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Zone change for new museum site pushed again

A controversial zone change on College Avenue was pushed once more to the next Planning Commission meeting March 15.

The move made during the March 1 commission meeting is meant to merge the zone change, located at 211 and 239 College Avenue, into the public hearing on the revised Pomona College master plan, according to Director of Community Services Brian Desatnik. The zone change has previously been sought by the college in order to build the proposed Pomona College Museum of Art on the property.

The zone was initially grouped with six other zones the city planned to change after an apparent oversight during the adoption of the city’s master plan in 2006.

“Pomona College has requested that they remove that zone change from the package of seven properties in order for them to move their master plan project forward in a timely manner,” Mr. Desatnik said at the meeting. “And so we’ve complied with that request.”

In addition to the zone change and the full master plan, the planning commission will also be considering the final environmental impact report (EIR) for the master plan and the statement of overriding considerations and mitigation, monitoring and reporting program.

Mr. Desatnik said Pomona College grouped the zone change with the approval of their master plan in an effort to shave a few months off the process.

“I think what they thought was the master plan approval could go concurrently with the zone change process, but it can’t. It has to be sequential,” Mr. Desatnik said. “The zone change would have to be complete and then you can start the master plan process. They could move it along forward all together and it would save a couple months.”

The zone is proposed to change from Medium Density Residential to Institution Educational, which is a small step toward the college’s overall plan to build the museum, which will sit on College Avenue between Bonita Avenue and Second Street.

The museum, first announced last year, is set to be a sprawling 32,000 square foot facility that will also hold classrooms, offices, a courtyard and public space.

Renwick House, an historic Queen Anne-style home which has stayed on the lot since it was built in the early 1900s, is set to be moved across the street on the southeast corner of Second and College, a move that has been met with scrutiny from members of the public and Claremont Heritage.

The white cottages north of Renwick, which are being used as student housing, will be demolished if the museum plans go forward.

The proposed museum location has also caused friction within the community on what is seen as the encroachment of Pomona College onto the Village-end of College Avenue, long seen as the dividing line between “town and gown.”

During the March 1 meeting, resident Mary Stoddard decried the museum plans and claimed, “the Village will be compromised” if the plans move forward.

The other six zones in need of a change are being shelved for now as the city responds to queries from residents.

“We still have some issues to work out and respond to some of the comments we’ve received. We don’t exactly know which meeting we’ll put it back on, it’ll probably be in the next couple months,” Mr. Desatnik said at the meeting.

The public hearing will take place on March 15 in the city council chamber. There will be time set aside for public comment.

The Planning Commission also recommended a decision to amend the Claremont Municipal Code (CMC) to allow “Online Educational Institutions” to apply for a conditional use permit (CUP) and operate within four zones—Claremont Village, Commercial Highway, Business/Industrial Park and “Mixed-Use 3,” which includes properties along Foothill Boulevard with ground-floor retail. In addition, the commission also recommended an amendment to the Village Expansion Specific Plan (VESP) to allow online educational institutions to operate on the second and third floors of commercial mixed-use buildings in the village with a CUP.

The decision comes after Claremont Lincoln University unveiled plans to purchase a property at 150 West First Street to be used as a new, permanent headquarters for the college. Previously, CLU has been leasing a space on 250 West First Street for the past three years.

The ordinance stipulates that “Online Educational Institution” shall not hold regular classes nor should it have students convening regularly on site. In terms of parking, the ordinance says, it should be treated in the same vein as a regular office.

CLU President Dr. Eileen Aranda was on hand to support the recommendation, telling the commission the intended use of the building is well within the parameters of the ordinance.

“For CLU, the purchase of this building allows us to have a permanent residence in Claremont,” Ms. Aranda said. “We are committed to be in Claremont, and the First Street property allows us the opportunity to do that.”

The recommendation for both resolutions passed unanimously. The next and final step will be approval from the Claremont city council.

The next Planning Commission meeting is March 15.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com