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.

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

Property

  • 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


Signs

  • 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

After
Before

Under Construction




South Elevation

Before
After



Under Construction



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

198 New Monrovians

Each May, the California Department of Finance (DOF) releases updated population estimates for all California cities and counties.  Not missing a beat, the state provided these estimates just in time to provide fodder for all those big May Day parties.

DOF estimates that as of January 1, 2013 Monrovia’s population is 36,943, a 0.5% increase over January 1, 2012. 

By comparison, California’s population increased 0.8% to a total of 37,966,417 and the population of Los Angeles County increased 0.7% to 9,958,091.

Those brainy demographers use a multitude of statistics, models and benchmarks including driver license data, building permit records, and housing occupancy rates.  Since building activity was still pretty slow last year, we attribute the majority of this increase to the decreasing number of foreclosed and vacant properties.  We welcome all of our new residents and neighbors.  

Want to know more?  Links to reports and press releases from the Demographic Unit of the Department of Finance can be found on their website.