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Controversial Juliet Housing Project in Cerritos Denied on a 4-1 Vote

By Brian Hews

The Juliet housing project at Shoemaker and Artesia, the former home of Hews Media Group-Community News and several other small businesses, was denied by the Cerritos City Council on a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Jim Edwards casting the lone approval vote.

The future of the building is now in question, HMG-CN is getting conflicting signals who will be the owner of the building on March 1.

Current building owners have told HMG-CN that the developer MLC did not have a contingency, an unusual position for such a large company, and that they will be the owners on March 1.

Public comment lasted for more than two hours and became testy at a few points during the meeting.

The discussion started with Mayor Grace Hu asking if the Mayor pro tem or any Councilmembers had “communicated with the developer” MLC Holdings or any MLC agents prior to the meeting.

“Before this meeting we all received communication from the applicants, so before Council asks questions, I want to have my colleagues disclose if you talked to them.”

Councilman Yokoyama said he took a phone call from Daniel Fierro, a MLC representative. “I took the phone call but refused to meet with him, we did not discuss the project at all.”

Mayor pro tem Pulido said he met at City Hall with MLC, “they provided a letter transmitting the concept designs, there was nothing else that was provided to me.”

Councilman Edwards said he received phone calls but did not return them and Solanki said he briefly talked to the Realty Board about the project. Mayor Hu did not take any calls.

Hu then opened the matter for public comment but only after she tried to stop people who had “took donations from MLC” or who “were not from the city.”

City attorney Mark Steres politely suggested that Hu allow everyone to speak.

Lester Tucker of MLC Holdings was allowed to speak for nine minutes making a case for the development. Hu interrupted him at nine minutes, allowed him to speak for another minute as the anti-development attendees audibly groaned.

Tucker held up 73 approval and 30 denial letters from residents as he left the dais. The letters were submitted at cerritosneedshousing.org.

The first speaker objected to the traffic the development would create. Marlene Rofe was happy to hear they were keeping the Artesia driveway was open and seemed to be for the project.

Sam Desai, a vocal critic of the project, said there was “nothing new,” in the revised project, and that “this proposal is destroying the city.”

Maryanne Hughlette said “no one has come to talk to me about the project even though I lived in the area.” MLC agent Moses Kim later refuted that statement. Hughlette was worried about the traffic also.

Dianna Coronado spoke for the building industry and was for the project. “MLC went the extra mile to get this project approved, we have a housing crisis, rents are higher, housing is higher.”

Stephen Chen was in support of the project. “We have been renting a house here, we are waiting to purchase the right home and Juliet would be that home.”

Charlie Joslin, one of the leaders of the anti-development movement told council, “I just happened to be near a project like MLC in Diamond Bar and took pictures, the MLC homes are not like single family homes.”

Cerritos Chamber CEO Scott Smith was for the project saying that the number of residents “would make our local economy stronger.” Smith talked about other developers afraid of coming to Cerritos in the future.

Carol Rayburn owner of Century 21 Astor was for the project. “The City is becoming stagnant as far as the number of houses for sale in the City. The City is not growing, the turnover is diminished. If we don’t bring in new housing we will become stagnant, we will lose revenue and activity.”

Gail Grossman who has been a vocal opponent of the project, complained about the traffic. She specifically targeted Councilman Yokoyama and Mayor pro tem Pulido. She said the school district might get new students, but that the Cerritos Chamber will lose members.

Grossman also created unwarranted controversy when she stated at the end of her speech, “we ‘heard’ [Planning Commissioner Tatiana Yokoyama] Bui does not live in the City.”

That elicited an angry outburst from Councilman Yokoyama.

Yokoyama slammed Grossman and others, who post on an obscure Facebook page, writing that Bui does not live in Cerritos.

