Needles Hospital Sale Proceeding Despite Obstructions & Bumps In The Road

The purchase arrangement for Colorado River Medical Center between the city of Needles and Community Healthcare Partners, Inc. will likely go forward, despite  further delays, including the Bureau of Land Management’s suspension of the transfer of  2.34 acres of the hospital’s grounds to the purchaser, Needles City Manager David Brownlee told the Sentinel this week.
Community Healthcare Partners, Inc. entered into a $2.577 million purchase agreement for the hospital on August 22, 2012 after a previous sale arrangement to non-profit Needles Hospital, Inc. fell through in April.
The city took back ownership of the Colorado River Medical Center in April 2008 after Brentwood, Tennessee-based Lifepoint Hospitals, a for-profit corporation which had obtained the hospital after the dissolution of the public hospital district that previously operated the facility, embarked on an effort to move the institution’s equipment and personnel to Valley View Hospital, another operation it owned in Arizona, roughly 12 miles from Needles.
Because of long-running inadequate billing practices, including failures to invoice Medicare and Medi-Cal as well as insurance companies and patients in a timely fashion, the hospital has lost money, representing a financial liability to the city. The city created the board of trustees to oversee the hospital, and that panel, together with the city council, has come to a consensus that spinning the facility off to an independent operator is the best solution for ensuring that the community has adequate medical care without soaking the taxpayers.
The purchase agreement with Community Healthcare Partners, Inc., which was founded by Bing Lum, called for an escrow closing deadline of January 3. The full application process for the land transfer has not been completed because of complications besetting the property upon which the hospital is located. The city holds title to the land as well as the hospital itself. However, the hospital was built on what had been Bureau of Land Management Property that had been transferred to the city of Needles under a proviso that the Bureau of Land Management retained a reversionary interest in the property allowing it to reclaim the land if the property is not used for what is deemed “a charitable purpose.”
Indications are that the full land transfer to Community Healthcare Partners will not take place for perhaps as long as another 12 to 18 months. A special joint meeting was held on December 20 involving both the hospital board and city council to determine the advisability of having city attorney John Pinkney modify the original purchase agreement to eliminate the January 3 escrow closing requirement. The hospital board at that point did not sign off on making that extension. Pinkney told both the city council and the board that the agreement includes a provision allowing for possible extensions if there were government-related delays, such as waiting for the BLM approval.
To facilitate the process, Pinkney formulated a plan to augment the original agreement with a future amendment while forging a bridge lease, an interim management agreement and an interim sublease. In this way, Community Healthcare Partners, Inc. was to have purchased as of January 3 (i.e., yesterday)  the hospital itself, but not the actual property it occupies, and was to then  serve as the interim management team for the hospital until such time as the full purchase of the land is accomplished.
When the hospital board balked at that arrangement on December 20, the council took no immediate action. The council did, however, schedule a special meeting for December 27, at which the removal of some of the hospital board members was agendized. Ultimately, on December 27, the city council did not make any removals from the board. A motion to move forward with crafting the documents necessary to address disposition of the hospital building without the underlying land died for lack of a second.
Brownlee this week told the Sentinel that as of yesterday, January 3, a twenty day extension of the deadline to close escrow on the hospital was granted. Brownlee said that prior to January 23, it is anticipated that the hospital board will accept Pinkney’s formula as presented last month or a similar one.
“We certainly hope they can pass such a measure,” Brownlee said. “It will most likely take a year to 18 months for the land patent to be transferred to the new owner. I think what will be done is we will classify the arrangement with Community Healthcare Partners as a land lease until the full transfer takes place.”
While serving as the interim manager of the hospital, Community Healthcare Partners, Inc. would not charge the city for its services, but would be eligible to realize revenue from the hospital’s operation just as if it owned it in full.
The Bureau of Land Management is insisting an appraisal of the property be done at its behest but at Community Healthcare Partners, Inc.’s expense.
Lum indicated his company will carry out whatever needs to be done to effectuate the transfer and that Community Healthcare Partners, Inc. will proceed with each of the tenets of the August agreement, adjusting to whatever further requests are made by the Bureau of Land Management or any other parties.
Among some city officials there was concern that further obstructions would dampen Lum’s resolve, leaving the city with the responsibility of continuing to run the hospital. There was some degree of impatience with the hospital board over its unwillingness to act with alacrity as events unfolded.
To some extent, the board members were reacting to the protests of former city councilwoman Rebecca Valentine, the founder and president of Needles Hospital, Incorporated, the non-profit group that in January 2012 had entered into a previous arrangement to purchase the hospital for $3,587,002 but which saw that deal elapse when it was unable to close escrow by a stipulated April 26 deadline.
On December 20, Valentine said she thought it unfair that the board and the city council were contemplating allowing Community Healthcare Partners, Inc.’s escrow deadline to be extended since the board and the council in April had denied her group’s request for a similar extension. She suggested that Needles Hospital Inc. is prepared at this time to swoop in and complete the purchase of the hospital.

