Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gold Line Station Square: Open House on 10/22/13

Curious about what's planned for the area around the future Gold Line station?  If so, drop by between 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday October 22nd for an Open House at the Knights of Columbus Hall, located at 130 W. Pomona Avenue.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Let's Play Two! Planning Commission's Version of a Doubleheader

Over the past seven days the Planning Commission has held two meetings.  The first was on Thursday, October 3 which was a special meeting/study session.  While all meetings are special, it’s called a “special meeting” when it happens at a time that is not part of their regularly scheduled meeting.  In this case, the meeting was called to hold a study session to provide the Commission and the public with an in-depth overview of the regulations, purpose and process of the Housing Element.   Check a couple posts back for more information about the Housing Element.

The “regular” meeting was on Wednesday, October 9.  This agenda was fairly light with two public hearings.  The Planning Commission approved these two applications:
  • A new four-unit Planned Unit Development for the property at 535 West Lemon Avenue.   This request will go on to the City Council for their review next month.
  • A second unit behind an existing house at 335 West Olive Avenue.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Reminder: Housing Element Study Session Tomorrow (10/3/2013) at 7:00 p.m.

Don't forget to join the Planning Commission tomorrow night for a special study session about the City's plans for future housing needs.  Here's the details:

Who: Open to the public.  All are welcome and encouraged to attend.
What: The topic of the night is the City's Housing Element.  (What's that?  Check out one of our earlier posts.)
When: Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: The Community Room at the Monrovia Public Library, located at 323 South Myrtle Avenue.
Why: This meeting will help shape Monrovia's approach to future housing needs.

For more information, feel free to call the City's Planning Division at (626) 932-5565 or email Planning Division Manager Craig Jimenez at cjimenez@ci.monrovia.ca.us.

Can't make it?  We'd still like to hear from you.  Take this quick survey to let us know your thoughts.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Housing Element is coming, the Housing Element is coming!

We need your help on a very short and sweet survey.  We’ll be the first to admit that the Housing Element may not be the most exciting or glamorous topic, but it addresses the very important issue of the community’s future housing needs.  The Housing Element is part of a City’s General Plan which is Monrovia’s long range blueprint to guide current decisions to achieve the established goals of the community.  There are seven required sections or “elements” of the General Plan: Land Use, Circulation, Housing, Noise, Safety, Open Space and Conservation.

Generally speaking, the General Plan is a long range planning document typically looking forward about 20 years.  There is no mandatory timeframe to update or adopt elements with the exception of the Housing Element.  State law requires that local jurisdictions update their Housing Element on a regular basis.  The current cycle of Housing Element will be for the planning period 2014-2021.  The purpose of the Housing Element is to establish policies and programs specifically to address Monrovia’s existing and projected housing needs for all economic segments of the community.

The first step in this process is to ask you, a resident of Monrovia, what you see as the community’s most important housing needs.
More housing options for seniors?
Affordable housing to allow your children to stay in Monrovia?
Programs to assist property owners on limited incomes to maintain their homes?

Additionally, the Planning Commission will be holding a special study session to provide their input and to give any interested people the opportunity to provide further input.  The meeting will be held on Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 7:00 PM in the Community Room at the Monrovia Public Library, 323 South Myrtle Avenue.

If you would like additional information, feel free to contact Planning Division Manager Craig Jimenez at cjimenez@ci.monrovia.ca.us.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

City Participates in CMP for Another Year

Traffic in L.A. can be a challenge.  (Tell me something I don’t know, right?)  Home to more than 9.8 million people, Los Angeles County is the most populous in the nation.  Aside from the ability to chant “We’re #1!” and wave those funny foam fingers at people living in other parts of the country, this distinction makes driving around the L.A. area quite a challenge. 

In response to the growing annual gridlock, a majority of cities across L.A. County collaborate in something called the Congestion Management Program, or CMP.  Voted into existence in 1990, the CMP is a slice of the statewide gas tax pie, dedicated to transportation relief efforts.  Handed down from the State to counties then from counties to cities, in football speak cities receive CMP funding by way of a double handoff.  Hut, hut, hike!

