Thursday, December 17, 2015

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Happy Thursday, loyal readers! We're back with a brand new Development Review Committee recap! We must apologize for our recent lack of updates. With all of the holiday hustle and bustle plus a whole lot of new, exciting, and large projects about town, we turned around and suddenly two months had gone by without a blog update! The old saying really is true - time flies when you're having fun!

The DRC heard several items this week, and we wanted to draw your attention to a few interesting tidbits. First up, there's a new micro-brewer in town! Well, they haven't quite opened their doors yet, but this week REV Winery/REV Brewing Co. went before the DRC with a request to open a manufacturing facility (plus tasting room!) at Hamby Park. This is a new use at Hamby Park that will add an attraction to the overall development of Station Square Transit Village. The DRC forwarded their recommendation of approval to the Planning Commission, who will hear the item early next year. Once operations begin, visitors may be able to catch a performance of some live music in addition to being able to taste REV's organic wines and heady brews. With new businesses "REVing" up Station Square, Monrovians will soon have a new vibrant and bustling neighborhood to check out!

But, don't worry, because our beloved Old Town Monrovia is also blossoming with fresh and exciting businesses. For example, a new restaurant called Sow House located at 402-404 South Myrtle Avenue, previously home to Cafe Opera, just moved into town. With its emphasis on local, fresh, and organic ingredients, this restaurant is "sowing" fresh seeds and introducing a new style of restaurant to Old Town. Sow House will also offer live entertainment on weekend evenings through the end of the year, and will be requesting that the Planning Commission allow live music on a permanent basis. 

We also want to remind you that Orchard Supply Hardware is gearing up to open their Monrovia location at 725 West Huntington Drive. They were back before DRC this week to ask for allowance of seasonal display items in front of the store. This request was approved, and DRC ascertained that OSH is going full speed ahead for their new store. Sorry... we couldn't think of a clever pun for OSH. However, we are gOSH sure excited to have a new home improvement store in town!!

Finally, we would like to wish a very fond farewell to our DRC Chair and Community Development Director, Steve Sizemore, who is retiring at the end of the year. Steve is beloved here in Monrovia and we want to thank him for his guidance, insight, and humor through the years. Good luck, Steve!!!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

In the lastest edition of DRC...

Well, what a week this has been! Not only were we preparing for DRC, but the Planning Commission meeting was also held the same day. Even though it was a short agenda, DRC did welcome new business and said goodbye to one of our beloved oak trees. Take a look below for a recap of the October 14th DRC meeting.

A minor exception was requested for a single family residence at 200 block of West Cypress Avenue for an addition to the front of house. Basically, the property owner wanted to continue the existing setback that does not meet the minimum. We understand that requiring the existing development standards can affect the design or look of a home, so the minor exception process was the way to go. If approved, it would allow for the owner to add over 800 square feet to their home. After much deliberation, DRC unanimously approved the minor exception. Woohoo!

On a different note, we will bid farewell to one of our beloved oak trees in town. We received an oak tree removal permit for a property located on the 200 block of Melrose Avenue. The applicant provide an arborist report with an assessment addressing the condition of an existing oak tree in the front yard. The arborist recommended that it is in advanced and irreparable decline and it should be removed immediately. Let us take a minute to remember that great oak tree and the wonderful canopy it once possessed...

On a lighter note, we have several new business coming to town!

A new monument sign was approved for Westport Construction Inc. on the 100 block of West Maple Avenue. 

Good Fortune Supermarket will be replace Hong Kong Supermarket. We wish Good Fortune Supermarket good luck!

And finally, the new signs for the Taco Bell Remodel at 140 West Huntington Drive. For all you drive-thru Pizza Hut lovers, make sure that you take advantage of pizzas while they're still hot. The new remodel will only be for the Taco Bell and pizza will no longer be available. 

Tune in next time, for the next edition of DRC....this is the Planning Division, signing off.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Coming Soon...

We've said it once and we'll say it again... Our little town is getting pretty famous! 

Early next month, two of everybody's favorite Saturday Night Live alumni will be in town filming for a major motion picture.  The filming for the Warner Brothers project will be taking place in two residential neighborhoods and in Old Town Monrovia.  There may be a little extra traffic and a little less parking during the first week of October, but, rest assured, the filming will wrap up in less than a week.  And once the movie is released, expect to see some of our downtown businesses prominently featured! 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Here's to the next score or two!

Historic Landmark No. 1
231 North Primrose Avenue
It's hard to believe, but the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) is celebrating it's 20th anniversary. 

On the evening of September 26, 1995 in the City Manager's Conference Room at City Hall, HPC convened it's first meeting.  The agenda included a discussion of meeting procedures, the upcoming work program and the always exciting Brown Act!  