Former San Bernardino Redevelopment Finance Director Files Claim Against City

In a development rich with irony, the woman who guided a key portion of the city of San Bernardino’s efforts to keep its red ink-hemorrhaging books balanced for the last several years before it abandoned all pretense of fiscal normalcy and declared bankruptcy last summer, has filed a claim against the city.
The now-bankrupt city has denied her claim, which seeks $2 million in damages.
Lori Tillery was San Bernardino’s former finance director for redevelopment. She was terminated on May 18, 2012.
In a claim filed on November 1, Tillery alleged her sacking was the culmination of  a “well orchestrated and unlawful campaign and pattern of practice designed to force her to resign or be demoted.”
Tillery has six months from December 10, the day the city council rejected the claim, to file a lawsuit. She will have to stand in a rather lengthy line to do so. Scores of the city’s vendors and creditors have been stymied in their efforts to collect the money they are owed. Claims for damages and lawsuits are procedurally stayed due to the city’s pending bankruptcy, although would-be litigants can ask the bankruptcy court for leave to sue.
According to Tillery’s attorney, Sanford Kassel, she was a diligent employee who uncovered evidence of financial misfeasance and malfeasance as a consequence of her work. Beginning in July 2008, according to Kassel, she coordinated with and assisted mayor Patrick Morris, city attorney James Penman and the police department in looking into time card falsifications involving multiple employees, misuse of public funds, and the use of underpaid part-time employees to do work full-time without receiving proper pay or benefits over a substantial amount of time.  The information turned up by Tillery, according to Kassel, comprises the gist of an investigation into activity at City Hall that is currently being carried out by the district attorney’s office.
Tillery is a whistleblower who was subjected to unlawful employment practices as a result of her conscientious dedication and she is now being scapegoated for the city’s dire financial circumstance, according to Kassel.
The city has dismissed Tillery’s claim as “entirely invalid” and maintains that Tillery was actively engaged in falsifying data relating to the city’s true financial state in the months and years leading up to its bankruptcy. Officials intimated, without directly stating, that Tillery had knowingly and purposefully deleted financial information from city computers.