Monrovia has participated in the CMP program since its inception.  Earlier this August, City Staff presented a CMP update to City Council as part of an annual public hearing requirement of the program.  Council moved to approve the City’s participation in the CMP program for another year.  Following Council’s approval, the annual reporting documents were sent to Metro, the CMP administrator for Los Angeles County.  Metro also approved the City’s CMP documents, which means that Monrovia is in good standing for another year.  Hooray!  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Planning Commission Update - August 14, 2013

Service Station Sign Ordinance

Planning Commission recommended approval to the City Council for an amendment to the City’s Sign Ordinance for Service Stations.  The amendment will allow Service Stations to have one monument sign that displays electronic fuel prices.  

The Commission also placed the following stipulations:
  • LED prices cannot be changed more than once every 12 hours
  • The prices are only allowed to be adjusted downward in price (just kidding)

Second Hand Store - 925 W. Foothill Blvd.

The Planning Commission considered a request, to allow a secondhand store with a donation center called “Giving Hands,” to locate into the commercial building on the northeast corner of Foothill Boulevard and Lincoln Place.  Discussion took place regarding the pros and cons of such a use, especially with residential homes nearby.  The Planning Commission continued this request to  their next meeting on September 11th  to allow time to investigate some of the concerns expressed at the meeting.  

What a Fun Time at the 2013 MAP Conference!

What a fun time we had at the 2013 MAP Neighborhood Conference last Saturday!  Organized by Community Development Department staff, 250 people attended the fourth annual event.

Hosted at Monrovia High School, the 2013 Map Neighborhood Conference included 23 workshops and 30 information tables.  Some of the workshops offered were:
  • YOU are the Government and Mayor’s Bus Tour - Mary Ann Lutz, Mayor
  • Plan Monrovia - Laurie Lile, City Manager
  • Heart of Great Leadership - Ed Nicholls, Leadership Development Instructor
  • Housing Rights Workshop - Marisol Arzate, Director of Outreach and Education 
  • Good Planning = Good Places - Craig Jimenez, Planning Division Manager

Spanish speaking workshops were introduced this year in an effort to reach out to our Hispanic population in Monrovia. Coordinated in part by Ulises Gutierrez, 20 Spanish speaking members of our community attended the conference. 

Lunch was also a huge success with contributions from Something Healthy, Wendy’s, Jersey Mikes, Athens Services, Flame Broiler, and The Coffee Bean; providing participants with many delicious options to eat. 

A special thanks to Wells Fargo, Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, Monrovia Unified School District, Interior Services and Lunch Salon as our conference sponsors for their generosity and support to our local community.  Our wonderful volunteers that dedicated their time to serving our community that included Monrovia Police Explorers, Youth Commission, Teen Advisory Board and MAP Neighborhood Leaders. 

Our hope is that by the end of the conference, we were able to make a difference in the minds of our participants; encouraging them to reach out and start taking steps to improve their community. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pardon Our Dust While City Unveils New Website

Please pardon our dust.  During the next month or so, Over the Counter Blog links to the City of Monrovia's website may not be working properly. On August 1st, the City unveiled a new, interim website.  Monrovia's website team is hard at work moving all the existing content over to the new site, which means that links to the previous website will gradually phase out over the next month.  The new website is expected to be up and running by September.  Once everything is in good working order, we'll go back through previous Blog posts and update all the links. 

Additionally, if you have the City's website bookmarked, please take a minute to update your bookmark with the new website address: http://www.cityofmonrovia.org/

Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Monrovia Transit - Celebrating 30 Years in Monrovia

We’re not trying to toot our own horn here in the Community Development Department but…Monrovia Transit is celebrating its 30th Anniversary.  Hip, hip, hooray!  Since word has spread about this impressive milestone, Department Staff have been flooded with interview requests from TV, radio, and print media around the nation.  If you’d like to know more about the program, we've included a text version of an interview we gave recently on the Tonight Show.  Or, was it the Today Show? We've given so many interviews lately it's difficult to remember.  (Only kidding...it's from an interview for a City newsletter.  Enjoy!)   

