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City reaches out to residents for Village South planning

As planning for Village South moves along, the city received feedback from Claremont’s sustainability wing last week.

Principal Planner Chris Veirs held a question and answer session with members of Sustainable Claremont and the general public at the Pomona College’s Hahn Building on July 23. The topics included best practices, LEED certification and a mix of rental and for-purchase units.

“I feel like I’m coming back home,” Mr. Veirs said. “I used to come to every one of these dialogs.”

The 17-acre area, which comprises the Vortox building (owned by Keck Graduate Institute), the former Richard Hibbard Chevrolet Dealership, King Precision Glass (formerly Garner Glass) and an assortment of homes and smaller businesses, is the designated spot for a southerly expansion of the Village. Part of this is to take advantage of future transit opportunities like the Gold Line, and the city has received a $400,000-plus grant from Metro to aid in creating a specific plan for the area.

The first question centered on LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, which is a framework to create more energy efficient, greener buildings.

Mr. Veirs said that through Claremont’s sustainable city plan, the expectation for new development is for it to be LEED certified. Courier Place, for example, became certified because of its proximity to transit.

“I will point out that anything that gets built in this district is going to be very green in essence, because we hope that some of the standards that are created tend to lend itself towards development that will be transit-oriented,” he said.

Another question from Sue Keith pertained to tree canopy. Mr. Veirs emphasized that the city is looking at the area of Indian Hill south of Arrow Highway as a model, despite a recent COURIER report that the jacarandas have been suffering as of late.

“We’ve got a row of mature jacarandas in the median and on either side that do a pretty good job of saying you’re in Claremont now,” he said. “We’re trying to duplicate that in this one segment that is, frankly, the least green section of the street.”

Another person asked Mr. Veirs about what kind of influence the specific plan has on any upcoming development in Village South. Mr. Veirs noted the city could write a plan that requires “anything we want,” but it won’t necessarily get implemented. The key, he said, is to create something that the community wants to see which jells with developers and property owners.

Resident Jennifer Jaffe brought up the idea of a “micro grid,” which Peter Coye described as “each building being able generate its own power.”

“Given the size of the plot of land, there’s no doubt that this could be a net-zero project, meaning beyond LEED it is producing its own power 24/7,” Mr. Coye said. “That could be standard which would be nice to have.”

Mr. Veirs noted that in his perspective as a city official, it would be hard to corral all the current owners of the Village South parcels to agree to something like that. Mr. Coye reiterated that a micro-grid would be something members of Sustainable Claremont would like to see.

“In all the beautiful pictures and projections that you put up there, there was not a single solar panel,” he said. “That was a little disappointing to me.”

The plans for Village South have been moving along since the city council passed its goals and guiding principles in June. A draft specific plan will make it to the council for review in September.