LIVING IN A WHACK-A-MOLE CITY

Once upon a time in the beautiful city of Redlands, a city council approved a high-rise building downtown. It is the only one of its kind that intrusively interrupts the landscape.
Once upon another time in the beautiful city of Redlands, a council must have approved the demolition of a beautiful hotel along with a lovely, unique Elks Lodge in downtown Redlands and replaced it with an albatross of a small shopping mall.

Once upon yet another time in the beautiful city of Redlands, a council approved a lengthy sweetheart lease deal with the CVS drugstore chain. It is the only business still open in the otherwise empty blight of that mall and the city must continue to honor the lease.

There would have been many more such once-upon-a-times and poor decisions were it not for the involvement of concerned citizens. More than once, they have had to go to bat to preserve the unique qualities that make Redlands the Jewel of the Inland Empire. The ones who promote these destructive development ideas no doubt see themselves as visionaries — but the true visionaries are the ones who have worked to keep Redlands unique through their battles fought and won (Measures G, R, N and U).

Living in this beautiful city is like living in a whack-a-mole community. Every time citizens manage to vote down a council effort such as 2020’s Measure G, somehow the powers that be again find the influence and outside money to come up with another scheme that would adversely affect the quality of life and landscape of our beautiful downtown.

And, so, again, a group of concerned citizens rallied to respond to this latest plan and gathered signatures for a petition to put the current plan before the voters of Redlands. Whack, whack, whack! What will pop up next?

Why am I against the current proposed plan for the mall site?

First, why is it that an Orange County entity — Village Partners — was selected to formulate and possibly develop this plan instead of a more local organization? The campaign supporting Measure G was largely funded by outside money. Is that the case here?

Second, I am troubled by the proposed 722 residential units. That is just too many! What would the rent be for these units? Who would qualify? Do we know?

Downtown parking continues to be a huge concern without adding 722 housing units. Many of the residents would still need parking. It’s a pipe dream to assume that most of them only need worry about the walkability of getting to the train station! How will their children get to school? Where will they shop for groceries? And it appears that people like me who might want to patronize downtown are completely forgotten when it comes to our needs.

Another major concern is building height. There are those who speak scornfully about those of us who wish to limit the height of downtown buildings because of the term “high-rise” when referring to five, six or seven stories.

That term is relative to what surrounds us. One of this newspaper’s letter writers said “that horse (high-rise) was already out of the barn,” referring to the Citibank building.

Just because one horse got out of the barn doesn’t mean you need to allow the whole herd to stampede and inflict further damage on Redlands!

City councils of the past made major mistakes as described above. To approve this plan would be yet another mistake as will current plans to destroy the Palm Avenue historic orange grove.

But that is another story.

By Mae Marinello

Reasons Why The City Council Should Adopt The Initiative And Not Delay Until 2022 General Election

As you know, the City Council opted to order reports on the effects of the proposed Growth Management initiative before making a decision on whether to adopt the initiative, hold a Special Election, or make us wait until Nov. 2022 for a General Election. If the Council decides that we need to wait until 2022 for a general election, it would be a slap in the face of every Redlander who voted against Measure G (which was voted down by 65%).  With that, the City Council will make their decision on the initiative at the Council meeting on Tuesday, August 3.

Here are just a few reasons why the City needs to adopt the initiative:

*Grossly unfair to residents to make residents wait until 2022 to vote on an issue that was already soundly defeated in March, 2020 with the defeat of Measure G

*The initiative literally fulfills the motto we see on Redlands Fire Trucks:  preserving the past, protecting the future

*The current Transit Village Area plan demonstrates a form of ageism by making concerted efforts to limit public parking and automobiles while focused on walking and biking.  This, by default, excludes the elderly (17% of Redlands population), as well as the disabled

*A six-level parking structure at the old mall would be visually and practically excessive when considering the small footprint of the site

*Using official (SKAG) density ratios, the mall site alone, with its  722 multi-family units, would average 1,800 people living in the heart of downtown Redlands, and that would mean more traffic congestion on our already crowded streets, more city services needed, more water used during a drought ( while we are on water restrictions)

*Justice delayed is justice denied

*City of Redlands website touts that our quality of life comes from “a big town with a small-town feel” – but with unlimited building heights, the possibility of 4, 5, and even 6 story buildings is a reality, and one that would certainly nullify that “small-town feel”

*With no building height limits in place, it is a reality that this City Council or any future Council may decide to build 4, 5, and 6 story buildings.  There is no guarantee that they won’t unless a cap is on the books.  Per Brian DeSatnik, Director of Development Services:  “Current zoning in the downtown has no limit on building height.”

