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Posts Tagged ‘Alhambra Preservation Group’

626_Golden_Streets-sasquatch_origSpring has sprung and there’s a lot going on in our city and the San Gabriel Valley over the next few weeks. Here are just a few of the events and activities that you may want to check out:

State of the City Address, April 22 – Join City Council for the state of the city speech by Mayor Adele Andrade-Stadler at the Alhambra City Council meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 22, 2019. Thanks to Grassroots Alhambra, this year Alhambra’s mayor will give the state of the city speech at a City Council meeting, allowing city residents to hear the speech free of charge. In years past, the state of the city speech has only been given at a $30/ticket lunch hosted by the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club. Kudos to Grassroots Alhambra for their role in pushing the City of Alhambra to have this speech given in a public free forum and Mayor Andrade-Stadler for agreeing to give the speech at a City Council meeting, which allows all city residents to hear the status of issues facing Alhambra.

Neighborhood Clean-Up, April 27 – This year’s neighborhood clean-up will take place in southern Alhambra between West Ramona Road, West Glendon Way, South 2nd Street and South 9th Street, in the areas known as Ramona and Ramona Park. City of Alhambra staff, community service organizations and volunteers will assist with the massive one-day clean-up effort to improve the appearance of this neighborhood. The clean-up will take place on Saturday, April 27, between 8 a.m. and 12 noon.

The Neighborhood Clean-Up Command Post will be located on West Ramona Road between South 5th Street and South 6th Street. Volunteers are also needed to help with clean-up efforts! Contact the Alhambra Code Enforcement at 626-570-3230 or code@cityofalhambra.org to volunteer or if you have any additional questions. If you’d like more information on the event, please visit the City of Alhambra event web page.

City of Alhambra General Plan, May 6 and May 13 – The City of Alhambra’s Planning Commission will consider the final draft of the General Plan at two meetings in May – May 6 and May 20. For more information, see the article in this e-newsletter or visit the City of Alhambra’s General Plan web page.

626 Golden Streets, May 19 – 626 Golden Streets is an open streets (or ciclovia) event that will connect South Pasadena, Alhambra and San Gabriel. The route begins in the Mission District of South Pasadena, heads down to Alhambra Road and Main Street in Alhambra and ends at the historic San Gabriel Mission. Participants are encouraged to walk, skate, bike, run the route. Look for Alhambra Preservation Group along the route in Alhambra! More details to come on where APG can be found on the day of the event! For more information on the event, visit 626 Golden Streets.

Photo courtesy of 626 Golden Streets.

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A 1968 LA Times article on the destruction of the City-owned property.

By Oscar Amaro, APG Founder and 2019 President

A Carnegie library with gardens designed by Frank Lloyd Wright…The 1880’s Victorian home of Captain F. Edward Gray, a prominent Los Angeles horticulturalist…A 1920’s Tudor Revival clubhouse designed by Scott Quintin a well-known Alhambra architect…A 1910-era Arts & Crafts-styled building, which was the headquarters of  “The Wednesday Afternoon Women’s Club”…The two-story Craftsman home owned by Norma Yocum, Alhambra’s first woman mayor…

Many cities would revel in the value afforded these architecturally and historically significant structures. Not in Alhambra. These are but a few of the noteworthy structures lost in the “Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley” as a result of an apathetic and negligent city hall.

Having grown up in the Alhambra/San Gabriel/Monterey Park area in the 1960s and 70s, even as a youth I was fascinated by this area’s treasure trove of historic buildings, homes, churches, schools—in addition to its rich history. Alhambrans may be unaware that US presidents found our city significant enough to make stops through here in the early part of the 20th century. Many of So Cal’s early leaders lived in Alhambra including a Captain F. Edward Gray, Los Angeles’ first commercial grower and main supplier of cut flowers to the region and president of the Southern California Horticultural Society as well as one of its first County Assessors. Captain Gray was also instrumental in securing funds to build one of Alhambra’s first schools and resided in an 1880s Victorian mansion. Captain Gray’s magnificent home was razed due to inaction and indifference on the city’s part despite strong calls from Alhambra’s residents to save it. In fact, the Alhambra Historical Society was formed in 1966 as a result of this debacle.