What is Monrovia Transit?
That’s one of the questions I get asked most frequently.  Often referred to as “dial-a-ride,” Monrovia Transit is a curb-to-curb service that does not follow fixed routes or schedules.  Operating very much like an airport shuttle, you’ll share a ride with multiple passengers and the vehicle may make a few stops before your final location.  In other words, you tell us where to go and we’ll get you there – of course as long as it’s within our service area.  

Also, I’d like to mention that there isn’t a formal sign up process to use Monrovia Transit.  Passengers just need to call (626) 358-3538 to schedule a ride, which they can do 24-hours a day.  Monrovia Transit is open seven days a week, with the exception of a few holidays.  Monday through Friday the hours are from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.  On Saturday and Sunday the hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  For more information I’d encourage people to check out our website at: http://www.ci.monrovia.ca.us/transportation

What year did the Monrovia Transit start?  Why was it implemented?
It’s funny you should ask, this year marks Monrovia Transit’s 30th Anniversary.  Hey, wait a second…is that why we’re being interviewed?  Now I’m connecting the dots.  All joking aside, Monrovia Transit began in 1983 as a way to help seniors and disabled get around town.  Later the service expanded to include the general public as a way to improve the City’s public transportation offerings.  Since the City does not have control over the Metro and Foothill Transit bus lines, it filled in the gaps by opening up Monrovia Transit to the general public.  The only group we don’t provide service to is school aged children – at least not during the school year between the hours of 8:00 and 4:00 p.m.  The reason for that is school transportation would greatly impact the quality of our service, and could jeopardize our funding as well.

What’s Monrovia Transit’s Service Area?
Our service area includes the City of Monrovia, Bradbury, unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County adjacent to Monrovia, and Target in Duarte (a designated transfer point to Duarte Transit). With 24-hour notice, we’ll also take passengers to medical appointments at physician’s offices within three miles of City Limits, as well as the City of Hope.  While we won’t be taking people to the beach or Disneyland anytime soon, our service area is comprehensive.

The numbers. How many riders does it serve annually?  Can you estimate how many riders over the 30 years?
We’re averaging about 50,000 rides a year right now.  Or, more than 4,000 trips a month, depending how you’d like to break down the numbers.  The figures going back over the last 30 years would be difficult to say since the service has changed some over the years.  I’d need to dig into the files a bit to come up with that total.

Has the program changed over the 30 year history?
Yes.  We’re constantly looking for ways improve our service so changes are going to occur over time.  I mentioned two of our biggest changes earlier, becoming a general public service and the expansion of our service area.  We also get a lot of helpful feedback and new ideas through community outreach and customer comment cards that we’ve placed inside all of our Monrovia Transit vehicles.

Where does the funding come from?
Monrovia Transit is primarily funded by the City’s Proposition A Local Return, which is ½ cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 1980.  Additional money comes from farebox revenue, reimbursements from service contracts with the County of Los Angeles and City of Bradbury, and something called an Incentive Grant which we’re eligible for as a result of our contract with the County.  

Is there any interesting fact or tidbit that you think people will want to know?
Sure, there are a few I can think of off the top of my head.  One is that although our costs grow each year (due to personnel, fuel, and other expenses), our fare has not changed in some time. A one-way trip for our general public passenger is $1.00.  Seniors and disabled pay only $0.75.  Another fun fact is that we serve the public about 360 days a year, which is pretty impressive.  The final fact is that we transport over 50,000 passengers per year, which is the equivalent of over 4,000 riders per month.  In other words, we keep pretty busy.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

We're Changing Our Name...

Greetings!  After some careful thought, we've decided to officially change our name from the “Development Spotlight Blog” to the “Over the Counter Blog.” The name “Over the Counter” is a nod to our roots.  The Counter is the place where development activity begins as an idea, sometimes not more than a doodle on paper passed across a wooden counter. 

