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Residents voice concerns over latest Village South plans

by Matthew Bramlett | news@claremont-courier.com

Village South was another hot topic for public comment at Tuesday’s busy city council meeting.

Several speakers addressed the future development’s recently unveiled specific plan, calling for more density and advocating for more affordable housing and sustainable practices.

The long-awaited specific plan is available for residents to peruse on the city’s website, but it has not yet been vetted by the city’s commissions or the council.

The project has generated controversy over the past year when it comes to density. Residents decried an initial estimate of around 1,100 residential units in the plan’s environmental impact report, calling it too dense. The city tapered that number to 900 residential units.

But the speakers Tuesday night were advocating for more density. Andy Winnick urged the council to create more affordable housing at Village South to allow for younger generations to continue to live in Claremont. That means more density, he said.

“We cannot continue with the housing crisis that we have,” he said. “And so you’re either going to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be a part of the problem. And if you don’t build a lot more affordable housing, you’re part of the problem.”

A few speakers brought up the Real Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) numbers, a scattering of units of various affordability levels the city needs to build to fulfill state requirements.

For instance, Claremont needs to build more than 1,600 residential units in the next eight years to fulfill its RHNA allocation, many of which need to be some level of affordable housing.

Eve Kaufman of Inclusive Claremont said Village South would be a “prime opportunity” to build those units, and urged the council to reconsider the specific plan to allow for more density, as much as six stories.

While there may be some apprehension in the community when it comes to density, “Density just means people and neighbors, and that’s what it comes out to at the end of the day,” Ms. Kaufman said.

Pamela Casey Nagler focused her attention on sustainability, and advocated for Village South to become “Net-Zero,” meaning the amount of energy an area consumes is equal to the amount of energy it produces.

The council also heard from Paul Steinberg of Harvey Mudd College, who advocated for a more bicycle-friendly Claremont.

In a survey of Claremont residents he conducted, 78 percent of respondents said they would like to ride their bicycle more, but the main barriers are safety and lack of comfort riding next to cars.

Village South could make Claremont a leader in sustainable transportation, he said. 

“I think the south Village development is an amazing opportunity to make it safer for kids and for everybody to move around the city safely,” he said.

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