*We followed the rules by gathering enough signatures to qualify for a Special Election because we found an overwhelmingly positive response – the City should not punish us for that

*Redlands isn’t a town but a place with attributes unmatched in So Cal

*The initiative does not restrict growth, its intent is to preserve the character of our historic downtown

*There is a 3-story apartment building underway 2 blocks from the Mall

*At the Transit Village areas, it makes no sense to recruit 6,000 commuters to come to Redlands, making 150 round trips to the LA job centers, every extra mile is another nail in the climate coffin.

*The 3-story limit was in place for about 3 decades, all through the planning engineering, and funding phase of the rail project. At no time did anyone question the existing 3 limit

*The only reason for the 6,000 is to hopefully help pay off a part of the ½ billion costs

*We believe a number of cities have a 3 story limit on apartments near their transit stations (e.g. Claremont) as photos appear to show that nearly all buildings in Old Pasadena are 3 stories

*Redlands had more than enough vacant land to satisfy Redlands Housing Needs Assessment into the future

*4 and 5-stories will leave most north-south downtown streets in shadow much of the day

*Jack Dangermond’s “Packinghouse District” (Sprouts center) shows what can be done under the initiative (a visually pleasing, appropriately landscaped, and successful endeavor under 3 stories tall)

*Friends of Redlands does not oppose growth.  The population has doubled since Proposition R was put in place, and we continue to add thousands

*Absent companies and industries locating here, a large addition of people aggravates the “jobs-housing balance,” a state planning goal. Ergo – those commuters should live close to their LA /OC jobs

*“Jewel of the Inland Empire” is a fragile image, any excessive change to our town would sacrifice it

*The housing downtown will not be “affordable,” but rather, as Councilwoman Davis described it, the housing downtown will be “aspirational”

*The reason tourists come to Redlands and spend their money at our local establishments is precisely that it is a historical town and has not been overrun by unlimited growth and dominated by tall buildings and congestion like every other trendy and ubiquitous “urban center”

August 3 is when the City Council will hold its meeting to decide the very future (and possible fate) of Redlands.  Be there.  6:00 pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CITY COUNCIL TO TAKE UP GROWTH MANAGEMENT INITIATIVE’S NEXT STEP AT COUNCIL MEETING

The next step for our Growth Management Initiative has been agendized for Tuesday’s in-person City Council Meeting on July 6:  

A. Receive and file the City Clerk’s certification of the Redlanders for Responsible Growth Management’s – “An Initiative Ordinance of The People of Redlands Amending the Principles of Managed Development of the Redlands General Plan;”

B. Consideration of options pursuant to Elections Code Section 9215 of either: (i) adopt the initiative ordinance, without alteration; (ii) submit the initiative ordinance to the voters of the City of Redlands at the November 2022 regular municipal election; (iii) call for a special election for October 12, 2021, and request an additional appropriation of $505,000 for special election costs; or (iv) order reports on the effects of the proposed initiative ordinance to be presented to the City Council at its meeting of August 3, 2021 (City Clerk Donaldson)

We will press the Council to inform our group and the nearly 8,000 people who signed the petition whether our initiative will be on the October 12 Special Election ballot, bumped to the November 2022 general election, or whether they will cut to the chase and save the City $500,000 by adopting the initiative.  The last option would seem to be the logical choice given that the City Council saw Measure G go down in defeat by a whopping  66% to 34% margin.

As such, we are asking that as many of you as possible make a point to attend the meeting.  This is the City Council’s first meeting now open to the public, and given that we are on the agenda it would be a positive image to see a good turnout of supporters.  We have been advised to arrive by 5:30 pm as they expect a full house.  Comments must be submitted before 3:00 pm on Monday!

REDLANDS COMMUNITY NEWS: FOES OF TALL BUILDINGS IN REDLANDS FILE PETITIONS FOR SPECIAL ELECTION

From the Redlands Community News:

The Friends of Redlands and Redlands for Responsible Growth Management turned in signatures calling for a special election to stop tall and dense development on Monday, June 7.

The groups have been collecting signatures since September to limit building height to three stories in Redlands. The groups do not approve of Orange County-based Village Partners’ proposed plan to build five-story buildings and a six-level parking garage on the Redlands Mall site.

“It is amazing what citizens can do when they want to save their city,” said group member John Berry. “Eighteen percent of registered voters in Redlands signed our petition. This was a bipartisan effort to save Redlands.”

The registrar of voters has 30 business days to verify signatures.

“Approximately by mid-July, City Clerk Jeanne Donaldson will make a report to the City Council and give them the final signature result,” said Berry. “One option the City Council can do is they can accept our petition in lieu of an election. The city would pay over half a million dollars to put on our election. So City Council can save money by accepting our petition.”

To qualify for a special election, the petition needed 6,409 valid signatures. The signature count handed into city hall was 7,715, which still needs verification by the registrar of voters.

Former Redlands Mayor Bill Cunningham, who developed the growth management initiative last September, said it is not just about building heights.

“It also includes issues with traffic and noise requirements,” said Cunningham.

“Without this initiative, the city’s general plan would be eviscerated. We can’t have that. Our signature number is pleasantly surprising because we started when lockdowns were still happening in 2020. People would say they wanted to sign but wouldn’t want to come up to a person with a clipboard. Our petition limits apartments to 500 units instead of the proposed 722, limits building heights to three stories, and lowers the parking garage by two levels.

“Another thing that is disappointing with Village Partners’ proposed plan is it doesn’t extend State Street through, which is important,” continued Cunningham.

“The new location they have for CVS Pharmacy on the south side of Citrus Avenue at Eureka Street is terrible. It takes CVS out of the center of town, which is a prime location they have now.”

“There is so much talent in the city,” said Schneider. “Why is the city relying on Orange County developers who don’t know Redlands?

“I would even love to see Esri come up with something.”

REDLANDS DAILY FACTS: A WHOPPING 7,715 GROWTH MANAGEMENT INITIATIVE PETITION SIGNATURES SUBMITTED TO THE CITY

From the Redlands Daily Facts:

A ballot initiative that would limit heights of buildings in the area around the upcoming rail line could be before Redlands voters this year after supporters wheeled thousands of signed petitions into the City Clerk’s Office on Monday, June 7.

About two dozen supporters, most wearing yellow “no high rises” T-shirts, gathered in front of City Hall as the four boxes of signatures, representing 10 months of effort, rolled in on a dolly.

While there are no current plans for high rises in Redlands, which the National Fire Protection Association says are more than 75 feet in height — or about seven stories tall — the sentiment among initiative supporters was clear.

“If it weren’t for (city officials’) hubris and their callousness we wouldn’t be here,” John Berry, one of the lead organizers of the petition gathering, told supporters gathered at City Hall. “To them, we would just be another Orange County condo canyon city.”

Those gathered expressed frustration the city is moving forward with a plan for development along the train tracks, despite voters last year rejecting Measure G, which was a proposed rollback of restrictions in those areas.

Since then, an April 2020 draft of the Transit Villages Specific Plan calls for allowing buildings an average of four stories and 65 feet tall nearest the newly completed train stations. Public hearings on that draft plan are tentatively set for spring 2022.

Despite Measure G’s failure, city officials have said, developers proposing projects can still utilize the exemptions that are in 1997’s voter-approved Measure U, which imposed several restrictions on development.

On May 18, four-fifths of the City Council voted that a project with an average height of four stories planned for the Redlands Mall site qualified for one of those exemptions.

While waiting outside the City Clerk’s Office, Bill Cunningham, former mayor and the man behind both Measure U and the new initiative, said the new proposal would close a loophole in Measure U.

The loophole “really eviscerates the general plan, and development standards of the city,” Cunningham said. “It gives a willing council (license) to make all kinds of concessions, as many city councils do, and we just can’t have that, at least I don’t think the people of Redlands are willing to have that.”

Cunningham provided the honorary final petition signature for the new campaign on Monday morning.

A summary prepared by the Redlands city attorney noted the proposed measure would change several sections of the general plan, including:

  • Limiting building heights near downtown and university rail stations to three stories.
  • Limiting building heights near possible future Alabama and California street rail stations, and near the New York Street station, to four stories.
  • Requiring one parking space for every bedroom in proposed residential developments

Hotels, however, would be allowed at any height the City Council chooses, under the proposed measure.

Three weeks ago, Berry said, he didn’t think volunteers could gather more than 7,000 signatures, but by June 1 they had, and they “surged” across the finish line. Supporters say they have 7,715 signatures. City Clerk Jeanne Donaldson will likely verify that number on Tuesday, Berry said.

With signatures of 10% of registered voters, the measure could be before voters in the city’s next general election, set for November 2022. With 15%, or 6,407 signatures, the measure could go before voters in a special election. Supporters had until Feb. 8 to gather signatures but won a lawsuit to get an extension to June 8 due to the pandemic.

If all the signatures are valid, they would represent 18% of registered voters in Redlands.

The San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters has 30 days to verify signatures, then the city clerk will report to the City Council.

Officials could accept the petition in lieu of an election, Berry said.

A special election could cost about $500,000.

If the council decides to have a special election, it could be as early as mid-November or early December.

“The battle is not over,” Berry said. “It’s just moving to a new phase.”

YES, WE DID VOTE AGAINST HIGH-RISE BUILDINGS IN DOWNTOWN REDLANDS

An excellent letter in the Redlands Community News by resident Julie Spiller:

I want to voice my strong feelings against what the City Council (not Paul Foster, of course, he rightly voted against an exemption for the State Street developer) has done by approving an exemption to allow 3, 4, 5 or 6 stories in the mall area.

It is insane to think 722 housing units in that area make sense.

We have water restrictions, drought, lack of parking and traffic congestion in downtown and elsewhere in town. I am still wondering how the train coming through, especially Alabama Street, will work with the people already and historically continuing on through red lights, into and remaining illegally in the intersection of Redlands Boulevard and Alabama while traffic is held up and safety is impaired.

The voters of Redlands voted 66% against anything over three stories in Redlands, including downtown.

Count me as one of thousands of unsatisfied citizens who voted against what is being condoned by the council.

I thank Mr. Foster for representing the citizens.

 

REPORT: HIGH-RISE INITIATIVE REACHES SIGNATURE MINIMUM FOR SPECIAL ELECTION

From the Redlands Community News:

The Friends of Redlands’ Stop Hi-Rise Initiative has gained enough signatures for a special election this year and a ballot measure in 2022. The registrar of voters still needs to validate the signatures.

The community group started collecting signatures in September and has amassed more than  6,409, according to member Nicole Rinehardt.

The Friends of Redlands’ goal is to restrict building height to three stories in the city. The petition needs 4,272 valid signatures, or 10% of the city’s 42,000 voters, for a ballot measure in 2022. It needs 6,409 or 15% of the city’s voters for a special election this year.

“We need a special election this fall to stop hi-rise projects from being built this year,” said Rinehardt. “If we wait for a general election next year, the Redlands City Council might approve projects before voters get their say.”

Rinehardt said the initiative would limit building heights to 40 feet in the downtown and University of Redlands Transit Villages Areas. It would allow building heights of 52 feet in the New York Street/ESRI Transit Villages Area.

The initiative would also prevent buildings taller than two stories next to single-story homes without the consent of the owner of the single-story home, increase parking requirements and replace a four-fifths council vote enabling density exceptions with a unanimous vote.

Rinehardt said the Friends of Redlands originally formed during Measure G.

“We are an offshoot of that group,” she said. “We are bipartisan, concerned citizens looking at maintaining Redlands’ heritage.”

Rinehardt said the group has concerns with Village Partners Ventures’ proposed plan for the Redlands Mall.

“The reason for this petition is to let the voters decide on the magnitude of city development,” said Rinehardt.

“Our group isn’t against development. That is a misconception. We want residents to have a chance to vote about what they want to see. We want people to have a voice. And we want to have something that fits more with our heritage. We want a responsible scale, and right now, it’s not to scale with the downtown area. We don’t want to have a cluster of buildings.

“Everyone comes to the table with a different definition of what a high-rise building is,” continued Rinehardt. “California defines a high-rise as 75 feet tall. The City Bank downtown is 85 feet tall. We would like to have a cap on three stories in that area.”