Despite the moniker, Community Development, our Department’s duties are as varied as Monrovia itself.  Our Staff wears many hats.  Since our Blog posts sometimes include items not related to development, this name change gives us a little more freedom to cover a range of topics related to the Community Development Department.  (Don’t worry we’re not going to start blogging on sports, food, or music anytime soon; although we’re a fan of all three).

You may have picked up that we’re partial to old movies, so with that explanation aside, we’ll tap into our inner Yul Brynner as we say, “So let it be written, so let it be done.”  The era of the “Over the Counter Blog” is under way.  We look forward to many more enjoyable years with you, our readers talking about things “over the counter”.

DRC Recap - July 17, 2013

Again, DRC had a fairly large agenda for their July 17 meeting.  Many of the items, while important, were fairly routine.  So without getting into all the minutia of the meeting, we’ll focus on some of the highlights. 

Building signs for Living Spaces at 407 West Huntington Drive are being replaced with very attractive, contemporary signs. 

Outdoor dining permit was approved for S’Links, a new restaurant specializing in gourmet hot dogs that will be opening soon at 630 South Myrtle Avenue.  

Façade remodel for the building at 720 East Huntington Drive for Lumber Liquidators.

Review of a new training facility at 2055 South Myrtle Avenue—that’s Monrovia Fire Station 102.

Support Monrovia businesses.  Shop local!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Planning Commission Update - July 10, 2013

The summer lull has hit.  The one and only public hearing was for a new beer and wine license for a new restaurant in Old Town.  Still, there was a whole lot of change going on…beginning with the annual reorganization of the Commission.  At the start of each year, fiscal year that is, the Commission elects a chair and vice chair for the upcoming year.  Following tradition, the Commission elected Vice Chair Carlos Parrague as the Chair of the Planning Commission and Commissioner Anne McIntosh as the new Vice Chair.  Additionally, the Commission welcomed the City’s two newly appointed Planning Commissioners, Robert McClellan and Karen Suarez.

With Commissioner Parrague assuming the chair, the meeting continued to the public hearing: review of a request for a conditional use permit (CUP) for a new restaurant to serve beer and wine.  The restaurant, which will be called Meridian, will serve Mediterranean fare…kabobs, fattoush, hummus, gyros…our mouths are watering already. Meridian will be located at 342 South Myrtle Avenue.  The CUP was approved. 

An Illustrative Example of Typical Mediterranean Food

The Commission then moved to the topic of stormwater regulations.  OK, so it’s not the most glamorous of topics, but making sure that stormwater, which eventually makes its way down to the ocean, has minimal pollutants is important—and mandatory under the Clean Water Act.  There are more acronyms than letters in the alphabet related to this topic: NPDES – National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System; MS4 – Municipal Separate Storm Water System; SUSMP – Standard Urban Stormwater Mitigation Plan…and the list keeps on going.

So what does this all mean?  Well, we’re still working on that, but luckily we’ve got some really smart, dedicated staff members over in the Environmental Services Section that are figuring it out for the City. Bottom line, most new development will need to capture the majority of rainwater on site and either for reuse (think rain barrels) or allowed to percolate down to the water table which will help to recharge the aquifers that supply most of our water.  The presentation was for information only and no action was required at this time.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

DRC Recap - July 3, 2013

Hi Readers!  We hope you had a good 4th of July.  Below is an update from the Development Review Committee's (DRC) July 3, 2013 meeting.  (If you're asking "What's DRC?," check out some of our prior posts for an overview.)  

Unless stated otherwise, the following items were reviewed and approved by DRC at the July 3rd meeting:

Residential Properties
  • 122 N. Alta Vista Ave. – Review of 3,250 sq. ft. home.
  • 123 McKinley Pl. – Minor exception to encroach into minimum side yard setback for an addition.
  • 732 Bonita St. – Review of window removal and replacement.  DRC did not approve this application.
  • 239 E. Hillcrest Blvd. – Review of new 2,992 sq. ft. home.
  • 873 Ridgeside Dr. – Minor exception, 5 ft. fence in lieu of 4 ft. in front yard setback and a patio cover setback 21.5 ft. in lieu of 25 ft.
  • 946 W. Colorado Blvd. – Review of 100 sq. ft. addition to west side of house.

