Lowe’s is pulling out

Pasadena Star News, Oct 27, 2017:  http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/2017/10/27/blame-game-begins-after-lowes-says-its-pulling-out-of-alhambra-development-on-south-fremont/

Lowe’s Home Improvement will not be coming to Alhambra, effectively killing a proposed development on South Fremont Avenue, the developer said Friday.

After the City Council in February effectively approved the Charles Company’s project — consisting of a 134,000-square-foot Lowe’s, two six-story office buildings and a six-level parking garage — Grassroots Alhambra, a local environmental group, sued to block the project claiming the traffic study conducted for it was inadequate.

George Ray, development/project manager for the Charles Company, said Lowe’s had decided several months ago to withdraw from the project. The developer negotiated with Grassroots Alhambra to reach a settlement that would convince Lowe’s to come back, but the time had come to kill the project and move on, Ray said.

“Lowe’s is risk averse,” Ray said. “They assumed the worst and that this was going to drag out for an undetermined amount of time, so in turn they decided to allocate their resources to other projects.”

Knowing that Lowe’s was prepared to pull out of the project, Ray said the Charles Company offered to put the office building phase of the development on hold while the Lowe’s would be built. He said the company would conduct a traffic study on the Lowe’s in any manner of the activists’ choosing and then determine how best to use the remaining land if the office buildings would create too much traffic on the already-congested Fremont Avenue.

“Our settlement proposals were never good enough,” Ray said. “I think they wanted to use us to have the city change its process. This was all a scheme due to some other internal city politics I’m not familiar with.”

In a statement, the Grassroots Alhambra board confirmed that it never opposed the components in the development, including the Lowe’s store, but sought for the developer to comply with applicable laws like the California Environmental Quality Act.

“It is the same standard by which we will judge any future development proposals on this land by the Charles Company,” the statement reads.

The real loser in all of this is Alhambra and its residents, said Sharon Gibbs, executive director of the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce.

Gibbs said the chamber has regularly received several calls a week since the Lowe’s store was announced from people asking when hiring events or job postings would become available for the store.

In addition, the Charles Company had estimated the sales tax returns to the city from Lowe’s was estimated to be $400,000 to $600,000 per year.

City Councilman David Mejia said he was disappointed at the loss in potential jobs and sales tax revenue.

“People sometimes complain about potholes not being filled, that we don’t have enough cops on the street, our swimming hours are too short,” Mejia said. “That sales tax revenue goes to the general fund to pay for all those things. It’s a great opportunity we lost.”

  • written by Christopher Yee
Advertisements

Feb. 27, 2017: What drove the Council’s decision to approve without a thorough study?

On Feb. 27, Alhambra citizens appealed the Planning Commission’s Jan 17 vote to approve the Lowe’s planned development on Fremont @ Mission, and took it to the City Council. Residents called for the City to ensure a comprehensive environmental and traffic study before developers build on contaminated land, at the crux of Fremont traffic, without a full Environmental Impact Report.    (Find out more about the project.)

fremont_typical_traffic-2

the projected site is on Fremont, between Mission Road and Concord Ave.

There was 1 hour of public testimony. Those 9 members of the public that spoke in favor of pushing through with the project without a more thorough and valid study included:

  • the son of former Councilmember Yamauchi
  • the owner of the existing land tract
  • two board members from the Chamber of Commerce
  • a Las Vegas developer

The meeting was videotaped by the city and is available to the public. 

Did you know? Councilmembers Maloney and Mejilla both received $5000 from the developer who is developing this project.  Their opponents did not take campaign money from developers who have their sights set on Alhambra.

Councilmember Ayala, who lives in the Emery Park neighborhood behind the project, believes Lowe’s won’t bring more traffic because there is already an Albertsons and Kohls nearby (logic???)  and assured the residents in the packed room that the contamination on the site will be cleaned up and there will be nothing to worry about. He also cited the history of the project where previously a Walmart was being considered; in his mind, the multi-million dollar Lowe’s would be an improvement, because according to him, it’s a “mom and pop store”.  Ayala complained that he hadn’t heard from residents about what other projects they would like there.  That’s probably because residents are under the impression that he is one of the leaders of the City and would investigate other options that fall within the industrial zoning ordinance — the Lowe’s does not– before voting for its construction as is.

Councilmember Messina stood by her decision and told the residents that that the Council only has the city’s best interest at heart — perhaps she meant the business community’s. She believed the initial report was “well over the basics.”

Councilmember Maloney acknowledged that building a Lowe’s would “have some impact” on the traffic, but assured the community that that can be mitigated, and he reminded the community that the City is planning on having a shuttle to and from the Gold Line station in South Pasadena, which obviously would only be feasible, should they wish to use it, for the employees in the office buildings (approx. 2,600).  Maloney’s assurance is based 100% on anecdotal and personal rationale as no study or survey has been conducted about how many vehicles the shuttle to the site alleviate from the street.  

Councilmember Sham had no problem with project’s study as is and repeated what Councilmember Maloney mentioned as the “solution”:  the shuttle to the Gold Line.

Councilmember Mejilla shared no rationale for his vote and asked no questions to the developer, thus his constituents have no idea what influenced his vote.  Several members of the audience, however, did have an idea what could have influenced his vote: $5000 from the developer directly to his, as well as Councilmember Maloney’s, election campaign 3.5 months prior.

The citizens that challenged the Planning Commission decision to the City Council are evaluating all options after this ill-informed decision.