I moved away from this area in the early 1980s, living in both Riverside and Whittier, two cities that highly value their historic culture, architecture, and neighborhoods and take pride in these resources – as every city should. However, to be closer to work I moved back to Alhambra in the 1990s and was shocked to see so many of the historic structures that I remembered replaced by massive apartment and condo complexes. I was angered to see neighborhoods that were once quiet, picturesque and family-oriented gone. In 2000, my wife and I purchased a 1912 Craftsman home in Alhambra’s Ramona Park area. Shortly after moving in and restoring it to its period splendor, we witnessed the destruction of five 1920s bungalows just within a block of our house. That was the impetus for me to seek answers as to why this ongoing onslaught of our city’s historic character was continuing despite the Historical Society’s efforts.

When I formed Alhambra Preservation Group in 2003 with the late Katherine Hildreth, our mission was to begin lobbying our city leaders for historical and architectural protections. I naively thought that once our political leadership understood and were made aware of Alhambra’s robust architectural, historical and cultural resources, they would begin to adopt meaningful historic preservation measures.  APG set out to educate our civic leaders and Alhambrans about the need to adopt legislation. We sponsored home tours, workshops and events, and a historic homes award program. We conducted a windshield survey of Alhambra’s historic resources and mapped out Alhambra’s more than 25 architectural genres and sub-genres. We met with city leaders again and again. More than 100 of our members staged a “Stand Up for Preservation” show of support in city council chambers in 2015. But in the 16 years since APG’s formation, we have seen little to no movement on the city’s part to enact historic preservation measures. Instead, our experience with city council members has ranged from empty promises and lip service to outright obstruction.

It became apparent that there is a very real and tangible resistance within Alhambra’s government to adopt any historic preservation measures and that no amount of negotiations with [past] city council members would have had any effect.  This refusal of Alhambra’s leaders to listen to the concerns and demands of Alhambra’s residents is inexcusable.

But we are finally seeing changes.

With last year’s election, we now have several city council members who have voiced support in moving these efforts forward. Our board of directors has met with each of the newly elected council members to inform them about APG’s goals for 2019, to gauge their support and provide any guidance they may need.

What are these goals?

  • Participate in the Alhambra General Plan process, ensuring that historic preservation goals, policies and implementation action items are included in the final documents.
  • Update the partial 1984 historic resources survey and investigate what is required to conduct a citywide inventory of Alhambra’s historic resources.
  • Host an annual members event.
  • Attend city meetings including council, planning commission and the design review board as needed.
  • Monitor the status of and advocate for threatened architectural resources throughout the city.
  • Continue lobbying City Council to move forward with the development of a comprehensive historic preservation program.

APG remains committed to seeing substantive historic preservation measures enacted here in Alhambra. Nothing will deter us from our goal of preserving and protecting Alhambra’s historic homes, schools, businesses and churches. It is WAY past time.

Photo courtesy of LA Times archives.

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St.Simon.&.Jude.Chapel.2.17.19As 2019 begins, Alhambra Preservation Group has several key items on its advocacy and action agenda:

City of Alhambra General Plan – The City of Alhambra released the final General Plan on January 10, 2019. APG reviewed the final General Plan along with the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and immediately noticed that three key implementation action items related to historic preservation measures that had been originally included in the General Plan’s draft EIR had been deleted from the final EIR. APG representatives attended the first public hearing at the Planning Commission and President and Founder Oscar Amaro addressed these deleted implementation action items to the Planning Commission. APG also submitted a letter to Alhambra City Council Members and Planning Commission Members outlining the deletion of these key implementation action items and demanding that these three key items be restored to the final EIR as well as the final listing of General Plan Implementation Action Items. For more information, the letter APG submitted to the City of Alhambra may be viewed here.