Commercial Properties
  • 241 W. Huntington Dr. – Advisory review of Conditional Use Permit (C.U.P.) for a second-hand store with façade removal and Zoning Code Amendment.  DRC did not recommend approval.
  • 1451 S. Mountain Ave. – Review of architectural addition of a car on the building wall.
  • 925 W. Foothill Blvd. – Advisory review of C.U.P. for second-hand store.  Forwarded to Planning Commission with recommendation of approval with conditions.

Sign Review
  • 702 E. Huntington Dr. – Advisory review for Code Amendment to allow LED (Electric) price sign at service (gas) stations.  Forwarded to Planning Commission with a recommendation for approval.
  • 702 E. Huntington Dr. – Review of modification to canopy and sign face change for Shell Service station.
  • 720 E. Huntington Dr. – Review of wall sign for Lumber Liquidator.  
If you'd like to know more about Business Signage in the City of Monrovia, click here.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Historic Landmark Number 128

Like most departments within City Hall, the Planning staff wears many different hats.  In addition to land use approvals, zoning inquiries, and design review, the Planning Division also administers the City’s Historic Preservation Program.

The Historic Preservation Ordinance was adopted in 1995 and created a program to recognize structures that have historic or architectural significance by designating them as historic landmarks.  What makes Monrovia’s program unique and so successful is the fact that it is voluntary.  The property owner has to consent to the application.  The Historic Preservation Commission, a panel of Monrovia residents, was established to serve as an advisory body to the City Council on matters related to historic preservation.  

A couple of weeks ago, upon recommendation of the Historic Preservation Commission, the City Council approved the 128th historic landmark for the house at 201 Acacia Avenue.   This house was built in 1928 and is an example of the Tudor Revival style.  The house has been wonderfully maintained over the years and is substantially “intact”.  There are many typical elements incorporated into this house that are representative of the Tudor style including the steep gabled roof, half timbers, vertically oriented windows and an attractive arched entry trimmed with brick.  This house represents typical residential housing built in the late 1920s in Southern California reflecting the aesthetic of the Eclectic movement.

Eclectic movement?

As the California/Craftsman Bungalow craze of the teens and early 1920s began to fall out of favor, residential structures built during this period were a mix of architectural styles.  The Eclectic Revival styles took their cue from the Old World styles: Spanish, French, Mediterranean, Dutch and in the case of this house, English Tudor.  Name some architectural style from the past and there was probably a revival and it was probably in the Los Angeles area.  Here’s a few that come to mind:

Mayan Revival—Monrovia’s own Aztec Hotel
Pueblo Revival—338 Highland Place
Egyptian Revival—Egyptian Theater in Hollywood

While Eclecticism typically emphasized accurate copies drawn from the originals, Southern California examples from this period frequently took liberties by incorporating other architectural elements which often resulted in whimsical interpretations of established architectural styles, not unlike a Hollywood movie set.  Coincidence?  Some architectural historians think not.

For Monrovians, the Spanish Colonial Revival seemed to be the predominant style of choice during this period, but there are a fair number of Tudor, French and even a few Monterey and Colonial Revival sprinkled throughout our neighborhoods.

We hope we sparked your interest. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Project Update: 212-216 West Olive Avenue

Picture this—collaborating for weeks on a new development with an architect, working out all the details to make sure that the project not only looks good, but also fits in with its surroundings.  The plans look great, project gets approved, and then during construction you realize something is not quite right…or sometimes just plain wrong.  Nightmare!  Ask almost any city planner and we can tell you about that one project that we ask ourselves, “What was I thinking?” (Luckily that doesn't happen often or we wouldn't have jobs).

On the other hand, there is nothing more satisfying than when a project exceeds our expectations and in our opinion, the recently completed Planned Unit Development at 212-216 West Olive Avenue fits that scenario to a "T."

