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santa-reading-lettersWe’re pretty sure that Santa’s office looks a lot like APG’s new office at The Alhambra! Santa’s office probably features warm Mahogany walls, beautiful interior staircases and Mid-Century furniture…OK, maybe not the Mid-Century furniture…

As you may remember, Alhambra Preservation Group moved into its new office located at The Alhambra this past summer. Now is your opportunity to come by, take a peek at APG’s new location and enjoy The Alhambra’s Santa Night on Thursday, December 8. Here’s all you need to know:

Event: APG’s Open House and The Alhambra’s Santa Night

Location: The Alhambra, 1000 S. Fremont Avenue, Alhambra, CA  91803

Date: Thursday, December 8, 2016

Hours: 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

We hope you’ll put this event on your calendar and visit us at our new office! We’d appreciate it if you could RSVP at (626) 755-3467 or info@alhambrapreservation.org. We’ll have cookies and coffee to share, you’ll get to explore The Alhambra’s historic campus and you may even get to meet St. Nick himself!

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by M. Michelson, APG Board of Directors

Thanks to one of our vigilant members who apprised us of the gigantic “For Sale” sign posted at 403 South Garfield Avenue, Alhambra Preservation Group’s Advocacy & Action Committee has been involved in researching the impressive and unique, multi-story triplex on the corner of South Garfield Avenue and West Beacon Street, two blocks south of Alhambra’s main post office. Together with its three adjacent parcels, this property is being sold for likely commercial development.

image-7The 1920 U.S. Census shows that 403 S. Garfield was originally used as multi-family housing. According to an early 20th Century Alhambra directory, two families lived in what is the oldest and largest structure on the lot. Clifford H. Everdon, a shoe salesman, and his wife Edith and their daughter and son, rented the property along with the Coleman family. Calvin Coleman, who was a laborer in an oil field, also lived there with his wife and son.

The LA County Assessor’s Office shows three structures on the property, with the oldest possibly dating from 1918, though we estimate it is older than that based on its Victorian architectural features. Flanked on either side by what looks like the original grove of trees, it is listed at 3,370 square feet with six bedrooms and two baths; a one-room sleeping porch was added in 1927. Also on the lot are two other units, both built in 1941, each with one bedroom and one bathroom.

In July 2015, J&KD LLC bought this property for $3.1 million from ANJ LLC, just 2 months after ANJ LLC bought it for $600,000 from Eretz G4 Properties LLC. It is now on the market again.

We are very concerned about developers razing Alhambra’s heritage along with this historic house, one of few remaining Victorian homes in Alhambra. This is a unique exemplar of how early Alhambrans lived and needs to be saved! If you have further information or photos of this property, or if you want to join the Advocacy & Action Committee to help save 403 South Garfield Avenue, please contact APG at info@alhambrapreservation.org.

image-13More than 100 residents from every Alhambra neighborhood attended the 2016 Meet the Candidates Forum hosted by the Alhambra Preservation Group and moderated by the League of Women Voters-Pasadena Area on October 5 at Almansor Court. All four of the Alhambra City Council candidates were in attendance and answered questions from the audience. Audience questions asked for the candidate’s positions on issues ranging from the adoption of a preservation ordinance to the creation of a more environmentally sustainable city, from the completion of the 710 Freeway to concerns regarding future development in Alhambra.

“The Meet the Candidates Forum provided the perfect venue for Alhambrans to meet and get to know the candidates who are running for Alhambra City Council,” stated Joyce Amaro, President of the Alhambra Preservation Group. “APG was proud to partner with the League of Women Voters – Pasadena Area in providing this opportunity for the voters of Alhambra,” continued Amaro.

Here’s what forum attendees had to say about the evening’s event:

“This provided the community the one opportunity to see the candidates face to face.”

“The forum provided direct access to candidates’ positions and quality of responses.”

“I liked hearing the concerns of the audience brought up many issues I had not considered.”

“It was good to hear all of the candidates respond to the same questions – and struggle to answer some of them. This was a rare opportunity to compare their viewpoints and perspectives, side-by-side.”

The candidates attending included Jeff Maloney and Mark Nisall, who are running for Alhambra Council District 3 and David Mejia and Ken Toh, who are running for Alhambra Council District 4.

Please remember to vote on Election Day, Tuesday, November 8.

Photo courtesy of Sherrie Watson, Alhambra Preservation Group.

img_9564by Joyce Amaro, President

It took my breath away! This past spring as I was driving through Alhambra searching for homes to feature in Alhambra Preservation Group’s summer event, Alhambra’s Amazing Architecture, I saw a house that made me catch my breath and hit the brakes. It was a small, yet quaint Spanish home sited diagonally on a corner lot. A “crown” was perched atop three arches that framed its front porch, giving it a regal look. I marveled at the uniqueness of its design. I admired the intricate inlaid tile work in its arches. I smiled at finding a new architectural gem in my hometown.

