Friday, August 1, 2014

Two new landmarks on the way!

The Historic Preservation Commission had a full agenda for their meeting of July 23, 2014.  In addition to welcoming new Commissioner Karen Bullis, the highlights of the meeting were the review of applications for two new historic landmarks.  
624 East Foothill Boulevard

First up was 624 East Foothill Boulevard.  In area that has an abundance of really impressive Craftsman Bungalows, sometimes we've overlooked a few gems and this is definitely one of them.  

The porch at 624 East Foothill Boulevard
This is a house that exemplifies the saying "it's all in the details".  At first glance, our thought was...nice Craftsman.  But look close, there's lots of stuff going on here.  Yes, its a Craftsman Bungalow but it's the Colonial Revival accents that make it unique.  There are few other Craftsman/Colonial mash-ups in town, but we'd have to say, that this one is probably one of the best.  The designers and builders of the house...the Tifal Brothers who are at the top of the list of the Who's Who of Monrovia Craftsmen.  

The Commission voted to recommend approval of Historic Landmark No. 131 to the City Council.

The next house for consideration is located at 240 West Hillcrest Boulevard.  Unlike the house on Foothill, this one has been on our radar for a long time.  Built in 1887, it is one of the oldest houses in Monrovia.  In fact it was built the same year Monrovia became a city. The house is a wonderful example of a dwelling from the Victorian era...also with some Colonial Revival components.  When the house was built, it was on the corner of Banana and Magnolia Avenues.  That's right, Hillcrest used to be called Banana.  In the early 1900's, the house was moved to the east to its current location.  It was then that the Colonial porch elements were added, as well as the granite foundation.

240 West Hillcrest Boulevard

In addition to the architecture, the house has some connections to William Monroe, one of Monrovia's founders.  The house was built for George Dumbell, who who was Monroe's bookkeeper.  

At the close of the hearing, the Commission also recommended approval to the City Council of Historic Landmark No. 132.

If you want to read more about either house, check out the staff reports: 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Station Square Open House: July 30, 2014

You're invited to the Station Square Open House next Wednesday, July 30th at the Monrovia Public Library (321 S. Myrtle Ave.).  Representatives will be on hand from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. to answer any questions you have about the area around the future Gold Line stop.  Don't have any burning questions to ask?  Feel free to swing by anyway to take a look at some photo renderings and listen to updates about the project. 

Don't forget to check out the City's Station Square webpage for the latest information.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Would you like a free pizza?

Blaze Pizza opens this weekend in Foothill Park Plaza, specifically, at 108 W. Foothill Boulevard.  Follow Blaze Pizza on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and grab yourself a free pizza from 11:00 a.m. to midnight.  However, the offer is good only this Saturday (7/26/2014).  

Casually referred to as “the Chipotle or Subway of pizza” Blaze is one of more than a half a dozen food chains using the new trend of assembly line style of custom ordering.  The pizzas are baked in hot ovens for only a few minutes, offering fast, customized pizzas that you may...or may not want to share.  Check out their website for more information.

So what does this all have to do with the Community Development Department?  Well, other then the fact that we do love our food...several divisions and boards were involved in the opening.  The Planning Division worked with the property manager and business owner to get the process going, then coordinated with the state Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control (ABC).  Next, the Planning Commission approved Blaze Pizza's conditional use permit to serve beer and wine, the Development Review Committee (DRC) approved their sign, and just today, the Business License Section issued Blaze Pizza's...what else, their business license.  And finally, the Building Division reviewed, approved and inspected their construction.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

We're back with some exciting news

Where did two months go?  Sometimes life (and work) just get in the way (but we're happy to have both!).

So if you are still with us, our loyal reader, we'll get back on track with a DRC update...

The Development Review Committee (DRC) celebrated its first meeting of summer on Wednesday, June 25 with a light agenda.  Most of the items were fairly standard and included a couple of residential remodels, review of a large family day care, a temporary use and a new sign for Blaze Pizza in the Foothill Park Plaza.  

(The answer to the question is soon...very soon.)

What wasn’t business as usual was DRC’s review of a new building for the BMW dealership.  This will replace their existing facility at 1425 South Mountain Avenue.  The proposed building will hold their entire operation in a 208,783 square foot, three story structure and will house the showroom, offices, service and lots and lots of storage for their inventory.

