Piazza Debacle: a Headache for Temple City

Once lauded as a symbol of economic revitalization, the Piazza at Temple City is now seen as a failure for Randy Wang, the developer and owner, and the City of Temple City.

“It is my intention to push forward” said Wang in the January 2009 Temple City Life community publication. “I am committed to the project.”

Wang filed a counter-suit against Temple City in September 2008, accusing councilman Dave Capra, councilwoman Cathé Wilson and councilwoman Judy Wong of bribery to gain approval of the Piazza project. Former city council and state assembly candidate Scott Carwile is also mentioned in the suit.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office-Public Integrity Division has been investigating the case. In the suit, the developer alleges he gave Capra, Carwile and Wong $13,000 in cash during the March 2007 elections. He also states Wilson requested for a condominium in exchange for support.

According to Financial Services Manager Monica Molina, Temple City has spent $120,000 defending the City against the developer’s suit.

City Manager and City Attorney Charles R. Martin noted during a January 20, 2009 city council meeting that councilmembers accused will be legally represented by the City unless they are found to have committed a felony or violation of the law. If any of the councilmembers are convicted, they will lose their seat on the City Council.

Also at the Tuesday city council meeting, councilman Capra reiterated his innocence in the matter. None of the accused has admitted to any wrongdoing.

The Piazza at Temple City, formerly known as the “Piazza Las Tunas” and “Temple City Galleria” had once promised 52 one-bedroom condominiums and a large retail center. The project also included the construction of a banquet facility, a want the Temple City community has requested for in years.

Since its approval in May 2006, the developer has had two groundbreakings.

“Mr. Wang has had the application to start the revisions for almost one month, and he has not yet returned the signed application so that the requisite hearings could be held” wrote Martin in his weekly report on January 8.

In December 2008, the City Council voted to send the Piazza project back to the Planning Commission for review. Wang and his third construction management team had re-submitted a revised proposal that would scrap the residential condominiums.

“This is another delay caused by the developer” accused Martin.

In addition to the lack of development on the corner of Las Tunas Drive and Rosemead Boulevard, a string of negative publicity has hit Temple City.

The Pasadena Star News reported on January 8 that prosecutors with the District Attorney’s office seized tape recordings the developer had recorded while conversing with city officials. This incident follows the interviews, conducted by the D.A.’s office, of City Council members in December 2008.

The Los Angeles Times followed with a news story of their own on January 26.

Wang has until August 23, 2009 to complete the Piazza development as originally proposed. If it is incomplete, Temple City has the option to purchase the 3.7 acre lot for $5 million.

 

This article was written by Randy Shun. It was published in the Temple City Voice on May 1, 2009.

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