Negrete-McLeod’s Animus Toward Torres Shaping State Senate Succession

Gloria Negrete-McLeod’s lingering animus toward fellow Democrat Norma Torres is a major dynamic shaping the mad scramble to replace the former as state senator in the 32nd District.
Two years remain on the term in the California Legislature’s upper chamber Negrete-McLeod was elected to in 2010. She will not spend that time in Sacramento, but rather in Washington, D.C.
In an extraordinary come-from-behind victory, on November 6, Negrete-McLeod overcame longtime Congressman Joe Baca, another Democrat, in the race for Congress in California’s redrawn 35th Congressional District.
Negrete-McLeod’s vanquishing of Baca was unexpected, given that Baca had been in Congress 13 years, having been elected in a special election to succeed the late Congressman George Brown in the old 42nd District after Brown’s death in office in 1999. Following redistricting based on the 2000 Census, Baca successfully ran for reelection in California’s 43rd Congressional District five times. Last year, he opted to run in the newly configured 35th Congressional District, which was slightly afield from the old 43rd, but his incumbency and perceived fundraising advantage over all other challengers, including Negrete-McLeod, appeared to give him a leg up on the competition. And indeed, in the June open primary polling, Baca bested Negrete-McLeod by what seemed a more-than-comfortable margin, 12,619 votes or 47.7 percent to 9,078 or 33.93 percent. A third candidate in the race, Anthony Vieyra polled 5,058 votes or 18.9 percent. Given that this year California had switched to an open primary, the two top finishing candidates qualified for the general election, despite party affiliation. In this way, the stage was set for a showdown between Baca and Negrete-McLeod, both Democrats, in the November race.
In the final weeks before the general election on November 6, Negrete-McLeod’s campaign was infused with $3.8 million in donations from a political action committee controlled by Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which paid for a $2.3 million television advertising blitz during the last week of the campaign. Baca, who throughout most of the campaign had been complacent, was caught flatfooted and saw the election slip away, with Negrete-McLeod capturing  61,065 votes or 54.35 percent to his 51,281 votes or 45.65 percent.
In the run up to the November election, Torres, a former Pomona mayor and the incumbent 61st District assemblywoman who was vying for reelection in the newly drawn 52nd Assembly District, faced the unenviable dilemma of having to choose to endorse either Baca or Negrete-McLeod. Since the conventional wisdom at that time favored Baca, Torres sided with the incumbent congressman.
Torres was successful in her reelection bid, transitioning from representing the old 61st, which encompasses Pomona, Claremont, La Verne, Ontario, Montclair and parts of Fontana, to the new 52nd Assembly District, which encompasses Chino Valley, Pomona, Montclair and Ontario.  With the vacuum created this week with Negrete-McLeod’s departure to the nation’s capital, Torres is anxious to vault into the state senate to succeed her.
For Torres to achieve that coup, however, she will need to do so not only without Negrete-McLeod’s assistance but in the face of Negrete-McLeod’s active opposition. Within days of her victory over Baca, Negrete-McLeod was militating to ensure that Torres would not succeed her, the Sentinel has learned. She approached Larry Walker, who is currently the county treasurer-tax collector/auditor-controller and formerly Fourth District county supervisor and Chino mayor, to entice him into running. Walker has cottoned to the idea and is assiduously seeking endorsements. A Democrat, Walker is considered a strong candidate in his native Chino, where his father oversaw the school district for nearly a generation. In addition to her endorsement, Negrete-McLeod could endow Walker with the money remaining in her state campaign war chest which cannot be moved into her federal campaign coffers.
Another Democrat whose name was previously bruited about as a possible candidate was Wilmer Amina Carter, the just departed assemblywoman in the 62nd District, who was termed out of office and could not run for reelection last year. She, however, has lost interest in vying for the state senate position. It is said she was put off by the harshness of Negrete-McLeod’s effort against Torres.
Indeed, elements of the local Democratic Party have been trying to attenuate Negrete-McLeod’s bitterness toward Torres, endeavoring to remind the 71-year-old who began her political career as a board member with the Chaffey Community College District that she should be magnanimous in victory rather than vituperative toward a member of her own party. “There are consequences to elections,” Negrete-McLeod responded, saying she is committed to ensuring that Walker replaces her in Sacramento as opposed to Torres.
One other potential candidate to replace Negrete-McLeod, Ontario Mayor Paul Leon, is watching the contretemps in the Democratic Party with growing interest. A Hispanic Republican, Leon sees a positive prospect in a scenario in which he, Walker and Torres vie for the vacancy in the 32nd State Senatorial District.  If no one candidate polls a majority in such a race, a runoff between the two top vote-getters would ensue. A majority of the voters in the 32nd are Hispanic and Leon is looking forward, despite his party affiliation, with going toe-to-toe against Walker in an electoral matchup.