At a January city council meeting, Council member Katherine Lee stated that the number of Alhambrans surveyed for the General Plan was insufficient and proposed that more Alhambra residents be surveyed. City Council supported this proposal. Additional surveying efforts are taking place now with the Planning Commission set to consider the final General Plan on May 6 and May 20, 2019.

Reginald Davis Johnson’s St. Simon and Jude Chapel – Demolition of the former Kensington Senior Home structures surrounding the historic St. Simon and Jude Chapel designed began in early January. APG is monitoring the proposed Camellia Court construction site and wrote a letter to the City of Alhambra Development Services inquiring as to what protective measures were being taken to ensure that this historic chapel is saved. APG received correspondence back from Marc Castagnola as well as the construction supervisor assuring us that protective measures are in place. Above is a photo of the fencing surrounding the chapel. APG will continue to monitor the situation as demolition and construction progresses.

Meeting New City Council Members – Last November, Alhambra elected three new city council members – Adele Andrade-Stadler, Katherine Lee and Ross Maza. The APG Board of Directors is meeting with each of the newly elected city council members to educate them on APG, our organization’s mission and Alhambra’s need for a comprehensive historic preservation program. In light of the release of the final General Plan last month, we are also communicating to them that key implementation action items related to historic preservation measures were deleted from the final EIR and asking that they be restored to the final EIR and final listing of General Plan Implementation Action Items.

403 South Garfield Avenue – We continue to monitor the Queen Anne Victorian home at 403 South Garfield Avenue. In January, APG representatives met with the owner of the property to discuss future possibilities for the property. We were encouraged to learn that the property owner recognizes the historic nature of the home and is open to a solution that preserves it. We will continue to keep in contact with the owner and continue working towards a solution that saves this local landmark.

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

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Thirty-four years ago in 1984, when Ronald Reagan was president, Kenny Loggins was footloose and Dan Akroyd was busting ghosts, the City of Alhambra and the Alhambra Historical Society, conducted the Alhambra Historic and Cultural Resources Survey of our city’s major architectural landmarks using state grant funds.

The survey inventoried two Alhambra neighborhoods (the northwest Wuest Tract and the southern Ramona Park Tract) and 34 at-large sites focused on pre-World War II structures. The nine-month effort documented 637 buildings and community design features. Within those 637 identified sites, 42 buildings and clusters were singled out as worthy of local landmark designation and 36 buildings were evaluated as potentially eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The 1984 survey also listed buildings and neighborhoods identified for inclusion in future surveys.

Except future surveys never happened. The City of Alhambra placed the survey in a filing cabinet and ignored it. City leaders disregarded the historic preservation recommendations in the 1984 survey, which included the need for future surveys and a heritage-conservation ordinance. As a result, many of the historically significant structures listed in the 1984 survey have been razed or substantially altered, and entire neighborhoods have never been inventoried for their historical, architectural or cultural value. Additionally, current historical resources risk being destroyed – the Queen Anne Victorian at 403 South Garfield and Crawford’s Corner at New Avenue and Valley Blvd. top that list!

The closest Alhambra has come to a new historic resources inventory is the windshield survey conducted by Alhambra Preservation Group in 2016. This survey documented hundreds of homes, businesses, churches and schools throughout Alhambra. APG discovered structures representing more than 20 architectural genres and sub-genres built before the mid-1960s. APG’s resulting interactive Google map validates the conclusion of the 1984 survey, which stated, “…the survey demonstrated, to the city government and to the public, that Alhambra does indeed have an architectural heritage.”

Alhambra still has an architectural heritage, and it’s time to document, celebrate and preserve it!

Alhambra desperately needs to conduct a citywide inventory of its historical, architectural and cultural resources. Digitizing and updating the 1984 survey is a tangible first step we can take towards that goal. Can you help? Here are the types of volunteer help we need to digitize and update the 1984 survey:

  • Are you a fast typist? We need help inputting individual survey sheets from the more than 600 structures surveyed. We have hard copies of them all but they need to be digitized.
  • Do you like to walk? We need to canvas the two neighborhood tracts surveyed in 1984 and update survey sheets to reflect changes in those neighborhoods.
  • Are you a photographer? We need current photographs of the homes and structures listed in the 1984 survey.

These are the beginning steps of a new endeavor APG is calling Putting Alhambra on the Map, an intensive, multi-year effort to survey all of Alhambra’s historical, architectural and cultural resources.

If you’re interested in helping us with the efforts related to digitizing Alhambra’s 1984 survey or if you’d like to volunteer for APG’s future citywide historical resources inventory project, please e-mail us at info@alhambrapreservation.org.

Because we’re going to need everyone’s help to put Alhambra on the map!

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

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by Joyce Amaro, President

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”   – Margaret Mead

I’ve been thinking a lot about Ms. Mead’s words lately. At its core, Alhambra Preservation Group strives to effect positive change in Alhambra through educational and innovative programs. From our grassroots beginnings to our popular home tours, from the first-ever 2006 city council candidates’ forum to the creation of an interactive online architecture map in 2016, APG’s pioneering spirit has produced events that raise awareness, build community and bring historic preservation to the forefront of Alhambra’s civic discourse.

This past year has been no different.

  • APG celebrated the restoration of Lindaraxa Park’s one remaining entrance arch and the sensitive rehabilitation of the century-old storefront on West Alhambra Road.
  • We produced four educational videos that showcase Alhambra’s architecture and its historic neighborhoods.
  • APG wrote an emphatic response to the City of Alhambra’s draft General Plan, pointing out its non-committal historic preservation policies and goals. So far, there has been no response.

APG’s principal event of 2018 was the Kids and Candidates – A Community Engagement Forum, a city council candidates’ forum on October 11. APG was part of a coalition of five Alhambra community groups and high school students who organized this first-time event. More than 400 Alhambrans attended the evening event at Alhambra High School. Candidates discussed issues facing Alhambra, including the need for a historic preservation ordinance, tax incentives for owners of historic homes and Alhambra’s need to conduct a citywide survey of its resources.

That last issue – Alhambra’s critical need for a citywide survey of its historical, architectural and cultural resources – is guiding APG towards its next endeavor.

APG firmly believes that a baseline of Alhambra’s resources needs to be established. In 1984-85 the City of Alhambra conducted an inventory, but it only included two Alhambra neighborhoods and 34 at-large sites. As a result, the survey overlooked many historically significant structures and entire neighborhoods. It’s been 34 years since that partial inventory was conducted. Completing a citywide inventory of Alhambra’s historical, architectural and cultural resources is a crucial first step in saving our city’s historic homes, businesses, churches and schools. It’s time to finish the job!

We’ll be honest. A citywide survey is neither inexpensive nor easy. It will cost a significant amount of money and will require volunteer help. But APG is committed to leading this effort, and we can’t wait! Several historic structures are currently in jeopardy – the Queen Anne Victorian home at 403 South Garfield and Crawford’s Corner at New Avenue and Valley Boulevard top the list. If we don’t start now, we risk losing these and other historical resources. In 2019, we’ll develop a plan for conducting a citywide survey. Stay tuned for more details!

For now, we are asking that you give as generously as you can during APG’s fall membership drive and consider increasing your tax-deductible donation to assist us in funding a citywide inventory. As a member, you’ll continue to enjoy the same benefits that we’ve always offered – a quarterly e-newsletter, educational field trips and informative events. Beginning this year, members will have access to APG’s new online Resource Guide, which will replace our printed guide. Members will also receive a new thank you gift – a window decal for their home’s front window.

We thank you and greatly appreciate your support! APG has always been a pioneer and we’ll continue to develop community-based programs that lead Alhambra towards a comprehensive historic preservation program. It’s our hope that you will join us in working to fulfill Alhambra Preservation Group’s mission: “Ensuring 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.”