Discovering new architectural gems is just one of the benefits of being a member of Alhambra Preservation Group (APG). From our home tours to our Meet the Candidates Forums, from our educational talks to our field trips, APG strives to provide programs and events to further our mission of historic preservation. This past year was no different. I am immensely proud of APG’s recent accomplishments:

  • Residential awareness about Alhambra’s architectural and historical resources is at an all-time high because of events like the one APG sponsored this past June that highlighted our city’s architecture and established Alhambra as one of the most architecturally diverse cities in Southern California.
  • Fifty-two percent (52%) of Alhambrans who submitted a written survey as part of the city’s General Plan process in 2015 said that historic preservation should be a priority for the City of Alhambra. This was a direct result of APG’s education of residents about the need for a preservation ordinance and APG’s promotion of the survey.
  • APG’s online presence continues to grow with a new interactive Google map documenting more than 500 historic homes in Alhambra.
  • APG’s newly-formed Advocacy and Action Committee monitors city meeting agendas for items of interest and will create “calls to action” when issues arise.

So, what is APG’s goal for 2017? Alhambra’s adoption of a preservation ordinance! This has always been our #1 goal, and we won’t stop fighting for this until Alhambra enacts one. We’re closer than we’ve ever been, but we still have a lot of work to do. Even as I write this, a beautiful three-story Victorian home on South Garfield Avenue faces an uncertain future because Alhambra has no legislation to stop the razing of historically or architecturally significant homes, schools, churches or commercial buildings. Alhambra is long overdue for the adoption of a preservation ordinance. We need your help to do this!

We invite you to join or renew your membership in Alhambra Preservation Group during our fall membership campaign and to give as generously as you’re able. As an all-volunteer non-profit organization, we greatly value and rely on your contributions of time and money. We thank you for your support in helping APG to continue its programming and advocacy for the preservation of Alhambra homes and buildings of architectural significance.

As a special thank you, we’re inviting APG members to an exclusive event on November 30 at my home. This “Evening with the Author” event will feature a discussion by Dr. Denise Lawrence-Zuniga, a professor of Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona and APG member. At this evening event, she’ll be discussing her recently published book, Protecting Suburban America, which includes a section on APG and its preservation work here in Alhambra. I’d love to meet you and welcome you into my home, so I invite you to join APG!

And, yes, that unique Spanish home is still there, on the southwest corner of South Electric Avenue and Acacia Street, just south of Main Street. Why don’t you drive by yourself and discover another one of Alhambra’s architectural gems that deserves to be preserved and protected?

Vote.Button.FINALAlhambra Preservation Group, with the League of Women Voters – Pasadena Area, will sponsor a Meet the Candidates Forum on Wednesday, October 5, 2016.  The Meet the Candidates Forum will take place from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at Almansor Court’s Lakeview Room, 700 South Almansor Street, Alhambra, CA  91801. The event is free to the general public and light refreshments will be served. Alhambra residents are encouraged to attend.

All Alhambra City Council candidates have been invited to participate in the pre-election event. A moderator from the League of Women Voters – Pasadena Area will ask each candidate the same opening question, followed by a series of written questions from the audience. “The purpose of the Meet the Candidates Forum is to give city council candidates the opportunity to address policy issues vital to Alhambra’s future and give residents the chance to ask questions of candidates,” stated Joyce Amaro, President of the Alhambra Preservation Group. “Given the many issues facing our city, we invite all Alhambrans to attend this event and receive the information they need to cast an informed vote on election day.”

Community planning, environmental sustainability, public health and safety, historic preservation, transportation and infrastructure are just a few of the topics that may be addressed at the forum. The November 8, 2016 election will decide two of five Alhambra City Council seats.

Photo courtesy of start2finish.org.

Alhambra.Mythbusters.4This past spring, we set the record straight on myths about historic preservation myths in general. Now we’d like to talk about some myths you may have heard regarding preservation in Alhambra.

Myth #1: Alhambra doesn’t have any homes worth saving.

Oh, yes we do – plenty! More than 30 years ago, a survey completed in only two neighborhoods, Ramona Park Tract and the Wuest/Marguerita-Souders tract, identified more than 500 historic homes. This year, APG developed a map identifying more than 500 historic homes citywide, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. These homes feature the following architectural styles: Victorian, Arts and Crafts, Art Deco, English Revival, Spanish Revival, Colonial Revival, and Mid-Century Modern. In addition, Alhambra has several unique buildings such as a log cabin, the Pyrenees Castle and a shopping center designed like a 19th century western boom town. So, for its size – a mere eight square miles – Alhambra is one of the most architecturally diverse cities in Southern California.

Take a look at this map and then check out your own neighborhood. If there are any homes we’ve missed, send us an e-mail with the address. If it’s historic, we’ll add that home to the map.