The deadline for the Friends of Redlands to turn in their petition to the city clerk is June 8. They are still looking for more signatures.

“We have no idea how many signatures could be invalidated,” Rinehardt said. “We must build the signature buffer to ensure success.”

Check it out, and make sure to take the poll below the article, which you can read here.  Let’s get those numbers up!!!

 

 

JUST SAY NO: MALL SITE PROPOSAL INCLUDES STRUCTURE AS TALL AS CITI BANK BUILDING ON STATE STREET

Per Redlands Daily Facts:

Village Partners’ proposal for State Street Village includes mixed-use, three-, four- and five-story buildings with up to 722 housing units, but the builder is open to revisiting the five-story features, according to company principal Don Henry…The proposal also includes a six-level parking structure with 780 spaces…

To help visualize just how tall these structures would be, the Citi Bank on State Street is six-stories tall. Thus it’s easy to see what an imposing eyesore a six-story parking structure would be.  In a zoom meeting with the City of Redlands Planning Dept. two weeks ago, Village Partners said that five-story buildings would surround the parking structure to help block the view of it.  But, if five-story buildings are necessary to help block the view of the parking structure, then it’s highly unlikely that Village Partners will revisit the issue as they claim.  Apparently, they need buildings that tall to offset the giant parking structure.

Friends of Redlands continues to collect signatures for a Growth Management initiative that would place a cap on building heights of 3 stories in our historic downtown and at the Transit Vllage areas.  When one considers the  proportions of our downtown and the height of the Citi Bank building, and then visualizes the Mall site having a structure that tall with structures surrounding it that are nearly that tall, it’s easy to see what a disproportionate eyesore the proposed new builds would be.  They would easily swallow up our charming historic downtown. 

Let’s develop downtown, but let’s do it in a smart and thoughtful way and one that enhances our unique historical charms because that is why people and tourists are drawn to downtown Redlands in the first place.  Making us look like any other pedestrian urban center with a bigger-is-better mentality does not enhance the visual “jewel of the Inland Empire”.  Rather it destroys it.

 

GROWTH MANAGEMENT INITIATIVE: PETITION SIGNING BLITZ!

MAY DAY! MAY DAY!  MAY DAY!

Get ready for our petition signing blitz Saturday, May 1 throughout Redlands.  We are going to have one big, last push for petition signatures.  As we are well on our way to collecting enough signatures to qualify the Growth Management initiative for a ballot, we want to finish STRONG.  If you haven’t signed the petition, or know someone who hasn’t, there will be three conveniently located signing stations where you can drive by (you don’t even have to get out of your car!) and sign a petition:

PROSPECT PARK (Corner of Highland/Cajon) 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

SYLVAN PARK (Corner of University/Colton) 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Corner of Brookside/San Mateo (near Carolyn’s Cafe) 8:00 am – 12:00

Spread the word!  Let’s get this done!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IT WOULD BE SO EASY FOR THE CITY OF REDLANDS TO REASSURE DOUBTFUL RESIDENTS

The easiest and most effective way for the City of Redlands to convince residents who doubt officials’ dismissive reassurances that they won’t approve high-rises downtown is to get it on the books and make it official:

A report in the Feb. 25 issue of the Redlands Community News focused on efforts made by various consultants, council members and officials to convince skeptical residents that there will be no high-density high-rises in Transit Village areas.

The easiest and most effective way to reassure a doubting public would be to publicly endorse the Growth Management Initiative sponsored by Redlanders for Responsible Growth Management and supported by the Friends of Redlands, a local civic group concerned with protecting the historic charm of downtown Redlands.

The initiative would limit building heights to 40 feet in the Downtown and University of Redlands Transit Villages areas, prevent buildings taller than two stories next to single-story homes without the consent of the owner of the single-story home, increase parking requirements over what is specified in the Transit Villages plan, and replace a 4/5 council vote enabling density exceptions with a 5/5 council vote.

This is necessary so four city council members could not override the objections of a fifth council member opposing its location. This makes every voting district equally powerful. If the City signed onto this, it would provide the reassurance the public needs.

We want the Jewel of the Inland Empire to remain just that. Smart, well thought-out development that enhances our historical downtown rather than devouring it, would be welcomed.