Did you know? Neither Alhambra Planning Commission nor the City planners have answered the question “how many cars will be on Fremont throughout the day in the area of the planned development?” The City’s initial study indicates that 4000-8000+ cars per day may shop at Lowe’s, but the City has used a Lowe’s in Poway, CA–in  the middle-of-nowhere in rural San Diego–  to get those statistics! At 5pm on a weekday, approximately how many cars will be on Fremont along the route? How long will it take to drive 2 blocks? No one knows!

Citizens Appeal to City Council to make the right decision: Feb. 27, 2017

Set your calendars and come to Alhambra City Hall, 2nd floor, on Mon, Feb. 27 at 7pm for a public hearing before the City Council, who will vote on this project that could potentially bring 4000-8000+ more cars daily at Fremont/Mission,  according to the City’s  own studies, which were based on a rural Lowe’s in San Diego County. In reality, it will be more than that. Do YOU want more traffic on Fremont?

22 community members have filed an appeal to the Council, which cost $940, for the City Council to re-consider the Planning Commission’s decision.

Come support the community’s appeal:

  • Mon, Feb. 27 at 7pm

  • Alhambra City Hall 111 S. First Street, Alhambra

 

 

Residents filed the appeal on the grounds that the planning commission, who approved the permit, had not answered all resident questions about the project, that the traffic study was incomplete and that the land wasn’t properly zoned for a retail store like Lowe’s. — Alhambra Source, Feb. 16, 2017: http://www.alhambrasource.org/news/city-alhambra-sets-date-lowes-development-appeal

What happened at Planning Commission?

—  After 2+ hours of public testimony on Jan 17, 2017, the Alhambra Planning Commission voted 6-2 to approve the Lowes project, pending approval from the City to completely block off Meridian to through traffic into or from the Emery Park neighborhood.

Videos from Planning Commission:

Of the 7 people that spoke for it, one was former councilmember Stephen Placido, whose public comment card got put at the top and was first to speak, last to turn it in; another was the son of former councilmember Gary Yamauchi, another was an employee of the Charles Company Group that is developing the project, another one was a developer from Las Vegas who said he preferred Las Vegas where there are fewer obstructions to developing land, and so on. Over 25 residents spoke against the project, citing traffic, health and employment concerns.  Neither the city planners nor the commission told the public exactly how many cars would be on Fremont due to a Lowes coming in.

Watch what the Commissioners had to say, after 2+ hours of public comment:

Commissioner Tse asked if the vapor barrier is just for Lowes or the full site and whether there would be a site monitoring program. Answer: “maybe.” He voted for the project.

Commissioner Soto complained about the current traffic at Fremont and Valley, saying the problem at the intersection is because  because the cars block the intersection when they turn and suggested adding more police to give tickets there.  (Hmmm…Wonder why the cars block the intersection – because there are too many and the cars are all backed up on Fremont — exactly where the Lowes will be.  There will be more cars blocking the intersection now.)  She admitted the problem is exacerbated by outsiders driving in to town. Ms. Soto voted for the project.

Commissioner Bunker  compared the 2017 Lowes project to when the Costco was built, over 20 years ago–her logic being that we were afraid of traffic back then,  we adapted and there’s no traffic problem now, so this will be the same thing. Ms. Bunker, THAT’S NOT FREMONT AVENUE IN THE YEAR 2017! Ms. Bunker voted for the project.

Commissioner Hosokawa voted against the project, raising a concern that the city staff was not able to answer: “What studies have been done on health risk assessments based on increased traffic from Lowes”.

Commissioner Maza also voted against the project, and another commissioner was absent.

The city planners need to be held to a higher standard. Their false comparison of Lowes in rural Poway to a Lowes in urban Alhambra and the lack of thorough analysis should have been enough to postpone the project until they can provide sound data and analysis to the Planning Commission.

If you are not satisfied with the decision of the Planning Commission:

Please donate to this online fundraising campaign. Whatever is not used for this campaign, will be saved for future projects that the City undertakes without comprehensive review.

Resources & Press: Alhambra Court Commercial Development

On Tues. Jan 17,2017, with about a hundred people in attendance, the Planning Commission voted  6-2 to approve the project. (See videos below.) As of Jan. 18, 2017, residents are filing an appeal.

Donate!

Every bit helps towards litigation fees. Thank you!

Resources

Press

Some analysts think Lowe’s can gain ground by capturing more of the $120 billion professional home-improvement market. The average pro contractor customer at Home Depot spends $6,500 a year, while Lowe’s garners about $2,000 per pro. To narrow that gap, Lowe’s recently launched an e-commerce platform for contractors and began partnering with brands preferred by professionals, like Sherwin-Williams paints. Piper Jaffray analyst Peter Keith says those initiatives could enable Lowe’s to boost its overall growth.  http://fortune.com/2016/04/20/lowes-home-depot-stock/

(Lowe’s promoting professional contractor services, like Home Depot)

Videos

City’s Informational Meeting to community-Dec. 13, 2016, Emery Park

Part 1 – presentation videoimg_9361

Part 2 – presentation video

Part 3 – presentation video

Part 4: public comment begins video

There was a videographer at the meeting, but Development Services in City of Alhambra does not have a copy of that video. These were taken by a resident.

Video of Planning Commission, Jan 17, 2017, Alhambra City Hall

  1.  Part 1: Presentation + public comment
  2.  Part 2: Public comment cont.
  3. Part 3:  Planners/Developer’s rebuttal + Planning Commission discussion + vote

 

If you live in Emery Park, join our group! Fill out this form: