Part of Riverside’s Main Street to close for ‘Chow Alley’ plan

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Part of Riverside’s Main Street to close for ‘Chow Alley’ plan

Despite concerns about disappearing parking spaces, the block between 10th and 11th streets will shut as the city plans for ‘Chow Alley.’

Riverside’s Main Street pedestrian mall will add the block south of City Hall possibly as soon as this summer, a move that could make room for a year-round outdoor dining area and more attractions during the holiday Festival of Lights.

Changes will include replacing the asphalt with colored pavement that matches the rest of the mall and adding decorative seating with umbrellas. The project is being designed, and construction is expected to start this summer – when the block would close to car traffic – and wrap up in October, Public Works Director Kris Martinez said Wednesday, March 29.After hearing a handful of objections from people concerned about the loss of parking, the potential impact on nearby businesses and the expectation that alcohol would be served at future eateries, the City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to extend the mall between 10th and 11th streets.

Officials have said they are working on agreements to replace street and handicapped parking that will be lost and provide some extra spaces. Security would be provided when the dining area is in use.

Through traffic would still be allowed on 10th and 11th streets.

The Chow Alley project, which includes food vendors, goes hand in hand with the street closure, but officials made clear that the council will decide on that in a separate vote that City Councilman Mike Gardner said could come in May.

The barriers that will block the street to cars will be removable, so they could be taken down for an annual charity hot rod show and the various parades that use the street.

The newest portion of the mall may also host the popular ice skating rink during the Festival of Lights, but the council delayed until April 11 a decision on where to put the rink for 2017. Gardner said the extra time will allow the city to confer with organizers of the annual Chanukah Festival, which uses the same area for its event each December.

Warning Orange County: Inland Empire catching up in livability!


Warning Orange County: Inland Empire catching up in livability!

Is the Inland Empire shedding its cheap-living image and getting ready to compete with its coastal brethren in terms of livability?

Gallup’s annual “well-being” rankings for the nation’s metropolitan areas are out and there’s a shrinking gap in the perception of lifestyle quality between Los Angeles and Orange counties and the Inland Empire.

L.A.-O.C. came in 53rd out of 189 metros this year – sandwiched in the rankings between Houston and Charlotte. That’s not bad company, but it’s down from No. 40 a year ago.

The Inland Empire came in at 73rd, between Nashville and Boise. What’s more noteworthy is the new ranking is up from 93rd for the previous year.

So, the perception gap between Southern California’s coastal counties and the Inland neighbors – 53 ranking spots for 2015 –has been sliced by more than half to 20 in 2016.

Why do blue states rank better than red in livability?

Gallup’s livability ranking is more touchy-feely than other quality-of-city scorecards. This “well-being index” is based on the firm’s constant polling of American adults’ feelings on five regional attributes: the sense of daily purpose; the social climate; financial opportunities; community pride; and local health.

I like this poll’s logic as its results have a discerning eye for what’s good and bad about California living.

In 2016, California had seven metros in the top 25 – Santa Cruz (third); San Luis Obispo (seventh); Santa Barbara (12th); Santa Rosa (17th); Salinas (19th); San Diego (22nd); and Visalia (25th) – and three in the bottom 25 – Chico (183rd); Bakersfield (172nd) and Stockton (166th).

It’s worth a moment to see what Gallup’s measurement of well-being says about gap between L.A.-O.C. and the Inland Empire.

On this national scale, both regions have relatively good rankings for a local sense of purpose and roughly equal mid-range scores for financial considerations.

L.A.-O.C.’s No. 18 ranking for healthy lifestyle may have beaten the Inland Empire, but a 43rd place finish is very respectable. Conversely, both regions scored poorly for sense of community.

The most noteworthy gap was in terms of social qualities that Gallup defined as “having supportive relationships and love in your life.” L.A.-O.C. won this ranking battle easily, 73rd to 134th. Perhaps the Inland Empire suffering from being a place where people move but consequently have fewer family ties.

The Inland Empire used to be just about cheap housing and a tough commute toward coastal jobs centers. With Riverside and San Bernardino now growing their own employment base, Gallup results show the livability gap is decidedly narrowing.

Perhaps some day soon, the “909” will be an equal brand.

Riverside’s historic Korea Town recognized


Riverside’s historic Korea Town recognized

A plaque was placed Thursday at the former Pachappa Camp.

The site of Riverside’s historic Korea Town was formally recognized Thursday, March 23, when officials installed a plaque marking it as a point of cultural interest.