Photo courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

 

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Alhambra.Rd.Iona.Workspacesby Barbara Beckley

Alhambra Preservation Group congratulates Mike McCollum on the beautiful restoration of one of Alhambra’s many historic structures.

Mike McCollum knows a great building – and its potential — when he sees it. “People value and appreciate restored buildings that have character – they have a human quality,” he explains.

As the successful attorney-owner of McCollum Counsel, which works with international and Chinese multi-national companies, Mike was looking for an office in Alhambra to be closer to his clients.

Alhambra.Road.Iona.Workspaces.McCollum“This building caught my eye,” he said, of the sprawling, single-story brick structure that has graced West Alhambra Road between Curtis and Electric Avenues since 1918. He knew right away its picturesque brickwork and multiple spaces with large windows looking out on a tree-lined residential street had “office potential.” Its location, near Huntington Drive and easy access to Los Angeles and other San Gabriel Valley communities was an added plus.

Lucky for the building – and Alhambra – Mike loves to restore vintage structures. As a high school student in Los Feliz, his first summer job was cataloging historic courthouses for a preservation group. He was hooked. Since then he’s made a hobby of refurbishing vintage buildings with his father and brother, restoring aging gems first in Angelino Heights and then in Silverlake, Hollywood, Echo Park and now Alhambra.

Why? “For a love of old things and history. And the satisfaction of being able to bring something back to life that has stood the test of time and restore it to again be beautiful and useful.”

So in 2015 Mike bought the building at 1500 West Alhambra Road and began researching its history. “I love this building’s history,” he says. With so many individual spaces, it housed flourishing neighborhood businesses for decades. Among the longest running were the HM Pease & Co. Grocery, opened in 1918, along with a drug store, fruit specialist, butcher shop, barber shop and tailor. Small businesses came and went, including in 1932 a carpet store; 1937 a beauty shop; 1941 a lawn mower store; 1946 an upholsterer; 1949 a drapery boutique; 1952 a variety store; 1954 a doll shop; 1956 a plastic products manufacturer and in 1964 a café, and Golden West Books publishing, which occupied the building up until the early 2000s.

Mike was also pleased to learn that during the Great Depression, the grocery store owner, Alhambra resident Howard M. Pease, organized the donation of more than 1.5 million loaves of bread and other supplies to local residents in need.

“Hidden treasures” were also discovered during the renovation process – a bunch of wires going into a back room looked like they had been put in after the Great Depression.  “I’m guessing it was probably a bookie joint,” he surmises.

Mike began the renovations in 2016. Using his own good taste and love of vintage architecture, he added skylights to open up sunny spaces, and exposed the original brickwork, original beams, and concrete to give the building a stylish, vintage/contemporary feel.

Alhambra.Rd.Iona.Workspaces.2What’s the highlight of his reborn space? “All the beautifully preserved, and now exposed brick, and solid redwood beams. These beams shouldn’t be destroyed. We should be exposing and celebrating this rich beautiful wood. I love to see and celebrate the old brick, the wood and the concrete, and the new steel – the beauty of form and function.”

Work was completed this past summer. Mike threw a community party, in partnership with Brethren Shoes a new e-commerce company founded by an old friend, on September 9, 2018 celebrating his beautiful new Alhambra-based IONA Work Spaces. Mike chose to highlight Brethren as a nod to the original owner’s community service. “Brethren sells stylish shoes at reasonable prices — and for each pair they sell, they donate another pair to the homeless. Howard Pease would be pleased!” Mike adds.

Alhambra.Rd.Iona.Workspaces.3“Everyone is always impressed with the space,” he says. “Warm. Inviting. Calm,” is how his clients, visitors and prospective tenants describe this newest of Alhambra’s retro gems. “People like that they can have a beautiful office and natural light,” he says.