OK, so the Brown Act is not all that exciting, but it is a very important law that every appointed and elected official must be well versed in to ensure transparency in conducting City business. 

That night, the Commission's first order of business was to select a chair and vice-chair for the Commission.  Scott Thomas, and Steve Baker, respectively were unanimously elected.

In 20 years, the Historic Preservation Commission has made very important contributions to the preservation of Monrovia's built environment.  So today we want to thank and acknowledge each of our current and former Historic Preservation Commissioners...all 21 of them.

Steve Baker                           1995-2005                
Donna Baker                          1995-2000, 2002-2015        
Kent Cornwall                         1995-2000
Anne McIntosh                       1995-2004
John Petrovich                        1995-2001
Tim Shea                               1995-2015
Scott Thomas                         1995-2001
Jimi Hendrix                           2001-                          
Coulter Winn                          2001-2008                            
Peter Fisk                               2002-2005                     
Penny Zuk                              2004-                           
Hany Malak                            2005-2007    
Marianne Lee                          2005-                                      
Scott Austin                            2007-2011              
Javier Gonzalez-Camarillo        2008-2014                     
David Palomares                     2011-2013
Sergio Jimenez                       2013-                                
Karen Bullis                            2014-                               
Nancy Burke                           2015-                                      

Mark Houston                         2015-   
Dan Ryan                               2015-  

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Get Ready for Your Closeup, Monrovia!

Our little town in the foothills is getting to be pretty well known and the latest evidence of that comes in the form of reality television!  That's right, a property right here in Monrovia is going to be featured on HGTV's brand-new show "Vintage Flip!"  Not only that, but two of the Community Development Department's staff is going to be featured on the show.  Our planners are definitely multi-talented!

"Vintage Flip" follows a couple who enjoy buying, restoring, and reselling vintage homes.  As some of you may know, Monrovia's historic housing stock is pretty special and historic preservation has been an important component in the planning of this community for over a quarter century.  This community's passion for vintage homes was one of the driving factors behind our current and ongoing Neighborhood Compatibility Study. 

When "Vintage Flip" approached the City about this 1924 Spanish-style home in need of a little TLC, we thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to showcase our preservation efforts (not to mention our beautiful City and friendly staff!).  This home has terrific bones - just check out these cool original windows!  We kind of have a thing for windows around here!

To walk the vintage flippers through the process, planning staff helped them look at the history of the home and the development in the community.  Then, to offer design advice on site, Planners went "on location" to consult on the project.  By working collaboratively with staff, the vintage flippers were able to come up with a restoration plan that will bring this home back to it's former glory!

So, keep your eyes open for "Vintage Flip", Monrovia!  In the meantime, we'll be ready for our closeup, Mr. DeMille!

Friday, September 4, 2015

DRC Returns with a Vengence!

Have you ever wondered what happens when DRC "goes dark" for a meeting? 

Well, we now have the answer - the September 2nd meeting was jam-packed!  That's right, loyal readers, after a brief hiatus, DRC returned on September 2, 2015 with a whopping 15 items (though one was withdrawn).  And now, we will take you through each one of those items in minute detail.  Get comfortable, this could take a while.  Kidding!  That would be insane, right?  How about we give you a quick snapshot of the meeting?

On Wednesday, the DRC reviewed and approved (or recommended approval):

A Fence on Madeline
An Addition on Primrose
Some Beer and Wine on Myrtle (samples not included)
A College on Royal Oaks
A Wine Retailer/Restaurant on Colorado
Four Units on Mayflower
Some Gymnasts on Enterprise (well, not the actual gymnasts)
A Day Care on Alta Vista
A New Home on Walnut
A New Mausoleum at the Cemetery
A House on Norumbega (with lovely wood siding!)
A Sign on Myrtle
A Sign on Foothill
A New Fa├žade on Colorado

And on top of getting all of that squared away, we think we may have just invented a new form of poetry!  That's the DRC for you - they are quite the multitaskers.

For more details on the meeting, the agenda can be found here.

Oh, for our new reader...Development Review Committee...D-R-C.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Art in Monrovia

Tile at the Monrovia Gold Line Station
Hello out there, Monrovians
A favor we do ask,
Like Instagram? We hope you do,
To you we send a task.

Around our City you will see
All types of arts in forms,
From sitting man to bears galore
Our City is adorned!

Maybe it’s a picture
Of you with painted bear,
Look around, you’ll find them
For they are everywhere!

Or maybe it’s a wall
That’s painted on a store,
A “Starry Night” the scene
Van Gogh and so much more!