Now, if you are a long time reader of this blog, and we mean back to post #1, you may recall we blogged about this last August.  The development incorporated three new houses around an 80-year old house which was fully rehabilitated in the process.  We were a fan of the project then and even more so now.   We hope you think so too.

View of Property from W. Olive Ave.

After: 80 Year-Old Home

Before: 80 Year-Old Home

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Approval of 21-Unit Planned Unit Development (PUD)

At their June 4th meeting, the City Council approved a new 21-unit Planned Unit Development (PUD) at 1323 South Magnolia Avenue.  The property is part of the First Lutheran Church.  The development will be on the southern portion of the property replacing the school buildings.  The staff report has all the details, but in a nutshell, here’s what was approved. 

The development has 21 two-story, detached houses ranging in size from 1,579 to 1,870 square feet, each with an attached 2-car garage and private yard.  The architecture is a modern Craftsman style with a combination of wood siding and stucco with stone veneer accents. 

A planned unit development or PUD (“P-U-D”) is sort of a hybrid between a single family subdivision and a condominium.  As opposed to a condominium where the owner has title to the “airspace”, a PUD owner holds title (legal-speak for “owns”) to the building as well as the ground and usually the surrounding yard area.  There is still a homeowners association that is responsible for maintaining the common areas like the driveway and common landscaped areas and the exteriors of the houses.

Artist Rendering of 21-Unit PUD at 1323 S. Magnolia Ave.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Bring On the Burgers and Burritos

The walls of the former Acapulco restaurant are tumbling down, making way for Smashburger and Chipotle.  Demo permits were issued and Caterpillar (CAT) machines are rumbling on site.  For an early glimpse of the demo, check out this picture from the Gem City Images Blog.

If you'd like a little more background about the construction.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

5th & Huntington Project

It’s amazing how many people—even Monrovians—think that the western City limit on Huntington Drive is the Foothill Freeway.  In reality, you need to go a couple of more blocks to Fifth Avenue which is the boundary between Monrovia and Arcadia—from the foothills all the way to Duarte Road.

But we digress, this week the City Council approved a new residential development just south of the corner of Fifth and Huntington.  The project is named 5th & Huntington.  How apropos.

Site Plan for 5th & Huntington Project

The approved project will replace the existing self storage facility and a small industrial complex with a four story, 154-unit apartment complex developed by Lincoln Property Company.  There will also be a small 1,340 square foot commercial space at the north corner of the building.

Existing Site

Several years ago, the City’s General Plan was amended to encourage higher density development in specific areas of the City: West Huntington Drive, Station Square, and the Old Town Extension Area (Myrtle Avenue, between Olive and Maple Avenues).

The Planning Commission reviewed the proposal last month, recommending approval to the City Council.  Not that we’re biased, but we think it looks great and will be an impressive entry statement for the West Huntington Drive Corridor.

Rendering of the 5th & Huntington Project

Looking for more information, click here for the staff report.  Even more?  Check out the Specific Plan for more information then you would ever want to know.  That is unless you are a Planner, too.

Let's Paint the Town

Monrovia is one of four California cities competing in a national campaign titled "Main Street Matters."  Sponsored by Benjamin Moore, 20 cities across the U.S. will receive fresh coats of paint on main street.  How can you help increase Monrovia's odds of winning?  Vote.  Here's how:
  • Click here 
  • Then, click on the State of California on the map to vote for Monrovia 
  • You can vote once per day  

A video introduction to the campaign is included below:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How to Get Blog Updates Sent Directly to You

Recently, quite a few people have shown an interest in subscribing to our Blog.  In response we'd like to say, "Welcome aboard!  We knew someone as intelligent, witty, and sophisticated as you would know a great Blog when you saw one."

Whether you choose to follow us on our new Twitter account or by email, you'll find it easy to stay in the loop on the latest developments and related items in the City of Monrovia.