Over the past few years, Monrovia’s auto dealers have been remodeling their showrooms.  Infiniti is currently under construction.  BMW is the final dealership to update their facilities and in our opinion, it was worth the wait.  The proposed building has a modern look with lots of glass and steel…very contemporary…very BMW.

Although, the City’s Staff has been working with the applicant for several months, one of the primary purposes of DRC is to provide a consolidated review by the directors of each of the City’s departments involved in the construction and ultimately the operation of businesses in Monrovia.  The outcome of the meeting is a formal recommendation to the Planning Commission who ultimately has the authority to approve the project.

At the end of the review, DRC voted to recommend approval to the Planning Commission.  We expect that the Planning Commission will review the request at their meeting on August 13.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Couldn't have timed it better if we tried

You may recall, a couple of weeks ago we told you that the Historic Preservation Commission considered an application for historic landmark designation for the house 227 North Ivy Avenue. 

Don't remember?  Read about it here.

Well, now we are here to report--it's official!  On May 6, 2014, the City Council unanimously designated this property as Historic Landmark No. 130.  You can read the staff report here.

This followed an action earlier in the evening when the Council proclaimed the month of May as Historic Preservation Month which coincides with National and California Historic Preservation Months.

And speaking of preservation month, don't forget that Sunday, May 11 is the 32nd annual Mother's Day Home Tour put on by our friends at the Monrovia Historic Preservation Group.

We're still marveling at the serendipitous way this all worked out.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Thirty-seven Thousand, One Hundred and Sixty-two

For some May Day is the celebration of spring; others mark it as a reminder of the rights of laborers.  But whether you commemorate May 1 with a maypole, a march or a lei (as they do in Hawai’i), here in California it’s the known as the day that the California Department of Finance, affectionately known as DOF, releases the E-1 report.  Wahoo!

Hmmm…do we sense a less than enthusiastic response? 

The E-1 report is titled “Population and Housing Estimates for Cities, Counties, and the State” which has the population and housing estimates for cities…uh, well the title is self-explanatory.  

The report provides the estimated population for each jurisdiction in California as of January 1 of the current year.  Why is this important?  Well for so many reasons.  Don't worry, we'll only get into one and that is that many of the various revenue streams that local jurisdictions receive are based on population. Specifically, these projections.

So without getting too deep into the minutia, we’ll cut to the chase and get to the point of this post.

Monrovia’s estimated population as of January 1, 2014 is 37,162.  This represents a 0.53% increase over the 2013 estimate.

If you are a demographic geek like us, you can read all about it here.

Spoiler Alert:  Los Angeles is still the most populous city in California.

Monday, May 5, 2014

DRC Update - April 30, 2014

On Wednesday April 30, 2014 the Development Review Committee (DRC) reviewed the following requests:

  •  Signs
    • 935 E. Huntington Dr. (Fast5Express Car Wash): minor exception to allow a second wall sign on the Huntington Drive elevation and review of one directional sign and new location for previously approved monument sign (Approved) 
    • 111 W. Foothill Blvd. (Better Home Energy): new wall sign (Approved)
    • 107 N. Myrtle Ave. (Velocipedist Bicycle Company): new sign (Approved)
    • 130 W. Foothill Blvd (Pavilions): face change on pylon and monument sign (Approved)
    • 140 W. Foothill Blvd. (Starbucks Coffee): face change on pylon sign (Approved)
    • 120 W. Foothill Blvd. (Starlight Express): face change on pylon sign (Approved)
  • Design Review
    • 1963 S. Myrtle Ave.: design review  of a modification to an existing rooftop wireless facility (Approved)
    • 429 W. Duarte Rd.: design review to construct roof structures over six balconies (Approved)
  • Advisory Review 
    • 721 W. Duarte Rd.: seven townhome condominiums over subterranean garages and a variance request for a reduction in private recreation space (Recommended Approval to the Planning Commission)

Coming soon! 
Join us as we begin following the seven townhome condominium project at 721 W. Duarte Road from planning to completion.  We think it’ll be fun showing you how a project goes from a concept on paper to a built structure.  Stay tuned!

