Piazza Developer Presses Forward while Council Appoints Vizcarra, Yu to Settlement Committee

Although Randy Wang, developer and owner of the “Piazza at Temple City” is currently suing the city of Temple City, a new proposal has been submitted to City Hall.

Wang submitted his latest plan on April 30, 2009, said Community Development Manager Joseph Lambert in an interview with the Pasadena Star News.

“The general layout and the design [are] still very similar,” Lambert told Star News reporter Alfred Lee.

But City Manager and City Attorney Charles R. Martin had a different reaction. “The plans are complicated,” Martin wrote in his weekly manager’s report on May 7.

“The biggest difference between the old and the new plan is the elimination of the residential units,” stated Martin.

The developer’s new plans also include a drive-thru McDonalds, though two existing McDonalds exist within Temple City’s boundaries.

Other changes in the Piazza development include a six-story parking structure.

In addition to the surface level parking and five upper floors, Wang proposes to have two levels of undergrounding parking. A total of eight levels of parking will provide approximately 620 parking spaces.

“The parking structure is now proposed to be at 54 feet, and the Venetian towers (architectural features) will rise to 70 feet” Martin commented.

“I recommend that the Planning Commission proceed with its hearing for a CUP [Conditional Use Permit] (and for CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act] compliance and an appropriate agreement),” Martin wrote, “so that the preliminary hearings may develop citizen reaction together with appropriate changes as recommended by the Planning Commission- before the matter is heard by the City Council for a final ruling.”

The City Manager and City Attorney also pointed to several lingering questions as a result of the developer’s new proposal.

“Will all of the buildings be built at one time,” he asked, “or will they be built piecemeal?”

“What will be the penalties if the sequences and completion dates in the ‘flow chart’ are not kept?” he inquired.

“Will the Council have approval rights over the anchors, or of any other tenant?” Martin questioned.

On Tuesday, May 5, councilman Fernando Vizcarra had suggested a standing committee be formed for the Piazza settlement conference scheduled for July.

The City Council subsequently appointed Vizcarra and newly elected councilman, Vincent Yu, to serve on the standing committee. The vote was unanimous.

According to the developer’s agreement signed by Wang and the city of Temple City, the Piazza at Temple City mixed-use project must be completed by August 23, 2009.

However, the contract could be void if the previous City Council is found to have violated Government Code 1090. Government Code 1090 is a state conflict-of-interest law that prohibits officials from engaging in contracts in which they have a financial interest.

In September 2008, Randy Wang accused Temple City councilwoman Judy Wong, councilman Dave Capra, former councilwoman Cathé Wilson and former city council and state assembly candidate Scott Carwile, of having solicited bribes.

Wang claims he gave Capra, Carwile and Wong $13,000 in cash during the March 2007 city council elections. He further alleges Wilson demanded one of the 52 proposed one-bedroom condominiums.

All four have publicly denied the allegations.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office-Public Integrity Division has been investigating the case since last year.

The $75 million project, formerly known as the “Temple City Galleria” and “Piazza Las Tunas,” once promised 52 one-bedroom condominiums and a large retail center. The development had included a proposal for a banquet.

Since its initial approval in May 2006, there has been two ground breakings and three different construction management firms in charge of the project. Wang has proposed changes twice before, in 2007 and again in 2008.

Temple City may purchase the 3.7 acre site for $5 million, if the developer fails to complete the Piazza project by the August deadline, assuming the contract remains valid.

According to city staff, approximately $171,000 in legal fees, as of April 30, has been spent in the litigation with the Piazza developer.

 

This article was written by Matthew Wong. It was published today in the Temple City Voice.

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