The spot on Howard Avenue at Cottage Street was part of the former Pachappa Camp, which supporters say was the first organized Korean American settlement on the U.S. mainland. Korean independence leader Dosan Ahn Chang Ho and his family also spent time there.

Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey, Key Cheol Lee, Korea’s consul general in Los Angeles, and officials from the Southern California Gas Co. attended the plaque unveiling. The gas company owns the land where Pachappa Camp once sat.

The Riverside City Council voted in December to make Pachappa Camp the city’s first point of cultural interest, after a campaign by officials at UC Riverside’s Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies and research by the city’s historic preservation officer.

The new designation was created because the site isn’t eligible for other types of historic recognition because none of the original buildings remain.

Pomona about to close escrow on property that will house homeless shelter tent

Pomona about to close escrow on property that will house homeless shelter tent

Pomona is taking steps leading to establishing an emergency shelter-service center for the city’s homeless residents on property at 1400 E. Mission Blvd. Among the work is evaluating existing buildings, such as this one, for use as part of the service center.
Pomona is taking steps leading to establishing an emergency shelter-service center for the city’s homeless residents on property at 1400 E. Mission Blvd. Among the work is evaluating existing buildings, such as this one, for use as part of the service center. PHOTO BY MONICA RODRIGUEZ

With just days left before the property at 1400 E. Mission Blvd. closes escrow and goes into the hands of Pomona, city administrators and staff are taking steps leading to establishing an emergency shelter-service center for the city’s homeless residents on the site. The city is evaluating existing buildings, such as this one, for their future use.
With just days left before the property at 1400 E. Mission Blvd. closes escrow and goes into the hands of Pomona, city administrators and staff are taking steps leading to establishing an emergency shelter-service center for the city’s homeless residents on the site. The city is evaluating existing buildings, such as this one, for their future use.

Then, barring any unexpected circumstances, by the end of the year the land at 1400 E. Mission Blvd. will be home to a year-round emergency shelter and service center for the homeless, the first in the city.

The aim is to have it ready in time to for the coming winter. Currently, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority offers a winter shelter program at the Pomona Armory.

Deputy City Manager Kirk Pelser said Tuesday the property is expected to close escrow Friday or Monday at the latest. But even before the property in southeast Pomona is in the city’s control, preparations are underway to establish the emergency shelter-service center.

The city plans to erect a large tent to serve as the shelter, but officials are also checking out how to incorporate the buildings on the property.

“We’re looking at the infrastructure of the site itself,” said Benita DeFrank, Pomona’s Neighborhood Services director. “We’re working with consultants looking for an operator” for the facility.

The preparations are meant to expedite the facility’s evolution.

“We don’t want to waste time or money,” she said.

Once the facility is up and running, it will offer residents without shelter a place to stay and begin making their way back to permanent housing.

About two weeks ago, representatives from each city department walked through the property with a request from DeFrank in mind.

“I asked for an honest review of the property,” she said.

Reports from each department will start landing in her in-box this week, DeFrank said, and the information in them will play a significant role in plotting out the next steps and the timeline for establishing the facility.

So far, no glaring problems have been found on the site, but “we’re being cautious as we mover forward,” she said.

In November, the Pomona City Council authorized staffers to buy the East Mission Boulevard property from the Gene Stalians 1989 Trust for $1.7 million. In late January, the council members gave the green light for the combination emergency shelter and service center on the property.

The facility will consist of a giant semi-permanent tent-like structure resembling those used for entertainment events or for military purposes. The structure, which will accommodate 175 people, will be insulated, equipped with windows, heating and air conditioning systems. It will have a system of dividers to create areas for men, women and LGBT residents.

Portable restrooms, showers, laundry facilities and a dog kennel, will be among the features. A key component of the facility will be a centralized kitchen where nonprofits and faith-based groups that prepare meals for the homeless residents.

Through the service center, homeless individuals will be able to access basic health and behavioral health services in addition to other services.

The city expects to pay for the facility using some housing bond proceeds, DeFrank said. A consultant will also assist in determining how much it will cost to operate the program.

The city is also researching how it can access funds generated by Measure H, the Los Angeles County ballot measure that voters approved by a slim margin March 7. Measure H calls for increasing the sales tax in L.A. County by 1/4 percent sales tax that would generate about $355 million a year for 10 years to be used to prevent and address homelessness.

A group has been established that will provide oversight of the funding, DeFrank said, but “we’re waiting for that group to meet and release the parameters to get funds.”

Mayor Tim Sandoval said having the facility open will be “a huge step forward for us” as the city works to address homelessness in the city.

