Thursday, February 21, 2008

2 Meetings

There were two important meetings last night.

First is the previously mentioned meeting to discuss the possible closure of Monroe Street at Orange Grove. This meeting was held with the city public works department at the Ebell Museum and saw approximately 20 residents of the 2-block long Monroe Street in attendance.

The city showed three possible alternatives for consideration. The problem on Monroe is that it is a short street that does not go directly through the neighborhood. It goes a block and curves back onto McKinley Avenue and is used as a high-speed short cut for a lot of folks, many of whom also run the stop sight at Bradford.

The first alternative was to create a "traffic diversion" at the intersection of Monroe and Bradford. This would force any car, coming from any direction, to make a right turn when they came to that corner. My own take on this was that it would probably stop the cut-through traffic, but would also cause difficulty for those who were trying to get around in the neighborhood.

The second alternative was to close Monroe to traffic coming off of Orange Grove traveling east, but allow traffic to exit the neighborhood when travelling west onto Orange Grove. This would certainly stop the cut-through traffic, as most of it is coming off of Orange Grove, not going onto Orange Grove, which is difficult to make turns onto at that point.

The third alternative was to completely close off Monroe and create Lincoln Park's only cul-de-sac. This would completely eliminate traffic in the 100 block of Monroe, except for residents.

The residents offered other alternatives such as enhanced signage with flashing lights, or creating an "island" at the very wide entrance to Monroe from Orange Grove to slow traffic down as it enters the neighborhood.

This now goes for further study with the input from the residents and city staff has promised another meeting to further discuss these issues, expanding the notification to other surrounding streets that might be impacted.

The other meeting of the night was a special study session of the Pomona Historic Preservation Commission. This meeting, which was not very well noticed (Pomona Heritage received information on it in Tuesday's mail), was called to discuss three items, 1) Possible changes to the Mills Act, 2) Fencing in the historic districts, and 3) Alternative materials for windows in the historic districts.

Mills Act.
The Mills Act allows citizens in historic buildings to have their property taxes recalculated so that they might have significant savings, up to 40%, to apply toward preservation and maintenance of the historic nature of the property. This is used by many cities to encourage residents to keep their properties in good shape and conform to historic standards. The citizen enters into a contract with the city that they will do certain things with their tax savings which are put directly into the structure. Pomona's version of the Mills Act was so onerous that to qualify you had to spend 10 years worth of savings within the first five years, making it a financial burden rather than a saving, and projects were very restricted. The city is looking to bring Pomona's Mills Act to be more like other cities who have successfully used it as a tool for preservation of their historic neighborhoods.

Fencing. With the city adopting the "picket fence" program and updating fence codes citywide, there is a move to amend to the historic ordinance to ensure that fencing within the historic districts is not out of character with the historic nature of the districts. It would, like the rest of the city, restrict the use of chain link and "garbage materials," as well as suggesting that more modern materials such as vinyl would be out of place in the historic setting.

Windows. This is a major issue for the city council. The historic ordinance says that repairs to historic buildings should use similar materials to the original. However, the current "fad" is for vinyl windows which are not similar in any way to the materials on our historic homes. Use of such materials would take structures from contributing status to non-contributing status under state and federal historic guidelines. The problem is that all over the city, people are putting in new windows without getting permits. In non-historic areas, when this is caught, the homeowner has only to pull a permit retroactively and they're done, but in historic districts, because of the requirements for maintaining the historic integrity of the buildings, thy need to come into conformance with the rules of the ordinance. So a large number of these cases, where unpermitted work was done, come before the commission and ultimately before the city council. Residents moan and cry about the cost of coming into compliance and it is a bad situation all 'round. So, the city council asked if alternative materials could be considered. However, it is Pomona Heritage's stance that the ordinance and the Secretary of the Interior's guidelines are clear and that alternative materials would have a significant effect on the historic character of the districts.

All of these issues will now be discussed at a special City Council workshop scheduled for next Monday, Feb. 25. I certainly hope that those interested will attend and add their voices to the debate (on either side fo the issues).

13 comments:

meg said...

John, is there anyone specific to write to, for those of us who won't be able to come to the next preservation meeting but want to weigh in?