Since following by Twitter is pretty straight forward (that's if you already have an account), we've only included a tutorial for email delivery below:

How to Follow By Email

1. On the right hand side of the Blog, enter your email in the "Follow By Email" section.

2. After you enter your email, a window will pop up asking you to confirm your request.  You will need to type the text you see into the box and click "Complete Subscription Request."  For example, in the screen shot below, you would type "exiew" into the box.  The words are case sensitive so if the text uses capital letters, you will need to use caps as well.

3.   A confirmation email will be sent to your email.  Click on the link in the email to activate your subscription.  (If you do not receive the email within a minute or two, it might be in your junk email.)

And that's it!  You're all done.  Look for us in your inbox soon.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

21st Century transportation is bringing revitalization to many rail stations from the last century.  Look at the Claremont depot (which is the sister station to Monrovia’s) and one of our all-time favorite buildings Los Angeles Union Station.
Most Monrovians are familiar with the sad state of the historic Monrovia Depot.  Over the years, the City tried to come to the rescue of this important building.  The problem was—well there were many problems, but the biggest hurdle was that the City did not own or have control of the property.  Then there was the money issue…

The final passenger left the depot 41 years ago, on May 12, 1972.  With that, the Monrovia Depot started its gradual descent into a shadow of its former self.  The Depot has weathered many plagues over the years: vandals and fires and bees, oh my!  But there it stands waiting patiently for a better day.  Dramatic?  You bet!  A train wreck?  We hope not.

Things are looking up for our beleaguered heroine of Monrovia’s transportation history.  The City recently entered into an agreement with the Gold Line Construction Authority to swap the Depot property for property that will house the parking structure for the new Gold Line station.  Ownership issue solved.

City Staff recently applied for another grant for restoration funds, this time from Metro under their Call for Projects program.  We’re waiting patiently and hope to find out this summer if the City will get the requested funds.  Show us the money and we’re ready to move full steam ahead.  If all goes as planned, this will all coincide with the opening of the Monrovia Station of the Gold Line in early 2015.  Money—check (fingers crossed).

At this point, you’re probably asking yourself, where is this story going?  Did they loose their train of thought?

So, let’s get this back on track.

We’re taking this as a sign of good things to come; this week, we saw the light.  Seriously.  Not only did we see it, we have it—an original light fixture that was…umm…rescued from a likely tragic ending when it was removed 40 years ago.

A couple of days ago, Don from Oregon paid City Hall a visit bearing a gift.  After hearing that the City was working to restore the building, he made a trip back to his hometown to transfer stewardship of the fixture to the City.  The light, which is in beautiful condition, provides an important piece of the restoration puzzle since the original architectural plans do not provide all of the details.

…and now you know…the rest of the story. 

Well, almost...who's Don, you ask?  Well, Don grew up in Monrovia and saw an opportunity to preserve a bit of Monrovia history.  Even though he no longer lives in the state, he's still a Monrovian at heart.  Don't worry Don, your secret is safe with us and we're sure the statute of limitations expired years ago!

PS  Although she’s not quite ready for her close-up, the best pictures around are featured on one of our favorite blogs: Gem CityImages

PPS Also, there’s a great photostream of her as seen in better days on Flickr put together by our friends at the Monrovia Public Library.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Just the Facts, Ma'am - DRC Recap, May 8, 2013

We gave a brief overview of the Development Review Committee (DRC) in an earlier post, so in this blog entry we'll give you just the facts, ma'am.  (By the way, even though Sgt. Joe Friday apparently never uttered those words on the iconic radio and TV show Dragnet, he should have. The phrase fits his character to a "T.")

