La Loma Hills residents in Colton oppose proposed cluster development project

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Photo City of Colton: “We’re not trying to stop development, we just want a project that’s neighborhood-friendly and compatible to existing lot sizes,” said retired engineer and La Loma Hills resident Richard Zaragoza.

A new residential development proposal has residents in the La Loma Hills area of Colton frustrated with the lack of access in making public comments regarding the project during planning commission meetings and workshops held between April and July via Zoom due to the pandemic; many retired residents either have no access to the virtual meeting platform, or in some cases for those who joined by phone their calls were inadvertently dropped from the meeting due to technical difficulties.  

Over 150 residents, who comprise the La Loma Hills Residents Alliance (Alliance), signed a petition asking for the postponement of any further discussion/action until the public can safely meet in person to address concerns; the project moved forward.

Concerns over the proposed Hillside Residential Compact Development Project on the corner of Bostick and Litton avenues include increased traffic, pollution, noise and risk of flooding due to the high density of homes that will be built on lots comparably smaller to adjacent neighborhoods.

Richard Zaragoza, spokesman for the Alliance and retired engineer with over 40 years experience in mega projects whose resume includes Black and Veatch Engineering and Parsons Corporation, maintains the developer, Modern Pacific Homes, is proposing a lot line adjustment to be reclassified as a Hillside and Cluster Development due to noncompliance of the city’s R1 Ordinance that requires minimum lot sizes of 5,445 square feet and minimum property frontage of 60 feet.

Zaragoza, who recently returned to the home on Bostick Ave. where he was raised, explained homes on the proposed development will be built on 5,000 square feet lots with some frontages less than 50 feet per the tentative map.

“Low density standards can be reduced with a Conditional Use Permit (CUP),” explained Colton Development Services Director Mark Tomich. “The intent is to cluster units and the goal is to preserve the hillside and open space.”

Zaragoza, who has pored over project documents with fellow engineers, contends the hydraulic report is flawed and flooding will inevitably occur, adding that Fred Minagar, the city’s traffic engineer consultant, informed city officials during the July 28 meeting that the developer’s traffic impact analysis report failed to adequately address the future traffic impact to the area, and recommended that an Environmental Impact Report be conducted or reduce the number of proposed residential units.

“We’re not trying to stop development, we just want a project that’s neighborhood-friendly and compatible to existing lot sizes,” Zaragoza indicated. Average frontage of homes in the neighborhood is 80 feet, and the smallest lot sits on 9,580 square feet. “We are willing to accept 60-foot frontages.”

The Zoning Code stipulates a minimum 20% slope for hillside properties, and after studying the CUP for Cluster Development to Deviate from General Plan, Zaragoza points out 90 – 95% of the lots will be at less than 10% slope.

Tomich explained that would be a result of pulling lots off the hillside onto flatter portions. “The tradeoff is to preserve more open space.”

Resident Celeste Carlos reiterated residents do not object to the 88-home development, but are concerned over the eventual devaluation of their properties due to clustered and HOA housing.

“We just want new development to follow the guidelines of the city; now that we have an engineer (Zaragoza) all of a sudden it’s brought to our attention that we have a lawsuit, ” she stated. “We do not feel that we are acting entitled or opposed to progress.”

During the September 8 Planning Commission meeting, the item was postponed until October 13 to allow residents the opportunity to submit concerns in writing.

“This would give the residents the opportunity to say something, because of the virus we were using Zoom, and it didn’t give residents the chance to show the committee what they want,” noted Planning Commissioner Tom Archuleta. “We want (residents’) input because this project affects them.”

Tomich, who noted the possibility that commissioners may continue the item again to a later date, encourages residents to email their comments and concerns to planning@coltonca.gov prior to the October 13 Planning Commission meeting to allow ample time for commissioners to review remarks. For those who prefer to join the meeting by phone, a call-in number will be provided on the agenda.

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Maryjoy Duncan is the former Managing Editor of Inland Empire Community News (comprised of the El Chicano, Colton Courier and Rialto Record), who stepped down from editorial in May, 2022, to manage digital media and sales to spend more time with her children. She was chosen as one of 25 recipients from over 1,000 school districts in the State of California to receive the California School Boards Association’s 2018 Golden Quill Award, presented in recognition of fair, insightful and accurate reporting on public school news. She can be reached at mjduncan88@gmail.com