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City landscaping and lighting maintenance fund gets small increase

Last week, the Claremont city council voted 4-1 to approve a 2.51 percent increase to the landscape and lighting district, based on the consumer price index. Mayor Corey Calaycay was the lone no vote.

That increase—which goes into effect this November—in translates to $4.40, according to city management analyst Cari Dillman, which will raise the LLD from $175.77 to $180.17 yearly per assessment unit. An assessment unit represents a single-family residential parcel less than 11,500 square feet.

The landscape and lighting district was created for maintenance of city parks, landscapes, lighting and streets. The LLD generates $3.8 million annually—$1.4 million for parks, $1.3 million for streets and right-of-ways, $810,319 for tree maintenance and inspections and $260,000 for city-owned street light maintenance.

In 2018 the LLD was increased by 3.62 percent.

Mr. Calaycay, as he has done every year this issue has come before the council, voted no on the LLD increase due to his objection over how the tax was presented to voters—it was grouped with a utility tax when voters approved it. Mr. Calaycay called it “two taxes in one.”

“I know we’ve talked about bringing it back at some point to the voters, which I would wholeheartedly support,” he said. “But at this point in time, until those concerns I have are addressed, I will continue my protest.”

Park plans approved

The city council also voted through three agenda items aimed to improve three parks in the city—El Barrio, Memorial and Blaisdell Parks.

The improvements at El Barrio represent one end of a deal between Claremont and Claremont McKenna College, the city said. The college approached the city about building six housing units at the end of Harwood Place, which abuts the northern end of the park. The city, wanting to preserve the historic Arbol Verde neighborhood, approved the development on the condition that CMC would revamp the park.

Chief among the improvements is a pedestrian walkway from Harwood Place, creating a second entrance into the park. CMC will also construct new sidewalks along the north side of the park and the south end of Harwood.

The college will upgrade landscaping, install safety lighting, add benches, a picnic table and several more trash cans. Bioswales, which capture surface water to remove debris and pollutants, are also in the plan, according to Deputy Community Services Director Dave Roger.

“The excitement about the project is we’re actually improving some of the sustainability about our parks,” he said.

The improvements will come at no cost for the city—CMC will pay for everything.

Al Villanueva, chairperson of the Arbol Verde Preservation Committee, lauded the plans. He noted that El Barrio Park was the first park in the United States to come out of the Mexican-American student movement, with the second being Chicano Park in San Diego.

Former Councilmember Sam Pedroza spoke highly of the plans, saying it was an opportunity to tell the story of the park and its importance in Claremont’s history.

“The history of this park is truly special, I think it’s one of the things that makes this park extremely unique,” Mr. Pedroza said.

Memorial Park, meanwhile, will become better illuminated with the installation of more security lighting along pathways and the parking lot, Mr. Roger said.

The cost is estimated at $145,000 from the city’s park dedication funds. No general fund money is being used on the project, the city has said. Next, Claremont will go out to bid and award contracts, with an estimated completion date of February 2020.

Blaisdell Park is also getting improvements in the form of a new playground.

Interim Community Services Director Jeremy Swan told the council that a group of parents from the Blaisdell Park neighborhood approached the city in February asking for the playground equipment to be replaced. The current playground was built in 1995 and is not in compliance with current ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards.

The new equipment will feature two areas—one for children aged two to five years old and another for children up to 12 years old. There will be ample opportunity for children with disabilities to enjoy the play equipment.

It will include two slides, a new swing set, a clubhouse and 96-inch long spiral slide, Mr. Swan said.

The cost of the project is $247,500, all of which will come from park dedication funds and none from the general fund, Mr. Swan said. Equipment will be installed in October 2019. Mr. Swan noted that the parents offered to have a “sand removal party” in August, where the neighborhood can come together and help city workers remove the sand in the park before the new installation.

“They said, ‘Hey, let’s put a party together,’” Mr. Swan said. “It’s kind of like a groundbreaking, but instead it’s sand removal.”

The council unanimously approved the project. Councilmember Jennifer Stark thanked the city for being responsive to neighbors’ concerns.

“I feel like this was unusually fast,” she said. “So yay, it just seems like a really nice win.”

The next council meeting will take place July 9.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com