City Council rejects city manager’s proposal to send Chavez abroad.
Written by VINCENT WEI / Published June 1, 2012
A highly anticipated groundbreaking for The Gateway project will still take place early this year, according to City Hall.
“The developer is on schedule to have a groundbreaking ceremony in late February or early March of this year,” Community Development Director Steve Masura wrote in the January 20, 2012 city manager’s report.
Mr. Masura also noted that building plans for the project are “in plan check” with the city.
The Gateway, to be built at the corner of Las Tunas Drive and Rosemead Boulevard, is being developed by Randy Wang as a 75,000 square foot Mediterreanean-style retail, office, and shopping center.
The developer plans to finance his $20 million project with 40 investors, each giving $500,000. Having secured approval from the federal government for EB-5 immigrant investor status, Mr. Wang has directed his attention to Chinese investors.
Since October 2010, the developer has raised $11.5 million from 23 investors, according to City Manager Jose Pulido.
The city manager, who has been forceful with bringing economic development to the community and positive changes to City Hall, has been focusing his time on The Gateway and the Rosemead Boulevard Beautification Project. Mr. Pulido is hoping that construction for the two major projects would go hand-in-hand to minimize the construction’s impact on residents.
However, at the January 17 city council meeting, the city manager’s proposal to send Councilmember Tom Chavez to China was denied.
Acknowledging that his proposal was a “sensitive topic,” the city manager expressed that it was his goal do whatever he could to move The Gateway project forward.
“It would be in the City’s best interest to make a minimal investment to have [Councilmember Tom Chavez] attend the upcoming EB-5 workshops in Shanghai and Nanjing, China, with a goal of securing the remaining EB-5 investors need to fully fund this important $20 million project in a down economy,” he wrote in a staff report.
Only a minority on the city council supported Mr. Pulido’s proposal, which would have cost the city $3000 to $4000 for air fare, hotel, and meal expenses.
A majority composed of Councilmembers Cynthia Sternquist, Fernando Vizcarra, and Vincent Yu disagreed, citing various reasons.
“By sending in one of our local officials, it’s almost as if we’re backing it and we’re guaranteeing it,” Ms. Sternquist said.
Mr. Yu agreed, stating that it could be “sending too strong of a message” of City Hall’s support. The councilmember also noted that the investors, due to cultural reasons, may perceive that sending the mayor abroad is tantamount to the project being endorsed by the city.
Councilmember Chavez, who spoke last, shared his reasons for going, including for moving the project forward.
“I would travel to China purely as an ambassador for our city,” he said.
After everybody had spoken, Councilmember Blum made a motion to approve the city manager’s proposal. The motion failed because no other councilmember, including Mr. Chavez, seconded.