721 W. Duarte Road

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Behind the Scenes Video: Monrovia Gold Line Station Artwork

Take a behind the scenes look at the future Monrovia Gold Line Station artwork with the site's artist Cha-Rie Tang.  Ms. Tang's use of nature and Batchelder inspired tile will be another reason to visit Monrovia.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Coming Soon, a New Landmark for Monrovia

The Historic Preservation Commission met for their regular meeting on April 23, 2014, the highlight of the meeting was the review of an application for historic landmark status for the property at 227 North Ivy Avenue.  

Before restoration--note the enclosed porch.
We've walked and driven by this house so many times and to be honest, it never really caught our attention.  Over the years, many modifications were made that, at least from a preservationist’s point of view, could be classified as unfortunate.  The most prominent change was the enclosing of the front porch. 

Typically not ones to judge, but we can't help but ask, with a beautiful porch like that, what were they thinking? 

Fast forward to this time last year, the property sold.  The new owners had simply planned to fix it up a bit, but as the project moved along and stuff started coming off, they realized the treasure buried beneath—both outside and inside. 

After restoration
Talk about transformations.
The new owners removed the plywood porch enclosure and replaced the aluminum sliders (windows, not mini-burgers) with custom built wood windows that replicated the remaining original windows on the house.  So in the end, the house looked like it did when it was built in 1913 and would still be recognized by Charles and Gertrude Reed, the first owners.

"Stair step" rafter tails
 At first glance it appears to be a simple, but awfully nice two-story Craftsman Bungalow.  But as the saying goes…it’s in the details.  Most notably, the wide eaves, unique “stair step” rafter tails, and the oversized, extended front porch.  The Historic Preservation Commission determined that the house is a very good example of the Craftsman style and qualifies as a Monrovia Historic Landmark based on its architecture and recommended approval of designation to the City Council.  If the City Council approves designation, this will be landmark number 130.  The public hearing before the City Council is scheduled for May 6, 2014.

Oh, and the interesting grill in the front gable...although it had probably been there for a long time, the Commission determined that it was not original and should be removed.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ford sign

Several weeks back, we told you about a recently uncovered Ford sign in the space formerly occupied by Blockbuster on Foothill Blvd.  (just west of Myrtle).  At the time, we didn't know much else.  In fact, we were relying on our keen deductive abilities and were really going out on a limb that the “For” was actually "Ford". 

So now, in a nod to Paul Harvey, we give you…the rest of the story.

Home of Harry Nelson
126 Grand Avenue
Some preliminary research turned up an advertisement for the Nelson & Mosher Ford Agency.  In 1923, this business had an address of 119 W. White Oak Avenue (Foothill Boulevard's original name).  The owners of the business were Harry Nelson and Merle Mosher, both of whom were residents of Monrovia in the 1920s.  What we do know from early City Directories is that both men were involved with cars from an early time.  

The 1913-14 directory lists Merle Mosher as a chauffeur and Harry Nelson as an employee at the Monrovia Auto Livery company.  (Yes, early phone directories also included one’s occupation, too.)   Due to missing city directories, we are unable to determine exactly when their partnership began.  It had not formed in 1915 when H. Holdsworth advertised in the Monrovia Daily News that he had Fords for sale at 701 South Myrtle Avenue—“$625 f.o.b.”   (FOB stands for “free on board”, meaning that the buyer pays the shipping costs)

Automobiles were certainly a growing presence in Monrovia in the early 1920s.  Building permits from that time period document that many homeowners were building garages to complement their already existing homes, while building permits for new homes also included plans for a garage.   In 1922, there were at least eight car dealers in Monrovia including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Dodge, Nash, Studebaker, Packard and the Nelson & Mosher Ford Agency.  There was also at least one used car dealer at this time.  The car dealers were mainly located in the 100 and 200 block of South Myrtle, including the corner lot at Myrtle and White Oak.

If one looks into the rafters above the painted Ford sign, it is possible to make out the remnants of Nelson and Mosher’s names.