It can be called a “selfie”
But you’re not the only thing,
Our art we want to see
So show us what you bring!

There's a lot of public art in Monrovia, so to Monrovians and all of our friends, if you've got some pictures you what to share be sure to tag #artinmonrovia to join the party.

We're lot too proud to beg for follow us on Instagram @artinmonrovia--ask the nearest 12 year old and I'm sure they can assist.  

...oh, if you run into Art, tell him we said hello!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Books and Bears and Depots and Neighborhoods...and Traffic

One of the plethora of things that we love about working for a small city is that we get to wear many hats.  Not ones to be pigeonholed, this mix of assignments keeps us on our toes and contrary to the belief of our big-city counterparts, small cities can be just as complex as the big ones.

The diversity of the work of the Planning Division was on full display at the August 4 City Council meeting.  Yes, we're a little late and we thought about skipping it, but we thought you'd like to know...So, without further ado, here's the what we had going on:

2015 is the year of the Monrovia Neighborhood Study.  Based on concerns of Monrovians, the City took a step to slow things down and "take a breath" so the community could have a conversation about what Monrovia's neighborhoods should look...and even more important, what they should feel like.  Over the past six months, City Staff has facilitated a conversation with the community to figure that out.  We've done a lot of listening and what was presented to the City Council was what we heard and some potential policy considerations.  The City Council reviewed this information at a Study Session in July, with a follow up on August 4th.  The Council provided policy direction which is being forwarded to the Planning Commission and the Historic Preservation Commission.  (Editor's note: If you are one of our loyal and diligent readers, this is old news to you.)

One of Mick Stilkey's creations
The City Council also approved a new piece of public art to be installed in the Monrovia Library.  The Library Book Mural will be designed, constructed an drawn by Sierra Madre artist, Mick Stilkey.  The mural will be installed in the Youth Services corridor.  Library patrons know this as the wall that's screaming "put art here."  Well, maybe not is a library after all...a loud whisper perhaps.

The mural's centerpiece will be one of Samson's relatives Penny-farthing through a field along with some of his native species friends...headed to the Youth Services room, of course!  Based on the recommendation of the Art in Public Places Committee, the City Council enthusiastically approved the commission of the mural.  Read all about it in the Staff Report.

The approved design for the mural
Another chapeau that the Planners proudly wear is our Historic Preservation hat. The City's Historic Preservation program includes the review and designation of Monrovia's historic landmarks.  Currently, there are 135 designated landmarks! Based on the direction of the City Council, City Staff will start the process to designate Monrovia's Santa Fe Depot as a local landmark.  

Monrovia Depot in better days (1961)
Lots of folks are surprised that it's not already designated.  It's a long story, but the bottom line is that until recently, the Depot was owned by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, AKA Metro.  As part of the talks regarding the Gold Line, the City negotiated taking ownership of the Depot which means that we now control the destiny of this important part of Monrovia's transportation history which will ultimately be the centerpiece of Monrovia's Station Square.  One of the first steps will be to designate it as a historic landmark which will facilitate it's restoration and preservation.  There's some plans in the works, so stay tuned for some exciting news soon.

In the meantime, take a look at the City Council report for more info.

...and last, but not least, the Council adopted a resolution confirming that Monrovia is in conformance with the County's Congestion Management Program Program or as we affectionately call it--CMP.  We could go on and on about the CMP, but it was a late meeting...If you're so inclined, you can read all about it in the Staff Report.     

Friday, August 14, 2015

If it's the Wednesday after the second Tuesday...

...then it must be time for another Planning Commission meeting!  

[long pause, while the cheers subside]

So what happened at the August 12 meeting?  Glad you asked, but you know we'd tell you anyway...

First up was a request to allow the property owner to build a garage closer to the property line than what is allowed by the Code; the Monrovia Municipal Code (MMC) that is.  The Zoning Ordinance in the MMC establishes development standards for new construction in the City.  Build what the code allows.  No problem. 

What happens when you want or need to build something that is not permitted?

That's when variances come into play.  Admittedly, we're very stingy with variances.  Not because we like saying no (we really don't), but the law is the law.  So here's the deal, Zoning rules are applied to lots of properties (lots of lots, LOL) with different shapes and sizes.  There are times, however, when special circumstances come into play and a deviation from the Code is warranted.  The variance process allows a property owner to request a deviation when those special circumstances exist such as a very narrow lot or one with a steep slope that limits development potential.  Bottom line, the main question that the Planners pose is, does the Zoning Ordinance deprive one "property of privileges enjoyed by other property in the vicinity and under identical zoning classification?"  If the answer is yes, then the finding can be made to approve the variance.  The Planning Commission is charged with the review and approval authority over variances.

