• > To to co-sign this letter, scroll down to the bottom.

      A walkway leading into a white checkered bui;ding with palm trees outside

      Alhambra City Hall (Photo – Frank Qiu)

      We, the citizens of Alhambra, deserve better.

      It is time to call a duck a duck. All of the signatories to this open letter, including many more represented by the named organizations and the many citizens of Alhambra, hereby express our collective dismay about this project and provide our suggestions for how it can be improved in order to make it a win-win project for all.

      Since at least a year ago, the Alhambra community, including our elected representatives, has been vocal and consistent in stating its demands in order to support this project:  More affordable housing on site, vapor mitigation to prevent future residents from becoming sick, a truly transit-oriented design that mitigates traffic concerns to the maximum extent, and increased public green space and other public amenities.  All of it.  Not one or two or three of the demands, but all of the above.

      Since February 2021, four Alhambra city council members have been negotiating with the developer’s representatives, with no apparent success in addressing any of these minimum requirements.  It is only fair to ask if these negotiations are occurring in good faith.   We have our doubts.

      Let us examine the public record.  During public hearings that began before the Planning Commission over a year ago and continuing to the present, the developer has only presented false, no-win choices and pitted different constituencies in the City against each other.  Everything is purposely and needlessly presented as a trade-off.  Affordable housing versus traffic.  Or affordable housing versus green space.  Traffic mitigation versus community benefit.  And, on and on and on.  On top of these are outright unsupported claims, such as 1) mythical, large tax benefits to the City and the schools in the future, with no backup or supportive evidence whatsoever; 2) claims that the residents will be safe with no mitigation — even though the project is located on a contaminated, Superfund site; and, (3) more recently, a truly Orwellian public article claiming that this is a transit-oriented development, overlooking its over-4,000 parking spaces.  We are not fooled.  And we are especially not fooled when the developer plays the “local-boy-Wayne-only-wants-the-best-for-his-City” sentimental card.

      We refuse these zero-sum trade-offs and choices, and we question these false claims.  We have a right to demand an end to these fallacious bargains between housing, traffic, contamination mitigation, and open space being offered by the developer.  We believe that with a little bit of creativity all of these elements can be accommodated.  The answer lies in a development design that is truly transit-oriented, not one pretending to be transit-oriented while providing two parking spots per unit. The current plan ensures that everyone buying or renting at the Villages will still be car-dependent while traffic on Fremont becomes even more grid-locked and nightmarish than imaginable.

      A truly win-win design for the project must incorporate a very simple and proven feature – reduce the parking on site.  Reduce it down to one car per unit or even lower.  That, and that alone, will make this project become what it now falsely claims to be – which is a truly transit-oriented development.  With this one change, the available land on the site will expand to enable more open space; development costs will be lowered, which will enable substantial affordable housing without the creation of horrendous additional traffic; and, finally, the false link between density and traffic will be broken.  With that in mind, the funds saved by reducing parking could be deployed to 1) mitigate contamination at the site to significantly curb potential health risks to future residents, 2) add more open space and walkability elements, and 3) add more community benefits.  Furthermore, a transit-oriented development will attract owners and renters who believe in and will actually use transit. Finally, and importantly, it will signal to regional officials from SCAG, Metro, and the like, as well as our elected representatives at all levels of government that they need to do their part while Alhambra does its part – and add more traffic mitigation, capacity, and transit options in the area.

      This is not rocket science.  It does not rely on magical thinking.  It does not push out uncertain mitigation (for traffic, for contamination, for air quality) into the future while creating certain and adverse impacts today.  It can accommodate each constituency’s needs: the citizens of Alhambra (no matter their concern, whether it is lack of housing in general, a lack of affordable housing in particular, worries about more traffic, worries about future safety from contamination, or all of the above); labor (who can be certain that this project will actually be built as opposed to being litigated for years); and the developer (who can take pride in bringing an actual win-win project as opposed to one dreamed-up by his PR consultants with no resemblance to reality).

      We will repeat our demands, again, for the 10th time here. We would like this development to: 1) exceed the IHO and provide 20% affordable housing set-aside by incorporating low and moderate income units in rental and for sale properties; 2) contribute to toxic vapor clean-up and engage in best-practice vapor intrusion mitigation including conducting indoor testing over a series of years; 3) mitigate traffic concerns by increasing neighborhood walkability and access to public transit (this includes creating a Transportation Demand Management program, a public shuttle to the Gold Line, etc), coupled with limited parking availability onsite; 4) create public amenities that are available to every Alhambran to enjoy including public park space.

      We believe that a project so conceived can meet, at a minimum, all of the City’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance (IHO) elements.  Frankly, the project should be able to do much more than the IHO requires and thereby actualize, rather than bogusly advertise, significant progress towards the City’s RHNA goals.  Simultaneously, a significant reduction in parking would make the project an actual transit-oriented development, one incorporating a proper transportation demand management (TDM) program that actually mitigates traffic impacts by reducing single-use occupancy vehicle trips to and from the development.  The money saved by not building monstrous, anachronistic parking structures will free up funds to properly mitigate contamination, create meaningful open space and desirable walkability, and generously provide for community needs.  And guess what?  All this can be done with the developer and his investors still earning a handsome return — especially given the low purchase price of the contaminated land years ago followed by questionable/murky enhancement of density and rezoning that the developer obtained for free from prior and pliant City officials.

      We challenge the developer and our City Council to rise to the occasion, to think creatively, and to involve citizens and their ideas to make this a win-win development for the City.  Doing so will make this singular and large development, the likes of which we will simply not see ever again in our City, something that all Alhambrans can enjoy and be proud of.

      Signatories:

      Organizations

      • The Coalition for Equitable Development at The Villages
      • Grassroots Alhambra

      Individuals

      • Chris Olson (Grant Writer, Alhambra resident)
      • Ron Sahu (Engineer, Alhambra resident)
      • Teresa Eilers (Community Organizer, Rosemead resident)
      • Efren Moreno Jr. (Former Alhambra Councilman, Alhambra resident)
      • Jose Aguayo (Alhambra resident)
      • Cliff Bender (Retired Teacher, Alhambra resident)
      • Oscar and Joyce Amaro (LA City Employees, Alhambra residents)
      • Michael Lawrence (Retired Veteran, Alhambra resident)
      • Shirley Tatsuno (Apartment Owner, Alhambra resident)
      • Aide Zeller (Alhambra resident)

      > To co-sign this letter, click on this link.

       

       

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