Navarro Citing LA County Case In His Claim He Can Hold Two Board Posts

San Bernardino County School Board Member Gil Navarro is citing a similar circumstance in Los Angeles County that was resolved more than seven years ago in propounding his argument that he can remain a member of the school board while simultaneously serving on the board of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District.
Navarro has been on the county school board since 2006, and was convincingly reelected in 2010, when he defeated James Tate, Ron Coats and Corey Jackson, pulling in more than twice as many votes as his nearest competitor, Jackson, and more than all three of the others, combined.
In November, he outdistanced George Aguilar 11,643 votes or 56.21 percent to 9,070 votes or 43.79 percent  in the race for the water district board representing the district’s Division 2.
Navarro’s victory prompted county superintendent of schools Gary Thomas to seek a legal opinion from San Bernardino County’s in-house lawyers, known as county counsel, as to whether holding both positions would represent a conflict. Thomas, who is independently elected to his post and has had a few run-ins with Navarro over the last several years on issues pertaining to education, said he was prompted to obtain the opinion because of concerns expressed by members of the public about possible conflicts that might arise if Navarro is called to vote on specific matters over which both the county division of schools and the water district might have competing interests.
On December 7, head county counsel Jean-Rene Basle authored a letter in which he and his staff summarized what they said were published opinions from the California Attorney General’s Office which they said indicated Navarro’s circumstance entailed a potential conflict of interest.
The San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District has overarching authority with regard to water issues in the central portion of the county, dictating policy with regard to water availability and setting wholesale water rates for smaller water retailers and other public water agencies, including those that provide water to several school districts.
Such a circumstance creates a conflict under California law that might preclude Navarro from voting with regard to, on one hand, the water district making water available to school districts or determining the price of that water, or, on the other hand, the county’s schools and school districts purchasing that water. Basle said this would lead to a conflict that Navarro and both the water district and the county superintendent of schools office should avoid. An attorney general’s opinion from 2002 opines, Basle said, that “A significant clash of duties and loyalties may arise in such matters as the water district setting the wholesale water rate that will be passed on to the school district by the retail water agencies involved” and could further occur when the water board votes on “determining the need for restrictions on water usage during times of water shortage.”
Navarro, however, maintains that no such conflict exists at the present time and that he can sidestep any conflicts that do arise by abstaining if and when such conflicts materialize.
He said that Basle and the county’s lawyers were seeking to do Thomas’s political bidding by citing hypothetical examples of a conflict to maneuver him into resigning from the school board.  He has consulted with legal authorities to find case law to establish that he is not hemmed in by circumstance and the government code, and can in fact serve on both boards.
In any case, Navarro said, he cannot be prohibited from serving in both capacities simply upon the strength of Thomas’s objection or Basle’s legal opinion or interpretation. Instead, Navarro said, those wishing to have him removed must utilize a so-called quo warranto proceeding.
A quo warranto action is filed to remove a person from public office. The attorney general reviews quo warranto actions filed by private individuals, determining if they have merit and can proceed. According to the government code, a quo warranto action may be brought against any person who usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises any public office or franchise.
After the attorney general determines that there are grounds to challenge the individual’s right to hold office, the matter proceeds to trial.
“In order to remove me from public office a private individual must obtain written permission from the State Attorney’s General Office,” Navarro told the Sentinel.
He then referenced the case involving  Blanca Estella Rubio, a board member with the Baldwin Park Unified School District, who in 2004 was challenged by another member of the Baldwin Park Unified School District Board, Anthony J. Bejarano, because he claimed Rubio’s school board position and that of board member or director of the Valley County Water District constituted the holding of “incompatible offices.”
Bejarano related the matter to the California Attorney General, who at that time was Bill Lockyer. The State Attorney General’s Office concluded that Bejarano’s question was a valid one requiring judicial resolution.
In Rubio’s case, she was a water district board member before she was elected to the school board and under the provisions of the case that Bejarano and the school district were allowed to bring to trial by the State Attorney General, Rubio would have been,  if the trial court had held against her,  removed as a water board member and to be allowed to retain the office to which she was most recently elected, that of school board member. The matter went to civil trial and in October 2005, a jury ruled in a 9-3 decision that Rubio could keep her seats on both the school board and the water board.
“After a jury trial, Blanca Rubio was not found to be in conflict and was able to maintain two elected positions,” Navarro said.
He indicated he would not back down on the issue and simply resign from the school board as he is being pressured to do.
On January 8, the school board is set to discuss what action it will take with regard to Navarro, including whether it will proceed to a quo warranto action or not. Such an action, if it results in the State Attorney General’s certification, could entail a cost of over $100,000.
Navarro has indicated he will insist that the district go to that expense if it proceeds against him. Such a court challenge would be a roll of the dice, as was demonstrated with the Rubio case. Navarro insists he has a right to hold both offices, given that the voters approved him for both roles.
Navarro has stood firm – or intransigent, depending on one’s perspective – with regard to previous legal challenges by the county education board. A professional educator and special needs student advocate, he has been advised repeatedly by district lawyers that he should not be working on behalf of students attending county schools. He has defied that counsel.
An outspoken Latino activist who has pushed for the political and professional empowerment of Hispanics, Navarro insists he has encountered opposition because of that activity.
Navarro’s opponents claim his political aims have often led him to promote suspect programs or unqualified individuals and that a significant clash of his duties in his dual elected capacities could result in an adverse effect on the county’s schools or water districts or both.

Bankruptcy Ends SB’s Traffic Light Camera Ticket Program

SAN BERNARDINO–Bankruptcy appears to have inadvertently enabled San Bernardino city officials in a way they had not anticipated.
In 2011, the city of San Bernardino was  looking to join with a growing number of municipalities in San Bernardino County and California which had become disenchanted with the contracts those cities had for the operation of red light cameras and were opting out of those arrangements.
San Bernardino was bound by its arrangement with Scottsdale, Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions to keep the camera-surveillance-and-red-light-violation-ticket-issuing systems in place until July 2014. The system was not popular with a large number of the city’s residents, many of whom were being cited to appear for making what would turn out to be, upon a time-consuming court appearance, legal right hand turns against a red light.  When the city attorney’s office first looked into shutting that operation down, the city council was informed it would cost $114,075 to buy out American Traffic Solutions’ contract. On March 7, 2011, the council elected to bite the bullet, pay American Traffic Solutions the buyout fee, and discontinue the program which had been in place since 2005.
Then, however, the city learned that a clause in the contract made breaking the contract much more expensive, i.e., $1.8 million. The council rescinded the buyout.
Now, five months after the city of San Bernardino filed for bankruptcy protection, American Traffic Solutions is leaving the county seat of its own volition.
Among the city’s creditors and vendors not being paid is American Traffic Solutions. The city in fiscal 2012-2013 was scheduled to pay the company $417,870 and an identical amount in 2013-14 to keep the system at several of the city’s major intersectionss functioning. But since July, the city has paid American Traffic solutions nothing. Last month, the company pulled the plug.
There had been controversy over the program from even before it was put in place. Some opposed it on safety grounds, arguing that it would result in an uptick in rear-end collisions as many motorists in reaction to yellow lights came to an abrupt halt. Advocates of the system said that the cameras would nonetheless prevent more lethal T-bone accidents, i.e., ones that involved cars being broadsided in the city’s intersections. Others charged that the city was less interested in safety than in producing revenue from traffic tickets.
These later critics found some validation when many cities, including San Bernardino, soured on the systems when they did not produce the revenue originally envisioned by proponents.
In San Bernardino, a fulltime police department employee was devoted to working the system, augmented by at least three other employees who devoted part of their work weeks to the processing of tickets. When the fees paid to American Traffic Solutions and the courts were subtracted from the net ticket proceeds, the city was losing money on the venture.
The city, buffeted by a $45.8 million systemic annual deficit, sought the refuge of bankruptcy protection last summer. Accompanying that filing was an effort to rein in costs. In the police department, sworn officer positions lost to attrition went unfilled. And a major bloodletting of non-sworn personnel took place, with 62 of its 103 non-sworn members laid off.  The gutting of the department’s clerical staff made processing camera tickets an extremely low priority.
American Traffic Systems in reaction shuttered, disassembled and removed its cameras last month. It then marched over to U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Riverside, where it filed a $1.67 million claim for unpaid fees against the city. There is little prospect the city will be making good on that bill anytime soon. There are 12 other creditors with outstanding claims against San Bernardino larger than American Traffic Systems’ bill.