545 Cloverleaf Way

So now that you've been brought up to speed on variances, let's get back to the meeting.  If there was ever a property that had special circumstances, this is it; 545 Cloverleaf Way is a very irregular shaped lot, without street frontage and steep slopes.  So cut to the chase, the Planning Commission approved the variance for the garage to encroach into the required setback.  

Read all about it in the Staff Report.  

Oh, and since this house is off the beaten path, so to speak, we've included a picture.

One down, one to go.

But the big item on the agenda was a little drive-thru Starbucks (950 square feet) proposed at 860 West Foothill Boulevard (southeast corner of Foothill and Madison).  

Last month, when the Planning Commission reviewed the proposal several of the Commissioners were concerned about traffic.  They requested additional information and continued the hearing until August.  During that time, additional study on the traffic issue was completed.  What came back to the Commission were several specific options that could be instituted if the proposed Starbucks creates a traffic situation.  The Commission added a condition that requires a review of the traffic patterns after three months of operation.  This review was assigned to the City's Traffic Safety Committee who could pull from the toolbox of options identified by the City's Development Services Engineer. 

While we'll miss Burger Shack, we're thinking about that iced Americano... especially with weather like this.  Want to know more?

The final item was an update by the Staff on the 2015 Neighborhood Study  including a review of the recent direction provided by the City Council on possible revisions to the City's zoning codes addressing concerns voiced by the community related to neighborhood compatibility and historic preservation.  The Staff Report with the City Council's Policy Direction Statement can be found here.  Additionally, take a look at the City's website to find even more information about this process.  

Friday, August 7, 2015

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

It's that time, once again, for a DRC update on our latest meeting. Yesterday, the Monrovia Development Review Committee reviewed six items.  Here are some highlights:

-A new laundromat was approved to operate at the Monrovia Plaza Shopping Center. Currently, the Zoning Code requires a minor conditional use permit for a laundromat to operate at this location. Even though previously it was Patty's Laundryland, a new minor conditional use permit was required. We now welcome the new business owner into the Monrovia Community! If you ever need a commercial washer or dryer, be sure to spin by 320 W Huntington Drive for wash!

-"Yo quiero Taco Bell!" once said a famous chihuahua and so did DRC! The existing drive-thru Taco Bell/Pizza Hut was approved for a facade remodel to bring this location back to life. However, as a result we will have to say good bye to Pizza Hut as they will not continue to serve pizza once the remodel is completed. For all those Pizza Hut lovers, make sure you stock up on your pizza before its gone.

-Who's ready for some more home improvement projects?!? DRC reviewed a proposal for a design review of an existing commercial building for a new Orchard Supply Hardware store at 725 West Huntington Drive. Some of you might rememeber this location as the old Office Depot site. Orchard Supply Hardware proposed a 3,000 square foot exterior nursery along the east side of building in place of an existing drive aisle. That's a lot of plants to display in the nursery and hopefully they are all low water usage plants! Below you will be able to see the proposed facade remodel.

As part of their approval, DRC also approved conditions that would limit hours of deliveries, outdoor merchandise display, and special event permits for seasonal Christmas tree lots or pumpkin patch events. Please join us in welcoming Orchard Supply Hardware to the City of Monrovia!

-Last but not least, DRC also reviewed a new building wall sign for the San Gabriel Valley News Group located at 605 E Huntington Drive. The sign was approved and we are excited to have the San Gabriel Valley News Group call Monrovia home!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Yet another DRC recap!

It's time, once again, for a Development Review Committee recap!  It seems like we're always doing this, right?  Well, yes, we are, because DRC meets every other week.  That may not seem like a lot, but DRC decides over 150 decisions every year.  Which doesn't even take into account those applications that are decided by the Planning Commission or the Historic Preservation Commission.  Or those projects that do not even require review because they meet the code.  Which is all to say that things are pretty busy around here!

Yesterday, the Monrovia Development Review Committee reviewed four items.  Here's a quick replay:

728 East Greystone Avenue
-  Two Minor Exceptions for 728 East Greystone Avenue.  This historic home is proposing to add square footage to the back of the house.  Because this home is one of our Historic Landmarks, this addition has to be approved by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) through their Certificate of Appropriateness process.  The HPC will hear this item at their meeting next week on July 29th at 7:30 p.m.  But, in the mean time, the DRC can do their part of the job...Minor Exceptions!  There were two reasons Minor Exceptions are needed for this one.  First, the existing house is only 3'6" from the side property line (the code requires 5'), so, in order to continue that line, an exception must be granted.  Second, the addition will reduce the amount of space for cars to back-up from the driveway.  The code requires 25' of back-up, but this will provide 24'-1".  The DRC granted both Minor Exceptions contingent upon the Historic Preservation Commissions approval of the Certificate of Appropriateness.  Now that's what we call teamwork!