It appears from early insurance maps that the Ford sign was painted on an exterior wall that overlooked a narrow driveway or alley that allowed vehicle access to the rear of the property.   So when did the wall become part of an interior building?  There may be a clue in the dissolution of the Nelson/Mosher partnership.

By 1924, the Nelson & Mosher partnership no longer existed and Harry Nelson was the sole proprietor of Ford Sales and Service at 115-117 W. White Oak Ave., not the previously listed 119 W. White Oak Avenue.  Was this when the alley/building was remodeled?  Harry Nelson never bothered to paint over his previous partner’s name, so it is possible that at this time the exterior wall became an interior wall and was covered with plaster.  It is also interesting that Merle Mosher was no longer listed as a resident of Monrovia in 1924. 
Possible home of Merle Mosher
409 (405) East Olive Avenue

Also in 1924, Mosher’s Dry Goods which had been located at 425 South Myrtle since at least 1914 was no longer listed in the City Directory.  Assuming these Moshers were related, it appears the majority of the Mosher family left Monrovia at this time. 

Note the ads at the top and bottom of the page
from the 1922-23 Directory.
Coincidence?  Probably.
Harry Nelson maintained his Ford Agency in this location until at least 1931.  By 1946, Harry Nelson was no longer in the Ford business.  Monrovia’s Ford dealership was now located at 133 West Colorado Boulevard and was owned by Bud Miller.  Eventually, this property became part of a public parking lot and is now Colorado Commons.    

A final interesting note is an advertisement found in the Monrovia Daily News for the month of January 1915.   A realtor took out an advertisement for:

“Three lots on W. White Oak.   150 feet from Myrtle.  The lots were purchased by C.C. West for garage purposes but owing to the stand taken by the city authorities his plans have been abandoned.  Authorized to offer property at $3000” 

While it does not specify if these lots were on the north or south side of White Oak, if they are the north side lots they would include the site of the Mosher and Nelson Ford Agency.  Further research may uncover some answers—is this the actual location and what was the stand taken by city authorities?  So many questions...

Thanks to guest blogger Penny for all the research.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A sign of things to come...and signs too

The Development Review Committee (DRC) had a plethora of applications on the docket for review: an addition to an old house, a new house, lots of business activity and something really big.  Keep reading.

Three business wall signs were approved.  RPM Garage at 1136 South Myrtle Avenue and Glenridge Pool Supplies at 1206 South Myrtle Avenue are both new to Monrovia.  Welcome!  Also, Finishline Construction had their signage approved for their new location at 823 South Magnolia Avenue.

We’re always happy to see new businesses come to town and we’re even more excited when they thrive.  Old Town favorite, Peach CafĂ© (141 East Colorado Boulevard) has been open only for breakfast and lunch for the past 8 years.  Now that there's more and more nightlife, the owner thought it was time to start opening for dinner too.  DRC agreed.  So what we really want to know is if we can have hickory maple waffles for breakfast, lunch AND dinner? 

And the big item on the agenda?  A proposal for the first development in Station Square.  Finally.  ("What's Station Square?" Read more here.)  

About 10 years ago, the extension of the GoldLine moved from being a dream to reality and Monrovia began to develop its plans for the future.  BIG plans.  Alas, then came the Great Recession and then the shutdown of all redevelopment agencies in the state, including the Monrovia’s. 

The vision, retooled, is still big, but perhaps more realistic for the current times.  Several months ago, Staff began working with local developer Samuelson Fetter on the first new development in Station Square.  

At the meeting, DRC had their first review of the project in a process we call the “pre-application consultation”.  Fancy term for preliminary review.  This is an opportunity for DRC to review, comment and provide guidance on the proposal before the application is prepared and the formal process begins.  What is being proposed is a five-story, 261-unit apartment building that will be right next to the Monrovia Gold Line station. 

It was a very productive session, with Fire, Police, Public Works and Planning each giving direction and suggestion in their various disciplines.  We anticipate that the project will move into the public hearing phase in June.  We’ll be sure to keep you in the loop.

Next time you're in the area on a 2 PM...stop by to see DRC in action.  (That's every other Wednesday.  Check the website for details...and the agenda.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Happy Anniversary Peck Road Specific Plan

Who knew?