“Madame Mayor,” Yokoyama said in a loud voice, “I am very upset about these lies about my sister, Chair of the Planning Commission Tatiana Yokoyama Bui. They are saying she does not live in Cerritos, that is a lie, I wish that lie would stop being repeated. My sister, Mayor pro tem Pulido’s appointee, lives in Cerritos. The Charter of this City requires Planning Commissioners to be Cerritos residents.”

“You [Grossman] had a great statement but you ended it with a lie. It’s pathetic.”

Another vocal critic and frequent Council meeting attendee, Mel Cortez, who lives on the Westside of Cerritos, proclaimed, “the letters submitted to an MLC website approving the project were fake. Once they build they will leave to their next victim.”

Resident Jay Gray asked why MLC purchased the property knowing the zoning requirements of the City. “What happens when the next developer comes in?”

Gray then took aim at his favorite target, Councilman Yokoyama, clarifying the word heard as used by Grossman in her statement about Commissioner Bui not living in the City.

Gray said, “Gail ‘heard’ that Bui did not live in the City, she did not say Bui did ‘not’ live in the City, she ‘heard’ that she did not live in the City.”

Cerritos resident Daniel Fierro read a statement from ABC Board Member Chris Apodaca who favored the project.

Fierro then blasted Mel Cortez’ statement that the letters from residents were fake. “The idea that they are fake residents is insulting as a resident. They might not be here, but there are equal residents here tonight.”

Mayor pro tem Pulido said the City needed housing. He then said the attacks on Commissioner Bui “saddened me, I am proud of her and the work she has done. Cerritos is better than that, I am surprised it went there.”

Mayor Hu, Councilmen Edwards and Yokoyama also commented on the project.

Councilman Solanki then made a motion to deny the appeal.

Roll call vote: (a “no” vote was a vote to approve the project) Edwards no, Solanki yes, Yokoyama yes, Pulido yes, Hu yes.

HMG-CN has contacted MLC for clarification on the contingency issue, as of publication of this article there has been no response.






  • M c M a h on says:

    Juliet HOA:

    Can only truthfully say, only liked parts of the meeting. Even up to the last 30 seconds of the CCC vote, didn’t know which way it was really going to go. It was a cliffhanger till the very end.

    All three planning staffers were boring; like being read a bible, without looking at bible. Oral presentation needed better photo examples. Most of the staffers wardrobes were not dress appropriate for archived video. Staffers need professional work attire.

    Hello…. Juliet Lots for RS5000 for $795K would sell, end product would be around $2M each; bet they would all be sold out instantly. Elegant appointed houses would sell within seconds. ABCUSD increase to body, was poor argument, parents are not producing kids. Project is steps to Whitney HS, expensive compounds. Cerritos-Artesia-Cypress does have number of home sales hovering around $2M.

    Glad the project is somewhat history, we’ll see if developer does litigation now. If this goes to court, don’t think the judgement will be in favor of all of RS5000 square foot Lots, think around the existing perimeter of the project will be zoned for RS5000; interior tract will go RS2000 square-foot Lots; plus landlord may seek damages for lack of tenant incomes. Existing property owners may PU friable construction damages, since that property is full of asbestos.

    Developer could also litigate against the city for insufficient notification of potential Overlay zone changes for inlay proposal, as early as 2016, plus during one of the 3 PC hearings, commissioner multiple times tainted the developers’ presentation.

    That area should have never been zoned commercial, they should have kept it all residential w/the doctor’s estate home from the dairies. This is more or less, strip zoning and did not work for the work force companies which were tenants. Property has changed title numerous time and current condition of said property needs Code enforcement citations.

    Realtor stated that city has only 23 homes on the Cerritos MLS, pray the developers purchase these homes and develop 100% turnkey projects for sale and city should stop semi refinished Flip/Flops. Cerritos Interior/exterior homes need extensive remodeling.

    Cerritos needs housing gentrification, this project did not fit the property, developer had semi deaf ear to the existing 1970’s hoods. City was to relaxed from 2016, not notifying of possible overlay zones.