-  A Minor Exception for 166 Stedman Place.  This is a very similar situation.  The existing house is setback only 3'-3" from the side property line and the homeowner would like to add some square footage to the back of the house, continuing the existing setback.  It was also noted during the meeting that this house has only 35' of frontage - that is a pretty skinny lot!  Or is svelte a nicer way to say that?  Slender?  Well, you know what we mean...Anyhoo, the DRC saw fit to grant this Minor Exception as well.

-  A Design Review for a new 600 square foot granny flat at 237 East Walnut Avenue.  You might be asking yourself how, exactly, a "granny flat" is defined?  Does a grandmother actually have to live there?  Well, no, not really.  Originally, granny flats were built as full second units for elderly folks or for caretakers of the elderly.  These days, though, a granny flat is a smaller version of a full second unit.  But, there are certain other requirements of granny flats.  Among other things, they have to share the same utility meters as the main house, the owner of the property is required to live on the property if a granny flat is constructed, and a granny flat does not get a separate address.  In this case, the DRC approved the granny flat, and had some feedback on the design to help tie it with the existing residence.  Quality... that's what we're about here in Monrovia!

-  A Sign Review for 801 Royal Oaks Drive (Ducommun).  Yes, DRC approved Ducommun to update their signs and we would just like to take a moment to thank all of those businesses in Monrovia that maintain their locations with new signs, fresh paint, and clean landscape.  All of that helps to create the character of Monrovia of which we are all so proud!  So, thanks, businesses, we think you're pretty great!  And, thank you, DRC for guiding the process!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Join us on a trip...

On a night with an unusually light agenda...earlier this month, the Planning Commission approved a three unit apartment complex at 1414 South Alta Vista Avenue.  The end.

Is that all there is?  

Well, no, of course know there's always more to the story.  So really this is just the beginning...well not quite the beginning, but close enough...

For those of you that have been following us for a while, last year we picked a project we were going to feature from beginning to end, start to finish or a term that many Planners use: cradle to grave.  That project lost a little momentum, so we've switched gears and and projects which brings us to 1414 South Alta Vista Avenue.

Projects start with a concept.  Often a sketch, not more than a doodle.  Yes, sometimes even on the back of a napkin.  

Enter the Planner.  We take that idea, and work with the applicant..over the make sure they understand the parameters of what the zoning allows.  

Over the next few weeks, there's often some back and forth until a the site plan is finalized.  

Then starts the building design.  

There's a lot of talented people that we work with; proposals come in with just a few tweaks and off they go.  But the ones we really enjoy need a little more massaging.  Getting our creative juices flowing to get to them to the point where the application is ready to be submitted.  

While it may seem that the Development Review Committee (DRC), Planning Commission and/or the City Council approve every project that comes before them, their collective track record is deceiving.  

If projects were getting denied right and left, then we, as City staff, are not doing our job.  Our philosophy is to get the applicant to "yes", if we don't think that's likely, then we want to communicate that from the start before a lot of time, energy and money are wasted.  That's counterproductive for everyone.

Ultimately, it's the property owner or applicant who makes the choice to go forward and the approving body that approves or denies the proposal.

So back to South Alta Vista...based on the recommendation of Staff and DRC, the Planning Commission approved the project.  So now they move from the entitlement phase (that is their Planning/zoning approvals) to the pre-construction phase.  Preparing their construction documents moving toward the issuance of a building permit.

Stay tuned as we travel through the development process.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

June 24th Development Review Committee

Give me a D!  Give me an R!  Give me a C!  What does that spell!?  Monrovia's Development Review Committee!!  Rah! Rah! Rah!

As you may have noticed, we are pretty peppy today.  Maybe it's because of all of the excellent work going on in this City.  Or maybe it's that extra cup of coffee we had.  Either way, we are all set to tell you about the most recent DRC meeting on Wednesday, June 24th.

There were five items on the agenda this time.  First up was a minor exception request for an addition at 249 Madeline Drive.  The property owners are looking into expanding their floor area for a larger kitchen and bedroom.  Now, this property is a good example of a house that is subject to BOTH of our current moratoria.  Because it was built prior to 1940, no changes can be made on the front 50% of the exterior of the house.  Additionally, because it is located in a single family zone (Residential Low Density), a second story cannot be added.  In order to accommodate the addition, two minor exceptions were approved.  One to allow the existing wall on the south side of the house to continue back, even though it is less than the required 5 feet from the property line.  The second allowed the minimum backup from the garage to be reduced from the required 25 feet, provided that the angle allows cars to maneuver in and out of the garage.

