Alhambra Mega-Development on Superfund Site Draws Community Outrage

No affordability, walkability, traffic

SOURCE: Next Architecture | Rendering of the project, The Villages in Alhambra


After yet another sub-committee of the Alhambra City Council was formed to continue negotiating with The Ratkovich Company developers on the topics of affordable housing, soil contamination, increased impacts to traffic and air pollution, density and open space, the City Council has called a special meeting for tonight at 6pm to continue discussing “The Villages” luxury development and to hear from the public. It has been one of the most controversial agenda items in Alhambra history. The Planning Commission rejected the development in November 2020 after five months of meetings and over 300 public comments, and “The Villages” has been on the City Council agenda since February 2021.

On the latest proposal, rather than reduce the number of units which has been a point of contention in the community, the developers have increased the proposed number of units from 774 to 790. At the same time, they increased the proposed number of affordable housing is 15% instead of 10%, but still only rental units.

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Several members of the City Council, however, have publicly stated they want the for-sale units to be included and for affordable housing to be designated for low income, not just moderate income.

The latest proposal also includes language on monitoring traffic but only after the units are built and residents have moved in, at which point the developers would then participate in traffic mitigation if necessary. In the packet is a May 6, 2021 VMT traffic memo which deems the project would produce insignificant traffic impacts, however it applies inaccurate trip-credits and makes the claim that in 2012, 2,570 people lived in the precinct of the site in 839 households, and projects that 104 fewer would live in the area in 2040 in the same number of households. However, in 2012 there were no households in the area.

Emery Park Community Group has issued a letter to the City Council about the density and traffic-related concerns and like with the “Moratorium on Large Scale Developments like The Villages” is starting to collect signatures for the latest letter.

“The Emery Park Community Group and its Alhambra neighbors have been at the forefront of the local community in opposition to the insensitive and massive so-called “Villages” development for the past two years. We, along with everyone that uses Fremont Avenue for their commute, will be most affected by it, as we live within blocks of the site, and the traffic impact zones of Fremont Avenue and Valley Boulevard.

It’s time to call a spade a spade: this development is the wrong one for this location. It sits on contaminated Superfund soil, so it needs to be cleaned up. It’s in the middle of Alhambra’s industrial warehouse and factory area, and so far there’s no evidence that employees in the immediate area would be able to afford to live, or be interested in living on site, debunking the developer’s ‘walkability’ claim. And it’s nowhere near a transit hub.

775 luxury units is too massive and dense, so the traffic will be significant no matter how you spin it. Before any vote is taken on the Villages, the traffic problems in the area need to be fully mitigated.”

Read the full letter here.

City Council agenda, packet and Zoom links for tonight’s 6pm meeting here.