CIC project draws criticism from residents

By Bethania Palma

AZUSA – The city gave a water wholesaler rights to put a pipeline under the parking area of a housing complex, despite heavy opposition from the homeowners association.

After a drawn-out battle between the Crystal Canyon Homeowners Association and Covina Irrigation Company over pipe placement, the city invoked eminent domain statutes favoring the water wholesaler.

CIC is a nonprofit mutual water wholesaler that provides water to several local cities, including Covina, West Covina, Glendora, Azusa, San Dimas and Baldwin Park.

Officials said an underground pipe system protects against risks that include bio-terrorism, drowning and contamination.

The project is a needed upgrade to a 125-year-old canal system, part of which runs through a public park, said David de Jesus, president of CIC.

“We think this project is a worthy project,” de Jesus said. “It’s an opportunity to get rid of an aging open canal and the company is willing to spend the money to install the pipeline.”

He said CIC has been trying to start the project for about two years, but fierce opposition from the homeowners has stalled the process.

The matter came back to the City Council last Monday night after negotiations between the two parties fell through.

“The homeowners association and the community are very disappointed in the City Council’s decision,” said Frances Diggs, managing agent for Crystal Canyon Home Owners Association.

“We’ve been trying to negotiate with them but rather than finalize our negotiations, CIC chose to contact the city and encourage them to approve eminent domain authority.”

A portion of the pipeline would run under a parking area on the north side of the property of the Crystal Canyon Drive community.

While no homes will be threatened by the project, HOA members said they are concerned that residents’ access to parking spaces and their homes will be hindered.

The HOA has hired a lawyer and plans to continue the fight. De Jesus said the project could begin in about a year, instead of this year as hoped.

Diggs said the association board was concerned about the impacts on residents living on the north side of the property, where the pipe would be placed.

She added the association did not feel CIC provided it with adequate information.

“The association has many concerns on behalf of its members,” she said. “The issue is that it is possible for them to run the lines down Ranch Road, but because it’s less expensive they choose to take them down our property.”

Officials said that Ranch Road, which borders Crystal Canyon on the east, is heavily laden with utility lines. Thus, it wouldn’t be feasible to put a new water pipe there.

Because the water is gravity fed through the system, the best and most efficient route would be through the Crystal Canyon property.

“It would be almost physically impossible and too expensive to move all those utilities that run through Ranch Road,” Azusa City Manager Fran Delach said. “The analysis done by several engineers said it was not viable to put pipes down Ranch Road.”

CIC first approached the council in February, asking for eminent domain authority, but the council told the company to try negotiating one last time.

City officials said negotiations broke down and the right was granted in the public’s interest.

“It’s a temporary inconvenience, but it’s a necessary public works project that has to happen for the betterment of all of us,” Azusa City Councilman Uriel Macias said. “At this point, they haven’t moved anywhere nearer to an agreement, and hopefully this will get things going.”

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