BY ARIEL CARMONA, JR.
Diamond Bar – At their Oct. 7 meeting, the Diamond Bar City Council heard from the public and staff on various issues including updates on the Grand Avenue Beautification Project, homelessness in the area, climate issues, development and water conservation, and more.
The meeting kicked off with a presentation of a City Tile to former Planning Commissioner, Jack Shah.
“You’ve done a great job. You’re moving on to other locations and we want to thank you for your service to the City of Diamond Bar, and we’re going to miss you,” said Mayor Carol Herrera.
“Thank you so much for your trust. You have trusted me for so many years and given me the opportunity to serve this community. It is one of the best communities I’ve lived in. The staff is great, they’ve always supported us and always provided us with great advice and always directed us in making the right decision,” said the departing Shah, who resigned his position effective Aug. 13.
As part of the evening’s consent calendar, Herrera appointed Jen “Fred” Mahlke to fill the vacancy left by Shah. During the City Manager portion of the meeting, Public Works Director, David Liu, presented an update on the Grand Avenue Project. Liu said project plans include upgrading the medians and parkways with special design elements to add visual interest and highlight some of the City’s local history, and pedestrian and access lighting. The locations discussed as part of the project include the intersections of Grand Avenue and Diamond Bar Boulevard.
According to Liu, on April 1, the staff presented final concept plans to the Council. Final designs for the plans were approved by the Council on July 1. Design plans and specs were then submitted to Cal Trans on July 30. Cal Trans notified the City on Sept. 10 that the plans and specs had been approved.
Liu added the City is currently working with a landscape architect to design and build a gateway monument at the easterly City limit line, along the intersection down Grand Avenue. Work is to be finished by early November, with a contract awarded in January 2015 including plans to finish in April or May of 2015.
During public comments, Theresa Lee, a member of the Country Estates Homeowners Association thanked City officials for providing residents with more information on the proposed Millennium Development.
Kurt Nelson, a consultant representing the developer, said he did not know why there was so much controversy and unhappiness about the project. Nelson added he did hear many people who seemed to be uninformed about the facts of the project. Nelson said he would be very happy to meet with any Diamond Bar Country Estate homeowners in the future to let them know about costs, and other concerns the association members might have.
“I think communication and getting the facts out there is key,” said Nelson.
In other matters, Stephen Fomba, Program Manager for the SGV Consortium on Homelessness – a non-profit organization dedicated to homelessness in the San Gabriel Valley – introduced himself to the Council and updated them on the homeless situation in the area.
Fomba, whose organization is tasked with conducting a bi-annual homeless count in the San Gabriel Valley, said all of L.A. County is moving to a coordinated entry system, using a tool to identify, assess and link homeless individuals and families with appropriate housing.
“It’s the best way toward ending homelessness in the U.S., by calling for the City to partner with them,” Fomba told the Council, adding that his organization will be coordinating a homeless summit in Pasadena on Nov. 13, and invited the council and community to attend.
Fomba said the summit usually attracts 500 to 600 attendees in Pasadena. The nonprofit also adopted a proclamation which other cities have already adopted in the SGV, asking for the establishment of a homeless awareness week in mid November to coincide with the national homeless and hunger awareness week.
Other members of the public asked for the Council to provide an update on issues such as water conversation, climate issues and development, asking if the City could look into bringing in smaller businesses for people to congregate, and get together, as opposed to big corporations and retail chains like K-Mart. To this end, a new Facebook group known as Diamond Bar Buzz has been put together for people in the City to discuss these social issues.
City Manager James DeStefano, said the City has specifically cut water usage by 23 percent in the last billing statement since formal drought conditions were adopted by the SGV Water District, and added that the City continues to look at ways for individuals and local businesses to save water in light of pending water rate increases likely to take place in the near future.
De Stefano said that he agreed with speakers who asked for a center for community gathering.
“That is exactly the type of product we’d like to see in Diamond Bar. There are very limited choices in Diamond Bar. Land is the toughest component; we just don’t have a lot of land and we don’t have willing property owners of existing properties that are interested in tearing down and starting again, redeveloping those properties. We have some choices on some vacant lands, but those are also a challenge,” said DeStefano.
In other actions, by a 4-0 vote (with Jack Tanaka excused for illness), the Council approved a packed consent calendar including the ratification of a check register totaling more than $2 million approving contract amendments for on-call traffic engineering services from various consultants, and approving a notice of completion for the Median Modification project on Diamond Bar Boulevard at Kiowa Crest Drive, among other matters.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Diamond Bar City Council is scheduled for Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the AQMD/Government Auditorium, 21865 Copley Drive. There will also be a time capsule dedication on Sat., Oct. 25, at 4 p.m., at the same location.