Second was another minor exception, this time to reduce the back yard setback to 16 feet from the required 20 feet at 935 Crescent Drive.  The facts (just the facts, ma'am) presented to the DRC included that the house is in the RL zone, so a second story addition cannot be considered; it is on a corner lot; and the neighbor to the rear is at a higher grade.  Additionally, the design was well thought out.  The addition will provide more living space, additional landscaping, and a more easily accessible garage.  DRC approved this request as well.

Next, DRC looked at two new signs.  The first one was at 309 Genoa Street, for Swallow Design, a photography studio that is actually located in a residential zone.  Staff worked with the applicant to make sure that the sign was not too big, bright or distracting to the neighborhood.  DRC looked favorably on those efforts and gave the sign their approval.  The other sign was for 672 Huntington Drive in the Huntington Oaks shopping center.  Who likes BBQ?  I hope there are a few of you out there that do because Jimmy John's is coming to Monrovia.  And now that the DRC approved their sign, you'll be able to find them!

Speaking of food, the final item on the DRC agenda was for a new hot dog cart at Home Depot.  Perfect for hungry summer DIYers who are improving their homes!  DRC approved this item - and even had a few ideas for the menu!  Hotdogs - yum!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Lawn, lawn go away...

Just when we're starting to put those "tough economic times" behind us.  Now, it's the worst drought since...well...a long long time ago.  So, to paraphrase that old saying, when life gives you cactus...plant it.

We're the first to admit--we like our lawns.  Nothing says summer like walking barefoot on cool grass.  But, we're realists and this drought is severe.  And kudos to us, Monrovia, we've taken that to heart and are making real changes and saving water.  We can and will do more.  Check out the City's website for information and resources.  

Several months ago, our friends at MonroviaNow floated the idea of recognizing drought tolerant landscaping.  Great idea!  

Most of your Community Development staff spend a good deal of time "out in the field" doing site visits, inspections or just keeping up to date on what's going on out there.  We're happy to report--there's lots of good stuff, including xeriscaping (a fancy-shmancy word for landscaping that doesn't require much water).  

So here's our first feature in what we plan to be an on going series of examples throughout Monrovia.  Not only did the result turn out great, but the transformation is phenomenal.    If you're driving down the 800 block of Wildrose Avenue, take a look!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Latest Development Review Committee Meeting

We thought that now might be a good time to remind our loyal readers what the job of the Development Review Committee and of Planning in general is.  Our jobs revolve around zoning and land use, as spelled out in the Monrovia Municipal Code (i.e., the document that holds the answers to all of life's mysteries).  Some of the questions we ask ourselves are:  "Is this use appropriate?"  "How does this fit with the neighborhood?"  And especially, "What does the Code say?"

The DRC meeting on June 10th had four items on the agenda. The first item up was a review of a front yard fence at 837 Crescent.  This applicant was requesting a 4 foot fence on top of an existing 2 foot stone retaining wall, making the overall height of the structure 6 feet (measurements are always taken from the lowest adjacent grade).  So, the question you might be asking yourself right now is: "What does the Code say?"  And here's the answer.  Our beloved Code says that in a front yard, a residence can have a 3 foot solid wall or fence or a 4 foot wall or fence that is at least 50% open.  The reasoning behind this is two-fold.  First, tall fences in the front yard could obstruct sightlines, which could be dangerous to drivers, pedestrians, and other street users.  Second, it creates a certain amount of uniformity so that our neighborhoods appear cohesive.  In this case, the DRC granted the exception to the height requirement, with the conditions that the new fence is aesthetically pleasing and at least 50% open.

Second up was another fence!  The exclamation point is meant to convey excitement, by they way.  The Monrovia Tennis Club, at 158 North Sunset, was requesting a 6 foot solid vinyl fence with 1 foot of lattice on top, for an overall height of 7 feet in the side yard.  At this point, you may be wondering about height limits in the side yard.  Say it with me folks, "What does the Code say?"  Our revered Code says that a side yard fence cannot be taller than 6 feet as measured from the neighbor's grade.  We guess that sometimes those tennis balls tend to bounce pretty high out of bounds.  Since the neighbor came to the meeting to express his support for a tall fence, this item was approved by the DRC.

Third item - a Conditional Use Permit for the new Merengue at 417 South Myrtle to serve alcohol, both indoors and outdoors.  What does the Code say about this?  The Code, in its infinite wisdom states that the Planning Commission has to make the final decision for a CUP, and so this item was forwarded on to the Planning Commission with a recommendation of approval.  The DRC also reviewed the floor plan, outdoor furnishings and outdoor delineator.  These elements were approved by the DRC.  Looks like we are one step closer to having Merengue back!

