Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 was a pretty good year after all

At the start of 2013, we were feeling cautiously optimistic, which is how we felt at the beginning of 2012 and 2011 only to be slightly disillusioned.  But oh what a difference a year makes!  All those phone calls, emails, counter visits are definitely resulting in something tangible.  Finally, we can say with some surety that things are looking up.  In fact, the Planning Staff has had a very busy year and things do not look like they are slowing down.  Despite the length of this post, this is just a brief overview of some of what's been going on here.

Planning Commission
Let’s start with the Planning Commission, they reviewed 43 entitlements in 2013 a 35% increase over 2012.  Too numerous to mention all of them, some of the highlights include:
 Monrovia’s first microbrewery—or any brewery for that matter—Pacific Plate located at 1999 South Myrtle Avenue was approved at the beginning of the year and opened their doors a few months ago.  Hope you got a chance to try their "Christmas in a glass".
5th & Huntington
A new 154-unit apartment building at the corner of 5th & Huntington Drive was approved in the spring.  Construction plans are now being reviewed by the City and the developer is planning on breaking ground in the spring of 2014.  This will be a huge change for that corner and will make a terrific entry statement for Monrovia.
Del Taco is under construction at 945 East Huntington Drive, next to Fast5Xpress car wash which is also well under way.  Both businesses should be open in several months.  This was truly a collaborative process involving the residents of the mobile home park to the north, the developer, City Staff and also Duarte’s staff (since the City of Duarte owns half the street).
Del Taco


New Restaurants in Huntington Oaks
Chipotle, Smashburger, Panera have opened in a beautiful new building that replaced Acapulco in the Huntington Oaks Shopping Center.  Menchie’s frozen yogurt will be joining them soon.
Additionally, an expanded Union 76 service station and Giving Hands thrift store both received their approvals this year.  A 21-unit and 4-unit Planned Unit Development were approved at 1323 South Magnolia Avenue and 535 West Lemon Avenue, respectively.  The 18-unit Ivy at Monrovia condominiums should be completed mid-Winter 2014.

Ivy at Monrovia (Olive side)
Ivy at Monrovia (Ivy side)
Old Town continues to attract new restaurants.  Planet Cookie has transformed into Meridian.  S’Links at the south end of Old Town along with a new Japanese and bar and grill will make the 600 Block a hot dining destination.  Travel the world of food in the 600 Block.

Current Planning
Not every project, plan or permit is required to go before the Planning Commission.  The overwhelming majority of development is reviewed at a staff level.  From building remodels to landscape plans to new signage, the Planning counter has been busy this year.  Several existing businesses have completed or are in the process of doing major remodeling projects.  Popeye’s Chicken, the MonArc shopping center on Duarte Road (we’re still having trouble not referring to it as “the Super A center”) and AW Collision Center on South Mountain—big improvements to those buildings.

What's left of Wendy's
New Signs in Foothill Park Plaza

Wendy’s in the Foothill Park Plaza is undergoing its transformation…and speaking of Foothill Park Plaza, there have been several upgrades in 2013—new paint, parking lot improvements and a whole new sign program.
Literally, driving up the a good way
We’re happy to see that the car business is getting better too, both Sierra Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram (that’s a mouthful) and Mini Cooper completed big remodels.  Check out their new “sign”.  It puts a whole new spin to driving up the wall.  We weren’t sure about it on paper, but really like it in person.  Watch for further changes to Auto Row in 2014…big changes.

Historic Preservation
505 North Alta Vista Avenue
The Historic Preservation Commission reviewed two new historic landmarks for the register: #128 at 201 Acacia Avenue and #129 at 505 North Alta Vista Avenue.  The Commission is also responsible for reviewing and approving exterior changes to the City’s 129 historic landmarks.  If the Commission determines that the proposed change is consistent with the architectural and historic character of the property, a Certificate of Appropriateness (C of A) can be approved.  Eight C of A’s were approved this year.  As a “working Commission”, the Commissioners are often requested to serve on subcommittees to work out specific details.  Despite the apparent lack of progress on a couple projects, both the renovation of the Aztec Hotel and the complete remodel of the building at 316 South Myrtle Avenue have relied on their expertise.  We expect to see some visible progress on both properties over the next few months.

Advance Planning
Also known as long range Planning, this section of the Division is responsible for the update of the City’s General Plan and Zoning Ordinance.  In addition to a couple of project-specific amendments to the City’s General Plan, the primary focus in 2013 was the update of the Housing Element.  Over the year a consultant was hired to assist in the preparation of the Element.   This included a community workshop as well as a citywide survey was conducted earlier this year.  Public hearings will be held by the Planning Commission and City Council in early 2014.

Our staff processed an agreement to turn over the day-to-day activities related to monitoring film production in the Monrovia to FilmL.A., a non-profit organization to promote filming in Los Angeles County.  Working as adjunct staff, they will take over much of the legwork required in processing permits for filming production…at no cost to the City.

The City’s flagship transit program, Monrovia Transit dial-a-ride provided over 50,000 trips in 2013.  Watch for new vehicles in 2014.  The City’s portion of Proposition C monies (one of three countywide ½ cent transportation taxes) funded the resurfacing of the majority of Olive Avenue.

Gold Line construction is going full steam ahead and while the City’s Public Works Department is taking the lead on the interface with the new light rail system, many of the City’s divisions, including Planning, have been involved.  We’re all feeling the pain of construction, but in the end, we’re confident that this will be a great thing for Monrovia and the San Gabriel Valley. 
Well, there you have a very brief…ok not so brief overview of what’s been going on around “the counter.”  Although we’re not prone to make resolutions, we are striving to blog more often.   So stay tuned, there’s going to be a lot more good stuff coming soon. 

Happy New Year!