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Pomona College gifts 463 acres, commission duties update

The council passed an agreement for accepting a gift of land from Pomona College, tabled proposed changes to the municipal code and approved condominium plans during a busy Tuesday night meeting.

The council passed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) allowing the eventual transfer of 463 acres in Evey Canyon from Pomona College to the city. The college had used the property to conduct research in the past.

“The Claremont Wilderness area is a natural jewel and provides an important connection to nature,” G. Gabrielle Starr, president of Pomona College said in press release. “President David Oxtoby’s commitment to sustainability is reflected in his important work to bring this agreement forward and enhance the college’s and community’s commitment to open spaces for all.”

Evey Canyon is home to the Herman Garner Biological Preserve, which has been used by the college’s biology department for research, according to Pomona College. The lower portion of the canyon consists of oak/alder riparian woodland plants, which are becoming rare in southern California. Evey Canyon’s varied topography and vegetation combined with a permanent stream result in a rich bird and insect diversity, Pomona College explained

The donated land constitutes 10 parcels total, which contained 21 development credits (one development credit = one potential development). Those credits will be terminated upon acquisition by the city, according to a report from Human Services Director Anne Turner, keeping the land as open space “in perpetuity.”

Importantly, the transfer will come at no cost to Claremont, Ms. Turner told the council. The land is set to be absorbed into the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park (CHWP), the city said.

The MOU allows the city and the college to undergo an up to six-month due diligence process, the city said. During this process, the two parties will hammer out a number of details—including public safety concerns, whether the Evey Canyon turnout would act as an additional entrance to the CHWP, whether there would be parking meters at the turnout, traffic control on Mt. Baldy Road and park ranger patrol patterns, Ms. Turner said.

As part of the deal, the college retains all water, mineral, gas and oil rights to the property. Ms. Turner explained that Pomona College put the stipulation into the deal as a way to prevent items like a water pump station or an oil drill on the land.

“This is a way for the college to make sure none of that happens,” she said in a phone interview.

Comments from the public were resolutely positive. Marilee Scaff called the deal “astonishingly generous” and “a real gain for the city.”

She noted that Pomona College initially didn’t give Evey Canyon to the city in the past because of concerns about the city protecting the land. Giving the land to the city is proof, she says, “the city has proven themselves that they are careful about handling the land.”

Lissa Petersen of the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy was ecstatic as well.

“I just came here to say, woo hoo!” she exclaimed, noting the 21 development credits ditched under the plan represent “21 homes not built in our hillsides.”

Councilmember Opanyi Nasiali thanked the college for the gift, and made a comparison between the Evey Canyon land—463 acres at no cost to the city—and Johnson’s Pasture, which cost residents $12 million in bonds to purchase 150 acres.

“We’re still paying for it, by the way,” he said. “We had to pass a bond for it. Why? Because we want to preserve that land.”

The council passed the MOU unanimously.

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