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!