During a community meeting held Monday night at the Kennedy Park Community Center, one resident asked if the city would be working with neighboring cities, such as La Verne, to address homelessness.

DeFrank said the city will participate in a regional effort.

Another resident said homelessness is a problem that even the larger cities in the state have failed to address. Sandoval said countywide, there is an interest in finding ways to resolve the problem of homelessness. In the March 7 election, L.A. County voters agreed to tax themselves to raise the money needed to pay for the programs and services to get people off the street, he said.

That interest, combined with regional efforts in which each city takes on its share of assisting those living without shelter, will help make advances.

Every homeless resident has a story that led to living without shelter, Councilman Rubio Gonzalez said.

“Each one has a different set of needs,” he said. “It’s a matter of (asking) how did you get there and how can we help you?”

The new facility will help answer those questions, assist people in obtaining the services that will allow to get back into permanent housing and provide the support the need so they don’t wind up homeless again, he said.

Riverside looks to rewrite rules on urban chickens, bees, other animals


Riverside looks to rewrite rules on urban chickens, bees, other animals

The matter arises at a time when urban farming and locally-grown food are growing

Officially, the keeping of chickens, bees and racing pigeons has been relegated to Riverside’s large lots and rurally zoned areas.

But as interest in locally-sourced food and urban farming continues to grow, city leaders are debating whether to more broadly allow bees and chickens – and the pigeons may come along for the ride.

City planners are working on an overhaul of animal rules in the zoning code that would clear up discrepancies or omissions regarding rabbits, pigeons, dog kennels and catteries, and could make bee- and chicken-keeping legal in much more of the city.

A March 9 planning commission meeting on the topic was the first step. The issue goes next to a council committee in May, and eventually to the full council for a vote.

Cities around the country and locally, including Corona and Murrieta, permit backyard chickens within certain limits.

Riverside Councilman Mike Gardner, whose Ward 1 includes downtown and the Wood Streets, pressed to review the chicken policy after hearing from a resident who didn’t know the family’s pet chickens were illegal until code enforcement showed up at their home last year.

“I’ve heard from more people who are pro-chicken than anti,” Gardner said, noting that roosters – already restricted over noise concerns – wouldn’t be part of any expanded chicken-keeping rights.

A debate is sure to ensue. At the planning commission, resident Marlene Mossestad expressed her objections to urban chickens.

“I don’t want to hear them, I don’t want to smell their feces and I don’t want to be chasing flies,” she said. “Allowing chickens will only benefit those wanting the chickens.”

The proposed revisions also are expected to clean up conflicting rules about where people may keep racing pigeons and rabbits, and to explain the requirements for having more cats or dogs than current caps allow.

To keep more than four dogs or nine cats, the city requires a permit for a “residential kennel” or a “cattery,” but the rules don’t explain what those are.

Some residents are urging the city to write in an exception to the rules for people who foster animals in need of homes.

Leslie Holzrichter runs the Riverside-based nonprofit Foster Army Animal Rescue. It finds temporary places for animals she said are “most at risk of being euthanized” at the county shelter, such as those with burn injuries or an amputation who face a long recovery before they can be adopted.

Some volunteers foster whole litters of kittens or puppies, and many already have pets of their own, Holzrichter said, so they might run afoul of the city’s limits if there’s no exception for short-term fostering.

Finally, the changes suggested by city staff would forbid the sale of pets except those that come from a shelter, humane society or licensed breeder. Gardner said the goal is to discourage “puppy mills,” which churn out dogs for sale with little regard for the health and welfare of the breeding mothers or their litters.

In Riverside County, a special license is not required to breed dogs, but it is needed to sell them, Gardner said. A commercial breeder would likely also need a residential kennel permit.

Animals allowed?

Riverside mainly restricts most non-domestic animals to areas with rural or agricultural zoning, but proposed new rules could change that.

What’s affected: Potential rule changes touch on rabbits, racing pigeons, chickens and bees.

What’s new: Officials could decide to allow chickens, bees and pigeons to be kept in residential neighborhoods.

Tweaks: Existing rules are confusing on where rabbits are allowed and under what circumstances; they also don’t explain what residential kennels or catteries are, even though permits for those are required if people have more than four dogs or nine cats.

What’s next: The council’s land use committee is expected to take up the issue in May, and it will return to the planning commission for a hearing this summer.


Los Angeles ranks as the top choice in the U.S. for international real estate investors


Los Angeles ranks as the top choice in the U.S. for international real estate investors