Piazza Project Sent Back to Planning Commission

Randy Wang, the developer and owner of the “Piazza at Temple City,” was dealt a big setback on Tuesday, December 2, 2008.

The City Council, as members of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), voted 3-2 to send the project back to the Planning Commission. CRA Agency Members Ken Gillanders and Fernando Vizcarra dissented from the majority decision.

Wang faced growing opposition from both the CRA and Temple City residents in attendance.

During the meeting, CRA Member Judy Wong was asked by fellow Agency Members Dave Capra and Cathé Wilson to clarify whether she had commented that Capra and Wilson wanted money in exchange for support of the Piazza development. Wong stated the accusation was not true.

CRA Agency Members were hesitant in continuing negotiations with Wang unless he agreed to drop the lawsuits. Gillanders suggested giving the developer 30 days to “clear the air” regarding the bribery allegations.

Residents also lashed at the developer for attempting to re-negotiate the project in the midst of a lawsuit against the City and elected officials.

After hearing from residents, CRA Vice-Chairman Capra inquired whether Community Development Manager Joe Lambert and Executive Director Charles R. Martin felt the changes being proposed were minor or major. Both stated they felt the changes were “major.”

Capra then suggested the CRA to refer the project back to the Planning Commission for a ruling. Agency Member Wong agreed.

Executive Director Martin agreed, stating if the CRA finds the changes as minor, they could approve the design. If the changes are major, the Piazza must return to the Planning Commission.

Vizcarra, an early Piazza opponent, agreed the changes were major; however, he asked the CRA to agree to one direction on the project and stick with it. Gillanders agreed.

Following a much heated discussion among CRA Members, the Piazza team was allowed to make a PowerPoint presentation on the Piazza design.

The new proposal consisted of 139,000 square feet, with approximately 108,000 square feet allocated for retail use. The plan still included space for office use and a banquet hall. The 52 one-bedroom condominiums were removed.

A total of 480 parking spaces will be required, stated Jane Housden of HTH Architects.

The Piazza team proposed two plans for the parking structure. The first option included a five-story structure capped at 45 feet tall, while the second alternative proposed a six-level structure at the height of 55 feet.

Following the presentation, the Piazza developer asked the CRA to support the new project. Wang did not comment on the pending litigation.

Chairwoman Wilson then announced she would support Capra and Wong’s move to send the project back to the Planning Commission.

Construction could begin in about a year, noted Lambert in response a question by Agency Member Vizcarra about the consequences of sending the project to the Planning Commission. The new plan also would require zone changes, a new development agreement, and additional environmental studies, he added.

The Piazza at Temple City, formerly known as the “Piazza Las Tunas” and the “Temple City Gallerias” has broken ground twice. The project once promised 52 one-bedroom condominiums and much needed sales tax revenues to Temple City.

The developer has until August 23, 2009 to complete the Piazza development as originally proposed; otherwise, Temple City has the option to purchase the 3.7 acre lot for $5 million.

In September 2008, the developer filed a countersuit alleging Mayor Wilson, Mayor Pro Tempore Capra, and councilwoman Wong of soliciting bribes. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office is currently investigating those allegations.

 

This article was written by Randy Shun. It was published in the Temple City Voice on March 20, 2009.

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