IONA Work Spaces features a collection of unique offices, common areas and meeting spaces, with nearly floor-to-ceiling windows and large spaces opening onto an historic street. “We’re getting a lot of interest from a mix of professionals including design and architect, consulting and real estate firms and tech oriented business who find IONA an ideal space to run their businesses and meet with clients. There are also a lot of neighbors within walking distance with home-based businesses who want a desk here as their ‘home office,’” Mike says.

A large “living room” space is perfect for after-hours events, like the informal chamber music performance put on by one of IONA Work Spaces new members. Mike hopes this space can be used for ongoing similar gatherings for its members.

More than a beautiful office building, Mike is looking to IONA Work Spaces to be a center of attraction to Alhambra. He hopes to use it to strengthen and promote Alhambra’s position as a center of all the economic activity coming from Pasadena, Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley. In particular, “I would love for IONA to be a hub of China-related businesses,” he declared.

IONA Work Spaces is currently accepting tenants. To learn more, visit IONA Work Spaces or email info@iona.work.

Photos courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

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Candidates-forum-3Alhambra’s future voters took their role seriously as part of the 420 residents and students who attended the Kids and Candidates – A Community Engagement Forum on October 11 at Alhambra High School.

More than 100 Alhambra High School students gained inspiration to become more civically involved as they staffed the event, asked issue-based questions and engaged in one-on-one discussions with the three attending City Council candidates.

“This is not your usual candidates’ forum,” said Alhambra Unified School District Superintendent Denise R. Jaramillo, in her opening remarks preceding the candidates’ round-table discussion. “One of the things that makes it unique is that it’s being hosted by students and sponsored by so many community groups.” Forum sponsors included the Alhambra Teachers Association, Alhambra Preservation Group, Alhambra Latino Association, Grassroots Alhambra and Alhambra Source.

The format was also unique. The free event kicked off with a Community Engagement Fair in the Alhambra High School quad, where students and residents interacted one-on-one with the three City Council candidates, enjoyed a lively performance by the Alhambra High School Jazz Band, and visited information tables staffed by school and community groups.

Then the kids and candidates got down to business. Alhambra City Council candidates Katherine Lee and Andrea Lofthouse-Quesada, both running for the First District City Council seat, and Adele Andrade-Stadler, running for the Fifth District, engaged in a robust, politically neutral roundtable discussion, moderated by Tom Hollihan, professor and director of doctoral studies at USC Annenberg School of Communications. Candidates Suzi Dunkel-Soto, Laura Tellez-Gagliano, Ross Maza and Julian Reyes were invited but declined to attend.

Alhambra High School students’ and residents’ questions included the hot-button issues of affordable housing, traffic congestion, bike lanes, need for more green space, historic preservation and a historic preservation ordinance, how to encourage civic engagement in a diverse community, and how to market Alhambra’s cultural assets to visitors. The goal of the Kids and Candidates Forum was to provide students and residents with an opportunity to hear the candidates’ positions on these issues, according to the organizing coalition members.

Mission accomplished, according to the students. “This impacts my perspective on American politics because by hearing what these candidates have to say, it gives not only me but all of us a view into political matters so that when we will be of voting age, it will help shape who we feel can make the best contribution to our world,” said Amanda Tang,  16, a junior at Alhambra High School.

According to feedback from the survey handed out at the end of the event, a majority of the attendees found the forum helpful in their voting decisions, but were disappointed not to hear from all the City Council candidates and felt it was disrespectful of the four candidates not participating.

“Through my participation in this forum I have learned that you can make your voice heard no matter if you are under the age of 18. You just have to find the right places,” said Jonathan Reynosa, 16, a junior at Alhambra High. “I believe my role in civic matters in the future will be to inspire others in my generation and in other generations to go out and make their voices heard. I want to inspire people to create change in our community. Being able to ask questions directly to the candidates has affected my view on politics. This forum has made me confident in my own opinions and encouraged me to make my voice heard not only in political affairs just in California, but all over America.”

Weren’t able to attend? No worries. Here’s your chance to watch the forum.

Photo courtesy of Oscar Amaro.

 

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