Photo courtesy of pumpkinfm.com

At the May 8, 2013 meeting, DRC reviewed and approved the following items:

Outdoor Dining

  • 506 S. Myrtle Ave. - Review of outdoor seating.  Approved with the condition of an encroachment permit


  • 1701 Alamitas Ave. - Minor exception for side yard encroachment for addition 
  • 1418 Contented Lane - Minor exception for side, rear, and front yard encroachment.  Approved with conditions for the front, side, and rear yard setbacks
  • 318 N. Encinitas - Grading plan for new single family residence
  • 1625 S. Mountain - Request for permanent cafe kiosk in front of Home Depot
  • 509 Valmont Dr. - Minor exception for a retaining wall at the rear of the property.  Approved with the condition that fencing will not have spikes


  • 215 E. Foothill Blvd. - Wall signs face change and pole sign, all with lit backgrounds
  • 600 W. Huntington Dr. - Review of sign program for new multi-unit building at 600-608 W. Huntington Blvd.
  • 620 S. Myrtle Ave. - Special advertising device (television) in chamber lobby facing the street.  Approval was granted with the following conditions: TV and other signage shall not exceed 10% of glazing; TV hours are permitted daily from 8:00 a.m.to 6:00 p.m.; all cords must be hidden from public view
  • 1515 S. Myrtle - Minor exception to extend maximum face square footage and height of sign.  Approved with the condition that backgrounds shall be opaque so only letters and numbers shine at night

Special Events

  • 311 W. Foothill Blvd. (Aztec Hotel) - Review of special event for June 8, 2013 (Edit: we've received a few questions about the special event so we wanted to update this post.  The Aztec will be hosting a Sacred Self Expo.  For more information check out the Aztec's Facebook page and the Expo's website.)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Is L.A. in a Housing Bubble or Boom? It Depends on Who You Ask.

L.A’s in the midst of a housing trend.  What kind of trend?  Well, like the title says…it depends.  Prices are on the rise and many industry pros are dividing into two camps – bubble or boom.  In this post, we’ll talk about the “why” behind the trend and how this story is playing out in the City of Monrovia.  We’ll leave the conclusion about whether we’re in the middle of a bubble or boom up to you since we know better than to get into the prediction business (at least while our crystal ball is in the shop getting repaired).  

Housing Supply
According to several articles published last month in the L.A. Times (1, 2, 3), there’s a shortage of housing supply in the L.A. area, driving up the demand for homes on the market.   Bidding wars have begun to return, reminiscent of the bubble period preceding the last housing crash.  Housing bulls and bears differ as to whether these patterns are symbolic of a solid recovery or indicative of an impending collapse.  Bulls are predicting a hard charge forward, supported by low interest rates and low risk of another foreclosure.  Bears growl in reply stating that the market is in speculative territory since median prices have risen twice as fast as incomes since 2000.  Which camp should you believe?  We have no idea.

The Times articles support what we've been hearing at the Community Development counter.  Our folks in the housing trade have shared that the demand for housing in Monrovia is currently outstripping supply.  In some cases, buyers have purchased properties prior to completion of construction out of fear that competing offers would soon swoop in and nab the home.  Multiple offers on a property are also becoming much more common.

Price of Housing
Home prices are not exempt from the basic rules of supply and demand.  When short supply meets high demand, prices begin to climb.  According to Dataquick, median home prices in L.A. County rose 19% over the previous year in February and 24% in March.  How did Monrovia fare during that period? The results are mixed.  Median home prices increased 100% in year-over-year comparison for the month of February 2013.  In contrast, prices fell by 3% in March 2013.

Mortgage Interest Rates
Historically low mortgage interest rates are adding fuel to the housing price hike.  Thirty year fixed loans with rates around 3.5% are terms not seen in decades; causing a “once in a lifetime” buying mentality. 

In Closing
Whether we’re in a boom or bubble, a trend clearly has emerged in the L.A. housing market.  We’ll keep you posted on what we’re seeing and hearing here at the Community Development counter, as we wait for either the bulls or bears to declare “I told you so.”  Until then, place your bets, grab some popcorn, and find a good seat to watch the latest go-round on the housing market roller coaster.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Mini Cooper's Bold New Look

Over the past few months the “Mini of Monrovia” auto dealership has been undergoing a major renovation…basically it can be considered a very successful facelift.  This dealership building has been rejuvenated and its tired face looks at least 20 years younger! You can view the results at 1451 South Mountain or passing by on the 210 freeway. You should be pleasantly surprised with its bold new youthful look.  

East Elevation


Under Construction

South Elevation


Under Construction