Finally, the DRC reviewed a Conditional Use Permit for a drive thru Starbucks at 860 West Foothill.  Since we already know what the Code says about CUPs, I bet you can guess how this one turned out.  That's right, it  was also forwarded on to the Planning Commission with a recommendation of approval.  See some of the renderings below!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ordinance No. 2015-03

How's that for a catchy headline?

Sometimes the inspiration just flows...and...well...this is not one of those times. 

So here's the skinny...Several years ago, we were hearing a lot of concerns that Old Town was loosing some of the diversity in the variety of businesses that were opening.

Specifically, people were worried that what was occurring in one of our neighboring city's downtown could happen in Old Town.  The issue in this city's downtown, which will remain nameless, was becoming over concentrated with one type of business.

Maintaining a good mix of different types of businesses is important for the vitality and the economic success of an area like Old Town.  So when we start to hear lots of concerns, we take it seriously.  

Zoning laws do many things including regulate development as well as uses (e.g. residential, commercial, industrial...).  A community's job is to make sure that those laws remain relevant and do what they were meant to do.  Times change and regulations evolve.  That's a good thing.

At that time, it was determined that there should be a limitation on new beauty salons, day spas and barbers...and pet grooming (they all fall under the "hair & nails") category and the Zoning Ordinance was amended.  As far as zoning, this only applied to buildings on Myrtle Avenue, it didn't change the side streets of Old Town.

In the interim, the recession came and finally went and based on what we observed and heard, it was time to revisit those regulations.  So we did. 

What was proposed and ultimately approved was amend the City's regulations to make hair & nail businesses permitted by right.  On June 2, the City Council adopted Ordinance No. 2015-03 that did just that...the new law becomes effective in 30 days.  

It's like its 2007 again...perhaps, that should have been the headline.

To find out more about how zoning works in Monrovia, take a look at our website.  

The staff report and ordinance in all its legalese glory can be found here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A good night for preservation

So...What do a Craftsman Bungalow, a brick storefront commercial building and a groovy Mid-century Modern residence have in common?  

On the recommendation of the Historic Preservation Commission, all three were anointed by the City Council as Monrovia's three newest historic landmarks on May 19.

While the City doesn't elevate properties to "historic" status all the time, it's not necessarily unusual.  But what is notable is the architectural diversity that this trio represents.  It's very Monrovia.  This range of style is one of the aspects of what makes our streets and neighborhoods interesting.  

248 East Colorado Boulevard
Historic Landmark 132 is located at 248 East Colorado Boulevard, right on the corner of Colorado and Canyon...the southwest corner.

Built in 1912, this is a terrific example of a Craftsman Bungalow.  
The house has some great details including a unique shingle pattern and the original front door with a four glass panel design.

Want to know more?  Check out the

Great front door!


Now for many Monrovians, the mention of Wildrose Avenue brings to mind bucolic images of a neighborhood of pristine Craftsman houses.  There's a good reason: one of the best collection of Craftsman Bungalows in Monrovia are in the 300 block of Wildrose Avenue.  This neighborhood is commemorated as Monrovia Historic District No. 1 (and so far the only historic district).  Back in...oh wait, getting sidetracked here. We'll save that story for another day.
833 Wildrose Avenue

Keep heading east on Wildrose and you'll reach newly designated Historic Landmark No. 134 at 833 Wildrose Avenue.  This is the Monrovia's first Mid-Century Modern historic landmark...and certainly one of our best examples.  

A terrific design on the outside, the interior is just as cool.  For us, it was like stepping on to the set of Mad Men. We heard the same from others who experienced it on this year's Mother's Day Tour put on by the Monrovia Historic Preservation Group.

Not only is it interesting architecturally, but this house has a really great personal history too. Intrigued?  Read the synopsis of an interview with the original (and only) owner of the house. 

It's attached to the staff report.

And finally, landmark number 3...or we should say Historic Landmark HL-135.  

Located at 114 East Lemon Avenue in the heart of Old Town Monrovia, this is only the third commercial building to be designated by the City.  Can you name the other two?

Not because there aren't many other deserving commercial buildings, but Monrovia's Historic Preservation Ordinance is voluntary, meaning that the property owner has start the process, or at least consent to it.

For the past three decades, its been best known as the "Historic Lighting building", after the long time occupant of the building.  The building style is classified as "federally inspired".  This is predominantly seen at the entry.  