Although, there was no big party, we celebrated quietly with the Planning Commission at their March 12 meeting with a public hearing.  We know what you’re thinking, those wild and crazy Planners!

The request was for a new vehicle storage business proposed at 3331 Peck Road which is within the Peck Road Specific Plan.  The property is way down at the very southern tip of Monrovia.  South of the Duarte Road.  South of where Myrtle Avenue and Peck Road merge.  South of Live Oak Avenue.  This area is primarily known for gravel pits, Dry Dock, and Pick-a-Part.  (Yes, one of those gravel pits is in Monrovia.)

Peck Road Specific Plan Area
The new home of Jorge's Get Around Transport
Jorge’s Get Around Transport provides private transportation services in the area and will use this property to store their vehicles.  The property was previously improved for a similar business, so it’s a great match. 

This whole site has a long and not so glamorous history.  Many years ago, it started its commercial life as a quarry.  Then to fill the hole, it was used as a dump.  Once filled, there was a mobile home park…which started to sink and was then condemned. 

What to do with a property that can’t support buildings? 

In 1989, the Monrovia City Council adopted the Peck Road Specific Plan (PRSP) to identify the types of businesses that would be appropriate under these difficult conditions.  Over these past 25 years, the PRSP has been very successful in balancing the challenges of the site while maintaining the economic vitality of the property.  It’s always satisfying when the plan works.

Oh, yes, the Planning Commission unanimously and enthusiastically approved the conditional use permit and welcomed Jorge’s to Monrovia.

So, here’s an interesting bit of trivia.  This is the only area that we know of where you can pass through five different communities in the span of about a mile.  Seriously!  Along Myrtle Avenue/Peck Road between Wyland Way and Rio Hondo Parkway, you’ll drive through an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County, Monrovia, Irwindale, (Monrovia, passing Jorge’s, and Irwindale again), Arcadia, and El Monte.

There’s an interesting story about how this part of Monrovia became Monrovia.  Remind us to tell you about it sometime.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Coming to Town: Massage Envy

Massage Envy is coming soon to a portion of the former Blockbuster video location on Foothill Boulevard.  Tenant improvements (T.I.s) are still being made at the multi-tenant property, and we’d like to share with you a cool find.  Uncovered beneath the former Blockbuster site’s interior veneer is brick and concrete siding painted with a Ford logo.   

The lettering is only partial, so we’ll have to do a little digging in the archives to find out more.  In the coming weeks, we hope to bring you some details about the property’s history.  If you have any information that you’d like to share with us, we’d be happy to hear from you by email or phone (626) 932-5565. 

Aside from Massage Envy, a few vacancies still exist at the property, and we’ll keep you up to date on those units as soon as we hear something. 

Why Did Blockbuster Leave Us?

O how the times have changed.  It seems only yesterday that Blockbuster was the heavyweight champ of home entertainment.  Having effortlessly put mom and pop contenders and other national chains down on the canvas, Blockbuster looked to be the unconquerable champion.  However, sticking (and moving) with our boxing analogy, Blockbuster didn't see the left hook coming.     

According to legend, a man named Reed Hastings returned a late copy of Apollo 13 to his local Blockbuster in 1997. He was assessed a $40 late fee in what was likely the costliest charge of Blockbuster's existence. Two years later, the worm turned and Mr. Hastings founded Netflix.  In 2000, Blockbuster reportedly had the opportunity to purchase Netflix for $50 million, but passed. As Netflix gained more of a following and market share increased, Blockbuster attempted to catch up with the mail order service by copying pieces of the red envelope company's business model. In an attempt to compete with another red colored company, Redbox, Blockbuster also ventured out into the standalone kiosk model.  Dethroned by contenders such as Netflix and Redbox, the once complacent champ has struggled to return to its former glory. 

Fast forward to the present, streaming media is the new frontier of home entertainment. The options are plentiful and the competition is fierce.  Netflix, Amazon, Redbox, Roku, Hulu, and cable or satellite providers offer thousands of options at your fingertips.

As for Blockbuster, it was purchased by DISH in 2011. All remaining brick and mortar store locations have been closed, with the exception of 50 locations nationwide.  So why keep the 50 open?  They're independently owned mom and pops with no plans to call it quits.