John Clifford said...

You can call and leave messages for the council at 909-620-2051, which gives a voice mail that goes to all council members, or you can Fax them at 909-620-3707.

The city web site also has email links/web forms (with the exception of Elliott Rothman for some reason) to each of the council members. However, each councilperson (with the exception of Elliott Rothman for some reason) has a city email address which follows the form of firstname.lastname@ci.pomona.ca.us

The next meeting is Monday and it is a city council meeting. Written arguments are accepted as well as verbal. The advantage of written arguments are that you don't have a time limit.

Having said all of that, the packets go out to the council on Thursday or Friday prior to the meeting, so it's probably too late to get written arguments into them prior to the meeting where they may make decision. But since this is a workshop, it would still be worthwhile to get thoughts and concerns into the council.

Hope this rambling answer helps.

me said...

I have often wondered why as part of the escrow process that buyers into a historic neighborhood do not get an information packet about what the requirements are. They should be required to sign off that they have read and understand it as part of the escrow process. The one historic commission meeting I attended, a few of the home owners claimed to have no idea they could not change out the windows, so a standard practice of informing buyers during would solve part of the problem.

The Mills Act in POmona as written also allows only exterior work. Most other cities allow interior work to qualify as well.

My vote would be to close off MOnroe to Orange Grove completely. I'm sure that neighbors would appreciate having some tree planters in the street, so that you can no longer view onto the gas station. If you still leave an exit lane, you'll likely have a fatal accident down the line by some idiot speeding down Orange Grove, not knowing it's been changed and turning onto MOnroe, possible hitting a car coming out of the area.

G of P

Ed said...

Thanks for giving us a summary.

John,
Is the concern for Monroe residents the volume of traffic or the speed of traffic? Or both? The suggestions by residents seem to focus on speed, so I wasn't sure.

I agree the plastic picket fencing at this point looks a little too fake, but I wonder what the future might bring. Fake deck boards have evolved to be almost indistinguishable, so I would expect no-maintenance picket fencing will soon follow. There is a risk to alienating residents over issues that will be solved with time, alone.

Along GoP's point, I could see a value to Heritage stepping up with a "Welcome Wagon" basket for new home buyers in the historic district. Along with attracting potential new members, it could include the do's and don'ts in the historic district. I could even see an opportunity to make your case regarding plastic picket fencing. Businesses could even throw in some coupons to advertise.

I have a little sympathy for those few who install new windows, but if a permit was requested, as required by code, the problem wouldn't exist. My only suggestion is that the typical homeowner assumes the contractor is the expert, so levying a fine on the contractor for installing a window without a permit could solve the problem. If the city can do that.

That's my 3-4 cents.

John Clifford said...

G of P: Responsible Realtors(tm) actually do due diligence in divulging the information relevant to the historic districts. In Lincoln Park, the fact that your home is in a historic district is registered on your deed (unfortunately the city has been lax about recordation in Wilton and Hacienda districts).

The city can't really impose requirements on Escrow. For years we've been trying to figure out a way of having an inspector determine if unpermitted work was done on a home before it closed escrow so that new owners aren't encumbered with the costs of bringing their new homes into legal compliance. But the city either can't or won't do it.

While homeowners insist that they didn't know the requirements, it's even more than that. In 5 years of attending HPC meetings, I've never heard of a problem with windows except where the homeowner changed their windows without getting a permit. This is required regardless of whether you're in a historic district or not. If you go through the legal process and request a permit, city staff lets you know all the requirements before you have any work done.

I agree that we need to hold the contractor's resopnsible. However, the law is that the homeowner is responsible for pulling permits. About the only thing we've been able to hang on contractors is that they do business in the city without a city business license. The onus is on the homeowner to seek restitution from the contractor, which is possible if the contractor's contract said that they'd pull permits and then they didn't.

As for Monroe. The issue is both speed and amount of traffic, although I think most of us could deal with the amount if it weren't going so ^&*(% fast. I somewhat agree about closing Monroe off completely, but Frantz Cleaners is concerned about their business, and I certainly wouldn't want them to be negatively affected. I think it needs a little more study to come up with a solution. One of the problems with trying to restrict the amount of traffic is that there are alleys on both sides of the street which can still be used as "shortcuts." So it might be better to restrict speed but keep them on the street.