City Of San Bernardino Closes Out 2012 With A Total Of 47 Homicides

SAN BERNARDINO–A little more than an hour before midnight on December 31, Jason Kenneth Anderson of Victorville became the 47th homicide victim in the city of San Bernardino in 2012 when he was gunned down at 10:50 p.m. at 677 W 28th St.. The hail of bullets that felled Anderson injured three others. The assailant or assailants, whose identities at this time are unknown to investigators, remain(s) at large. Officers believe the crime may have been gang related.
The total San Bernardino murder count for 2012 did not reach the city’s record high of 58 killings in 2005. The death count for the just-concluded year nonetheless eclipsed the 30 killings that took place in San Bernardino in 2011.
Police say they have solved 28 of the 47 murder cases, that is, they have identified who they believe to be the perpetrators and uncovered in each of those cases what is considered to be a motive. Nineteen of the other cases remain unsolved at this time.
According to the police, seven of the murders were gang-related; three arose from domestic disputes; four were robberies; nine involved a dispute or confrontation that escalated into murder; five of the killings involved a complex mix of factors; and in 19 of the cases the motive for the slayings is unknown.
A handgun or handguns were used in 38 of the instances. A shotgun was used in one of the killings. Two slayings came about from the use of blunt force. Knives were used in five of the homicides. Hands were the instrument of death in the two others.
Thirty-nine of the victims were males; eight were female. Twenty-one of the victims were Hispanic; eighteen were African-American; and eight were Caucasian.
May was the deadliest month, when a total of 12 people died at the hands of another or others. Between April 28 and May 7, a period of nine days, eight people were murdered in the city.
In addition, there were five fatal officer-involved shootings and five other homicides that investigators ruled as justifiable self-defense in San Bernardino in 2012.
With deadly 2012 just concluded, 2013 began on an inauspicious note. Less than two hours of the new year had elapsed when at 1:52 a.m. San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies were summoned to a report of shots fired in the 7000 block of North Conejo Drive in unincorporated San Bernardino. There they found the city’s first homicide victim of the young year, Mark Mancha of San Bernardino, dead from multiple upper body gunshot wounds.
On January 2 at about 1:30 p.m., a man was found by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies in the 8060 block of Sunnyside Avenue in an unincorporated portion of San Bernardino, shortly after they were summoned there by a call of shots fired. The victim, who has not been identified pending notification of next of kin, had been shot multiple times and was pronounced dead at the scene by responding paramedics. According to sheriff’s detective Steve Pennington, Donald Bryson has been arrested for that murder.

Starbucks To Build $70 Million Factory For Evolution Fresh Juice In RC

In 2013, Starbucks will open a state-of-the-art juice-making facility in Rancho Cucamonga that will employ 160 at what is to be the major production facility for the Evolution Fresh beverage company the coffee giant acquired in late 2011.
Evolution Fresh was created by Naked Juice founder Jimmy Rosenberg, who operated out of a 60,000 square foot production facility and executive suite in an industrial building in eastern San Bernardino. Evolution Fresh products were available only on the West Coast when Starbucks acquired the company for $30 million in November 2011. At that time, Starbucks said it intended to expand Evolution Fresh into a national and then international brand.
Bottled Evolution Fresh products are among a limited offering of foods and drinks beyond its own traditional coffees and teas which Starbucks makes available within its stores. In March the Seattle-based company opened its maiden stand-alone Evolution Fresh outlet in Bellevue, Washington and followed that up with another in Seattle in July and a third one in San Francisco in October. The company has plans of opening a string of Evolution Fresh stores or kiosks elsewhere on the West Coast before taking the brand nationwide.
Construction of the $70 million, 260,000-square-foot factory in Rancho Cucamonga has  begun  and will more than quadruple the production and distribution capability of the Evolution Fresh line. Upon completion some time after mid-year, 160 people will be put to work at the production and bottling plant. There are currently 120 employed at the Evolution Fresh operation in San Bernardino, which will be closed down when the new Rancho Cucamonga facility comes on line.
According to Starbucks spokeswoman Marianne Duong, “The new plant in Rancho Cucamonga will allow us to produce  four to five times as much juice as we are currently, still using our never heated, high pressure processing technology that allows us to keep more flavor and nutrients of the fruits and vegetables in our drinks. All of our current employees in San Bernardino have been offered positions at the new plant and we will be hiring at least forty more when the new factory is operational.”
Since Starbucks picked up Fresh Evolution, sales of the product have increased by more than 23 percent, and Starbucks has forged ahead with the creation of four new juices or juice combinations – raspberry watermelon, cucumber pineapple ginger, pineapple coconut water and spicy lemonade. The Fresh Evolution product is being marketed at Starbucks locations and the three Fresh Evolution stores, as well as in health food and natural food stores and grocery stores.
The Rancho Cucamonga facility will be Starbucks’ sixth manufacturing site in the U.S., joining ones the company has in Washington, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Nevada and Georgia.