Built in 1922, this building was designed by very prominent Angeleno architects Walker & Eisen.  This building came very early in their career, but we're sure it put them on the map, so to speak.

Originally built for the Southern Counties Gas Company as their district headquarters, it is an important piece of Old Town Monrovia's history.  

Typically, interior features are not included as part of the designation, however, in this case Historic Preservation Commissioner Jimi Hendrix noted that the interior fireplace was an original part of the building and was put there to promote the use of gas fireplaces...still a fairly new concept in the Roaring 20's.  Based on its ability to help convey the history of the building, the preservation of the fireplace became part of the designation.  Read all about it in the staff report, it's a da bump.

114 East Lemon Avenue

So there you have it, three new landmarks and its apropos that this all happened on the same night that the City Council proclaimed May as Monrovia Historic Preservation Month.

Oh, yes.  The other two commercial buildings designated as historic landmarks? 101 West Foothill Boulevard (northwest corner of Foothill and Myrtle) and the Aztec Hotel at 311 West Foothill Boulevard which is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

We're #211

As our long time followers know (Hi Mom!) May 1 is the day the state releases the new population estimates for cities and counties. "The E-1" as it's called in the biz, is appropriately titled "Population and Housing Estimates for Cities, Counties, and the State." 

Perfect title.  Right?  Leave it to the state...

So what's this E-1 all about?  

Throughout the year, state demographers collect all sorts of data from local jurisdictions
--that's us--about changes in the community.  They then do all sorts of extrapolations  and provide population estimates. (We've been waiting for just the right occasion to use the word "extrapolation".)

Here's the results:

Monrovia's population as of January 1, 2015 is estimated at 37,406.  This is an increase of 227 people or 0.6%.  Monrovia ranks 211 out of California's 482 cities.

Los Angeles County's population increased 0.8% to 10,136,559.

California's population is now estimated at 38,714,725, a 0.9% increase.

Want to know who's #210?  Check out the demographic information on the Department of Finance website.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Neighborhood Study Update

As you may have heard, several months ago, the Monrovia City Council adopted two temporary moratoria (apparently "moratoriums" is grammatically incorrect). One, prohibiting the demolition of houses built before 1940, and the other restricting second story construction for most single family zoned properties.  The purpose is to “take a breath” and give the community an opportunity to discuss and provide input on current development and its impact on Monrovia’s neighborhoods (and also on whether "moratoria" is actually a word). 

The City has begun a comprehensive review of existing development regulations in an effort to better achieve a balance between property rights and government oversight of development activities. Our goal is to protect the architectural character and unique personality of Monrovia  as new buildings are built and older buildings restored – without needlessly applying burdensome restrictions on new construction.

Over the past few months, City Staff (that's us) has been meeting with the community (that's you) to listen to Monrovians talk about the issues regarding current development in our neighborhoods.  The next meeting is scheduled for:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015
7:00 PM
Knights of Columbus
130 West Pomona Avenue, Monrovia, CA

If you are unable to make this meeting, there will be other opportunities throughout the process to participate and we'll use this blog to keep you up to date... so stay tuned, loyal readers!
More information about the process, the issues and the moratoria are available on the City’s website.  You can also sign up there to receive updates on the process.

Share your thoughts with us by taking the citywide neighborhood compatibility and historic preservation project survey using the link below.  The survey will be available through the end of May.  We've received some great feedback so far... but we still need to decide this whole "moratoria" versus "moratoriums" issue.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

We're in a great place Monrovia

We have a whole new respect for bloggers.  Its hard work keeping a blog updated on a regular basis!  Admittedly, we’ve been a bit lackadaisical in our blogging duties, and we apologize for leaving you on the edges of your seats for eight months. 

But, now we’re back, and we have some great news to share!  This week, Old Town Monrovia was honored by the California Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA California) as a “Great Place in California” award winner!  APA California defines a Great Place in our state as one that exemplifies character, quality, and excellent planning, and, most importantly, is a place where people want to be.  We’re not sure about our thousands of loyal readers out there, but when we heard about this “Great Place” award, we thought, “That sounds just like Monrovia!  We have to tell APA California about Old Town!” 

So, with our mission in mind, we carefully conducted our research, painstakingly compiled our data, endlessly walked Old Town taking photos, and then…we stopped for ice cream. But, after the ice cream, we got cracking on our “Great Place in California” application and, in the end, our perseverance and sugar-high paid off!  Our application was chosen as one of only three winners in this, the very first year that APA California is offering the award. 

 Being able to bring recognition to our community is one of our favorite parts of the job! We are thrilled and honored to be chosen to receive the award, and we humbly accept it on behalf of every single person who has contributed and continues to contribute to Old Town Monrovia.  Cheers!