By Katta Hules
The City of Arcadia has returned the excess property on Hugo Reid Drive and Golden West Avenue the adjacent property owners. The city rebuilt the intersection as part of their Safe Routes To School project. “We realigned some streets in that neighborhood and the result was some extra property that needs to go to nearby residences,” said City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto at this week’s city council meeting.
Lazzaretto said there streets are all over Arcadia built with “special setbacks” where “we thought we would widen it one day and the development patterns made it such that we don’t need to do that.” He says the some of the new updates to the Zoning Code will “do away with some of those special setbacks where street widening is never going to happen … but right now those [setbacks] exist all over town.”
Back in 1944 and 1945, when the Village area was subdivided, “all those street right of ways were granted to the city as dedications,” said Philip Wray, City Engineer and Deputy Director of Development Services. “They were, in essence, given to the city for the strict purposes of the streets and utilities and parkways. … If they’re no longer needed for that purpose then the intent would be to give them back to the adjacent property owners.”
A right of way is “an easement for public travel” with an easement being a right to use someone else’s land for a certain purpose, according to the Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) website. MRSC is a private non-profit government research organization.
In 2015, the city started the Safe Routes project in an effort to improve the pedestrian infrastructure around Hugo Reid Elementary School. It “improve[d] sidewalks, crosswalks and intersections to make it more pedestrian friendly and to encourage more kids—and their parents—to walk to school. And then just for the general benefit of the neighborhood,” said Wray.
The project was supported by the Arcadia Unified School District and Hugo Reid Elementary was chosen with the assistance of the District, the School Administration and the School PTA. Safe Routes To Schools was funded by a federal grant of $647,000 and done at no cost to the city.
A key component of the project was revamping the intersection at Golden West Avenue and Hugo Reid Drive. “If you’re familiar with the way the intersection was, it was two big sweeping curves that sort of met mid-point and create this sort of vast expanse of pavement,” said Wray. The intersection featured long crosswalks that were not close to the stop signs. “By the time a car would stop at the stop sign and then continue on, the crosswalk was still quite a ways away.”
Now, it has been realigned to create a pedestrian friendly T-intersection. The city then worked with the adjacent property owners on landscaping plans so the extra property “blended seamlessly with their front yards” and extended to sidewalks and curbs, said Wray. The residents of the seven affected properties agreed to maintain the landscaping.
Construction on the Safe Routes project was finished in December of 2015 and accepted by the city council in January of this year.
On Sept. 6 2016, the city council approved the city’s vacation of the property. On September 13th the vacating was found by the planning commission to be “consistent with the General Plan,” said Wray. The public was then informed and the city only received one phone call from a “gentleman interested to know a little bit more about what we’re doing … he was satisfied with the answer.”
Although the issue was open to public comments, there were no speakers. However, the city council did have some fun with the matter. “All I can say is, good luck trying to get the kids to walk to school,” Mayor Tom Beck joked to Wray.
“My kids walk to school,” Councilmember April Verlato said, laughing.
“Yeah,” Beck replied, “But the school that they walk to is, like, across the street.”
The vacation of the excess property was approved unanimously. Mayor Pro-Tem Peter Amundson expressed his relief, saying, “I’m just thankful to see it done and wrap it up.”
The council also denied the design appeal for the proposed residence at 920 S. Fifth Ave., a project that had caused much controversy in the neighborhood where it was to be built. Additionally, they declared next week Fire Prevention Week.
The city council will meet again on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m.