past 10:30 pm. The attorney reiterating the contents of the letter at both the August 31 and September 8 meetings.
The Villages may be one of the largest, most controversial in Alhambra’s modern history. The Ratkovich Company and Elite International Investment want to build 545 luxury rentals and 516 for-sale units in five-story stacked configurations, with 4,347 total parking spaces. The majority (331) of the units for sale are 2-bedroom of 1,050 square feet each. Of the 545 rental units, 80 are proposed to be studio apartments at 625 interior square feet, 447 units to be of 1- and 2-bedroom configurations (775 and 1075 square feet respectively) and 21 units to have a 3-bedroom configuration of 1425 square feet.
The community opposition, led by groups like Emery Park Community group and the Coalition for Equitable Development at The Villages are concerned about environmental factors, lack of adequate traffic mitigation and a lack of affordable housing.
An inclusionary Housing Ordinance is going into effect next month, but The Villages is not mandated by the new ordinance.
The City of Alhambra acknowledges that the property is on EPA Superfund site, and according to the Environmental Impact Report, “Based on the analysis included in the FEIR [Final draft of the Environmental Impact Review], the Project would result in significant and unavoidable impacts related to Air Quality… and Transportation.”
531 residents have so far signed a Petition to Temporarily Halt Large Scale Developments. In response to the developer’s October 5 presentation to the Planning Commission, the Emery Park Community group has also put out a Myths and Facts sheet about The Villages. The developer’s October 5 presentation to the Planning Commission is available on the City of Alhambra’s website.
At the October 5 Planning Commission meeting, the developers tried to assure the Commission that their units are adequate for families and average Alhambrans. One example they gave of someone who might live in their units was a full-time Costco manager who would also have a second job.
At the end of the meeting, the Planning Commission requested an aerial video of the property. Instead, the developer put together a still graphic aerial, depicting the property in Alhambra’s industrial zone along the train tracks. Not visible is the 13-acre empty lot across the street on Fremont that had been slated for a Lowe’s superstore.
Monday October 19
On Monday October 19, the Planning Commission will first hear an overview of the 2021-2029 Housing Element Update of the Alhambra General Plan, which will also discuss state mandates and the Regional Housing Needs (RHNA) process. (The information packet for the 6:00 pm meeting and is here).
At 7:00 pm, the Planning Commission will hold a second meeting of the evening and continue to discuss The Villages. They can either:
- Approve the development as is,
- Reject it,
- or recommend modifications.
> Log-on instructions and the information packet are available at this link.
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