Ashley Furniture To Fill Void Left By Borders’ Departure From Montclair

MONTCLAIR – The 42,000-square foot vacancy in the building that formerly housed the Borders bookstore adjacent to the Montclair Plaza will soon be filled with a replacement tenant, Ashley Furniture Homestore.
Ashley is tentatively scheduled to take up occupancy there as early as April, according to city officials and corporate officers with Progressive Real Estate Partners, which served as a broker on the property. The move comes nearly 19 months after Ashley began negotiations for the purchase of the building, shortly after the Borders chain made wholesale closures of its outlets nationwide in April 2011.
According to information provided to the Sentinel, Ashley purchased the building outright and signed a long term lease for the property.
The development represents a considerable coup for Montclair. The vacancy in the big box represented a considerable blow to Montclair’s prestige and a further erosion of the ambience around Montclair Plaza, which for decades had been the premier shopping location in San Bernardino County, generating considerable sales tax revenue in Montclair, one of the smaller cities in the county land-wise. Over the last decade, however, Montclair Plaza’s cachet as a popular shopping destination has slipped, as it has been eclipsed by The Mills in Ontario, Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga and The Shoppes at Chino Hills.
The downturn in the local, state and national economy over the last five years has taken its toll on Montclair and its plaza as well.
For a time, it seemed that Ashley was going to pass on the opportunity to locate in Montclair, but the site offered several advantages the company in the end was unable to resist, the foremost of which included its proximity to, along with visibility and easy access from, the 10 Freeway.
Based upon an understanding and mutual interest with the city, the company is proceeding with preparations for interior tenant improvements at the location that have yet to be fully vetted and approved by the Montclair Planning Commission. Conceptual plans for what the company envisions have been shared with the city’s planning division, which provided a provisional okay for internal demolition work in the building that is now proceeding.
The remodel plans are in the final stages of preparation and will be submitted to the city soon. It is anticipated that approval of the makeover project in its entirety will come by the end of this month or in early February.
Those plans should segue into and complement work to be done in converting the plaza’s now shuttered Broadway/Macy’s building into a lifestyle center, which is to feature restaurants and smaller shops and retail outlets.

RC Modifies Code To Allow Wind Turbines On Large Residential Lots

The city of Rancho Cucamonga has modified its development code to allow electricity-producing wind turbines to be erected on residential properties of one half acre or more.
In Rancho Cucamonga, properties designated as very low density have a minimum lot size of 20,000 square feet and a maximum residential density of up to 2 units. Owners of such properties are now eligible to apply for a permit to construct a wind energy tower in such properties’ backyards, pursuant to setback requirements.
City officials said they have cleared the way for the towers, which in residential zones cannot stand any higher than 40 feet, to supplement energy sources and encourage the use of renewable and non-polluting means of meeting power needs.
The new code calls for freestanding 40-foot-high maximum towers to be free of guy wires, and utilize a color scheme that is non-reflective and presents no startling contrast from its surroundings. No more than one freestanding tower can be erected on a parcel. Up to two roof-mounted turbines can be attached to a structure if they reach no higher than 15 feet. Such systems are to remain functional, according to the redrafted city code, and if they fall into disuse for more than 12 months must be removed.
In specified industrial areas, land owners are permitted to erect up to two 80-foot high turbines per parcel.

Night Court For Traffic Cases To End In San Bernardino County March 1

San Bernardino County Superior Court will discontinue  conducting  “night court” for traffic infractions, effective March 1.
According to Presiding Judge Marsha Slough, “The court has taken this action due to severe ongoing budget reductions.”
Night court is presently held once a month in each of the Barstow, Big Bear, Fontana, Joshua Tree, Needles, Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino and Victorville court districts. Those operations will discontinue as of March 1.
Drop boxes are provided in all court districts to receive fine payments by check or money order and traffic school proof of completion.
“California faces a financial crisis of historical proportions and neither the Superior Court for San Bernardino County nor the California judicial system is exempt from having to deal with the crisis,” said Slough. “After careful deliberation, I, as the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court for San Bernardino County, have concluded that the changes set forth above are one of the most reasonable and measured ways to meet the court’s extremely difficult financial challenges.”