John Clifford said...

Forgot to answer Ed's "Welcome Basket" idea. We do send membership info to homes listed in the DB as having closed. I'm sure that we can expand our membership letter to include some additional information.

But Ed, are you volunteering to become the Welcome Wagon? I'm sure that we can accommodate you!

richard e nunez said...

i dont see why they dont put more and bigger speed bumps down Monroe and the other streets around Monroe

Ed said...

John,

As I indicated at the Heritage Board meeting a couple of months back, I never make a suggestion unless I'm willing to participate in the implementation.

So now you have it in writing!! Just let my wife and I know what you need.

calwatch said...

Speed bumps are IMHO worthless. My commute usually takes me down the ones on Jefferson and I go down them without slowing down (why they put speed bumps on the feeder street beats the heck out of me, but oh well). There are speed bumps on Monroe and they don't do much. You need that emergency access point, and Monroe is used to get the ambulances to the hospital, so I would vote for closing the inbound but leaving the outbound open.

The window thing is well patrolled by Pomona Heritage. We were one of the test cases in the late 90's and they made us rip all the windows that were visible from the street out (the ones that were not visible from the street stayed in). It's like the dog walkers always check to see if something as changed in the past week. I am always amazed how long this is still a problem, ten years later.

They need to do a better job than say "go to Home Depot" for the windows, though. There are some good window dealers (we ended up going to one in San Gabriel) that charge much less and are just as acceptable as Home Depot charges. The other problem is that I think Pomona Heritage does a poor job at outreach to the Spanish speaking community. Not so much in the core Lincoln Park area, which is still majority Anglo or assimilated immigrants, but south of Alvarado, I would say you have a lot of first and second generation people that don't know what's going. Yet south of Alvarado is part of the historic district as much as the Garey/McKinley/Towne/Alvarado core is. Certainly, when my folks move in yay how many years ago, nobody really welcomed us. There's always rumors of a Lincoln Park area picnic but we NEVER get invited. The same goes for the Neighborhood Watch... the block captain took down our phone number about six months ago and not a peep out of her again. Granted I am always running around but occasionally I would like to know what is going on too, especially since they put the sign in our block recently.

Ed said...

I'll try providing justification for the speed humps in a future post. Originally, I thought it was a ridiculous solution, but now I affectionately refer to MY POMONA as "hump city".

Calwatch points out the problem with the current manifestation of our neighborhood watch system: not all residents have access to the information. Here is another one of my crazy ideas, but what about making announcements/alerts/concerns via a Lincoln Park Neighborhood Watch blog? It would require some maintenance and editing, but it would lead to a wider and faster distribution of the message, which IMHO is the key to neighborhood watch. I'm thinking a Spanish version wouldn't be a bad idea, either. I don't want to step on any toes here, so if any of the early volunteers/organizers of our neighborhood watch can offer some comments (good or bad) that would be great.

Pomona Heritage outreach: If I end up doing some PH outreach, I will need some help on the Spanish-language front, so a volunteer or two would be useful. I have little shame, so I will do "beg" posts in the future (if Meg/K approve).

meg said...

Ed, I can help with the Spanish (two years in South America), and we might be able to get our block captain to help out too. When I get back I'll be happy to help out in general.

Feel free to use the blog as a call for help in general (and if anyone else wants to guest post, just drop me a line!).

As for speed humps, I know K. has a few opinions on that subject...

ren said...

i just want to say i understand what they are going threw,i myself live on west second st.and i would like to see these semitruckes take another street.well you had to know what the street was like when you moved in,and wheres it going to end if one street gets it another will want it.why not just put up a brick wall all the way around.just like ganesha hills we the tax payers cant even travel on some the roads or even take walks or you might get the cops after you. you can all put camers up to catch the speeders but whos going to pay for that ?

me said...

I'm trying to send the council emails, but they keep getting sent back to me as undeliverable. Anyone know what's up with that? And yes, I am sure I am typing the right addresses.

G of P