Myth #2 – The historic signs in Alhambra’s neighborhoods already protect Alhambra’s homes.

False! Alhambra has no policies or ordinances that protect homes and businesses from razing. These signs are a good first step in strengthening public awareness about Alhambra’s historic home tracts, but this signage does nothing to save homes from being torn down or remodeled beyond recognition. The signs have no enforcement “teeth.” A preservation element needs to be added to Alhambra’s General Plan, and the City of Alhambra needs to adopt a preservation ordinance. Please let your city leaders know this is important to you.

Myth #3 – Alhambrans don’t care about preserving Alhambra.

In 2015, to prepare for an update to Alhambra’s General Plan, the City of Alhambra conducted a survey of residents to learn about their priorities. More than half of those surveyed – 52% – stated that the preservation of historic areas and buildings should be a priority for the City of Alhambra. Also, well over half the people responding to the survey thought there were either too many apartments, too many condos or too much mixed-use development. Once again, make sure you voice your opinions to those who can effect change in Alhambra.

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By Melissa Michelson, Alhambra Preservation Group Board of Directors

In early August, Alhambra Preservation Group‘s newly formed Advocacy and Action Committee held its first meeting with APG members Janet Ervin, Lily Nitta and Gigi Xu attending. They discussed and developed a mission statement and agreed to hold regular meetings once a month or on an as-needed basis. The group also attended the Design Review Board meeting and went on a site visit. The group decided that the mission of the Advocacy and Action Committee should be ‘By regularly reviewing staff reports, attending City Council and committee meetings (like Design Review Board and Planning Commission), regularly communicating with the APG Board and calling APG members to action, we the Advocacy and Action Committee aim to promote the mission of APG by encouraging community participation in the efforts to preserve and protect the historical, architectural and cultural integrity of the community. The mission reflects the mission of APG: Through education, advocacy and awareness-building programs, Alhambra Preservation Group seeks to ensure that the historical, architectural and cultural resources of our city are identified, protected and celebrated for their contributions to Alhambra’s heritage, economy and environment.

Design Review Board Meeting

After initially meeting at the Diner on Main, members of the Advocacy and Action Committee attended the Design Review Board (DRB) on August 9, where 1237 Main Street, a mid-century medical building on the corner of Vega and Main Street, was on the agenda. Committee members then went to visit the property.

While at the DRB, the Advocacy and Action Committee’s message was clear: Yes, the building is in a state of disrepair; however, this mid-century medical office building is a gem that deserves to be preserved. Its unique interior which includes all-wood cabinetry, cork floors, rounded corners and exposed brick are classic characteristics of mid-century architecture. Committee members expressed to the Design Review Board that it is their hope that the existing medical building is creatively and thoughtfully incorporated and maintained as part of the developer’s plans, along with the advice and expertise of the city’s Design Review Board.

What the architect has in store:

  • Demolish 1940s two-story 1453 sq. ft. wood house and 1951 15,188 sq. ft. brick single-story medical building
  • Build 14,125 sq ft, single- story contemporary style building in north east corner of lot, with parking lot in front with 71 stalls and 4-8 bike parking slots.
  • Two driveways from Main Street (compared to current building which is along the sidewalk)
  • Demolish the double-story wood house on the lot next door
  • Re-use/recycle the brick for landscaping, for planters, etc.
  • Bring in vintage wood to the interior
  • A lobby-feature wall to reflect the site and surrounding area, and include an informational plaque

Image 33The architect mentioned structural and seismic concerns, having to put a new roof on the current building and that a community meeting from neighbors was held and all feedback was positive, but was neither asked nor offered details on those during the meeting. At the time of this writing, APG is waiting to hear from the architects (Market Street Development) for more details about the community meeting.

The DRB was interested in using existing brick, perhaps because surrounding single-story buildings also showcase brick; however, according to the architect’s plans available for public viewing at City Hall, the majority of the proposed building is painted stucco, with one exterior feature wall of wood. One DRB member preferred that the parking be located behind the building as it is currently but was told that Public Works wants to avoid that to minimize traffic on the residential streets. It is unclear to the Advocacy and Action Committee after looking at the plans, where the recycled brick will be used because the majority of the property will be a parking lot.

The DRB gave approval and recommended for the majority of the brick to be used for a new façade. One DRB board member suggested the architects look into finding a way to move the house or salvage it.

Image 31The Site Visit

On the lot is the medical building and a 2-story house. On Vega Street across from the property, there is currently an empty commercial lot so there is potential for a driveway there rather than solely on Main Street. Neither building has visible structural damage. In fact, the older home is in better shape than the brick medical building.

What’s next?

The next Planning Commission Meeting is Monday, August 29, 2016.

The next meeting for the Design Review Board is Tuesday, September 6, 2016.

If you would like to join APG’s Advocacy and Action Committee, please contact us at info@alhambrapreservation.org.